When former chancellor Thomas Everhart left the University of Illinois to become president of the California Institute of Technology in 1987, he wrote the faculty a farewell letter. After extolling the virtues of Cal Tech, he added this kicker:
"And frankly, an institution that pays its president more than its football coach can't be all bad."
Nothing has changed in Champaign since Everhart's departure. The football coach still earns more than the president.
In fact, football coach John Mackovic, who also doubles as athletic director, is the highest-paid University of Illinois employee, with the exception of some of the doctors affiliated with the university's medical program. The doctors are paid a base salary by the university, and their patient fees are funneled to them through the school.
According to contracts acquired by The Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act, the university will pay Mackovic $149,950 this year to coach the football team; an additional $45,000 for overseeing the school's summer football camp, a responsibility included in his contract as football coach; and $35,000 for being athletic director. That brings his total university pay to $229,900, and that doesn't include the use of two courtesy cars and a country club membership.
Mackovic's base coaching salary is more than the $149,767 Stanley Ikenberry earns as university president; Chancellor Morton Weir pulls in $131,200.
What coaches are making and where their athletically related outside income is derived from is under review by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Ikenberry is a member of the Coaches Compensation Committee, which he says is not designed to reduce salaries. Instead, he says, it is an attempt to get schools to gain further control of their coaches' incomes.
With his summer-camp figures included, Illinois basketball coach Lou Henson also is paid more by the university than his bosses are. He earns $96,920 as basketball coach, and the school pays him 90 percent of the net income from the school's summer basketball camp. Last year, Henson received $70,000 from the camp (comparable figures are expected this year), putting his overall school earnings in the $166,000 range.
Both coaches also substantially increase their earnings from outside income related to their positions. Mackovic is able to boost his overall income to an estimated $400,000 a year, thanks in part to a television and radio contract that pays him $136,000 annually.
From August 1989 through July 1990, he also earned $20,000 from a Converse shoe contract, $10,000 from speaking engagements, $1,000 from a Wilson equipment contract and $3,000 from his position as a bank director.
Converse pays Henson $100,000 to be a spokesman and representative for the shoe company, which helps push the coach's income to more than $300,000 a year. From August 1989 to July 1990, the basketball coach also pulled in $51,376 from television and radio, $3,500 from a Rawlings equipment contract, $2,455 from speaking engagements, $1,000 from a coaching clinic and $750 from a Nerf ball promotion.
The two coaches' outside income for the fiscal year that ends July 31, 1991, is expected to be comparable.
When Henson was asked about Illinois' paying him more than Ikenberry, he said, "I think the president is underpaid. He should get more money."
Ikenberry also laughed at first when asked about it before seriously addressing the issue.
"It's not a reflection of the university; it's a reflection of society," Ikenberry said. "Sports obviously are an important part of it. We're not unique. Our coach's compensation is in line."
By comparison, Iowa pays football coach Hayden Fry a base salary of $132,700; Iowa President Hunter Rawlings earns $154,440. Henson hardly is at the top of the salary list among Big 10 basketball coaches. Among the leaders are Indiana's Bob Knight ($115,750) and Iowa's Tom Davis ($107,500).
With Knight's outside income, he is estimated to earn $750,000 a year; Indiana President Thomas Ehrlich earns $190,000.
Basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, who is paid $203,976 a year by UNLV, has a total package estimated at $600,000; UNLV pays its president, Robert Maxson, $147,400. With all of his outside speaking engagements, Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz is estimated to earn $750,000 a year. Kentucky basketball coach Rick Pitino is said to earn $900,000 a year counting his outside interests.
In the shoe-contract department, Knight, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Georgetown's John Thompson reap more than $200,000 each annually.
Even when the coaches lose, they still win. Clemson paid football coach Danny Ford $1 million to buy out his contract when he resigned under pressure in 1990, and Jackie Sherrill received a $700,000 golden parachute from Texas A&M; in 1989.
When there was a possibility that Bobby Bowden might jump to Alabama last year, Florida State gave him a $700,000-a-year contract to stay. Florida State president Bernard Sliger said: "If someone brings in $10 million a year to the school, he deserves that kind of money."
Mackovic says the big money is a function of the market at work.
"A part of what we do comes under the entertainment aspect, and we're all competing for the entertainment dollar," said Mackovic, a former professional coach whose name surfaces whenever a vacancy opens up in the National Football League. "The salaries are made competitive, because otherwise our best coaches would be plucked away. It's the market in many respects."
Mackovic has heard the arguments from anti-sports critics that the coaches are overpaid and that their salaries should be more in line with university professors.
"But there's the issue of tenure," Mackovic said. "Professors can get it, and we can't. There's a stability factor there for them, and a freedom that doesn't exist for us. When someone says we should be treated like a university professor, well, coaches run more risks."
The thinking among coaches is getting it while you can. Henson is quick to defend the six-figure contract he receives from Converse. He averages 10 days a year speaking at clinics on behalf of the shoe company. In addition, the Illini wear Converse shoes, giving the company the exposure it seeks.
"I'm on retainer," Henson said. "It's no different from a professor doing consulting work. We should have the right to earn outside income."
However, the nature of the outside income currently is under study by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. In its report, the Knight commission recommended that the NCAA ban shoe and equipment contracts with individual coaches. Instead, companies should go through the institution.
There's a control factor, says NCAA executive director Dick Schultz. If a coach is making more money from a shoe company than the school is, the question of the coach's responsibility comes up.
"If we have a coach who is worth $500,000 a year, let's have the courage to pay him $500,000 a year," Schultz said. "Not $100,000 a year with $400,000 coming in from shoe contracts and other income. Let's take the pressure off the coaches so they are responsible only to the university, not to several other entities that are out there."
Ikenberry speculates that the model could be comparable to the compensation program for university physicians. The doctors receive a base salary, and income from patients goes through the school. The university then decides what is payable to the physician.
Mackovic isn't sure the coaches will benefit if the university negotiates their shoe contracts. He thinks the school would have a more impersonal relationship, which would drive the fees down.
Schultz disagrees. When he was athletic director at Virginia, he negotiated all outside contracts for the coaches, and they ended up getting more money.
Ikenberry says he isn't interested in hindering the free-market system as it applies to coaches but that he believes it is vital to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest.
"This is not an attempt to reduce the salaries of coaches," said University of Wisconsin chancellor Donna Shalala, a member of the Knight commission. "It's an attempt to exercise control over all aspects of the athletic department. We may give it all back to the coaches. We might put it in a pot and pay base salaries like we do at our med school. But a school has to know what's going on."