As UB’s athletic profile rises, coaches’ salaries should too

Despite “big time” spending on athletics, coaches aren’t receiving competitive wages

For student-athletes in the Mid-American Conference, UB is an attractive destination with its over $31 million dedicated to supporting the athletic department, outdoing the rest of the conference in spending.

But for coaches, whose salaries don’t reflect this high level of spending, UB may be losing some of its appeal.

Despite coming in at the top of the list in terms of overall spending among MAC schools, UB is ranked ninth lowest out of the 12 MAC schools when it comes to head coaches’ salaries in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Much of the athletic department’s spending is wisely distributed, with money going to necessary operations like facilities and maintenance. But the amount of money going to coaches remains questionable.

It’s potentially one of the reasons Arizona State was able to lure men’s basketball head coach Bobby Hurley away from Buffalo on Thursday. While a Mid-Major school like UB certainly can’t be asked to compete monetarily with a Power Five conference school like Arizona State, Buffalo may not have done itself any favors.

Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News tweeted Thursday that Buffalo’s offer made Hurley the highest-paid coach in the MAC by $1,000. Saul Phillips, Ohio’s first-year head coach who went 10-20 this season, was the highest-paid coach in the MAC with a salary of $550,000. Gleason reported that a source told him Hurley was “insulted” by UB’s approach to the contract.

Even former volleyball head coach Reed Sunahara left UB in March after just one season to take the job at West Virginia and a $30,000 bump in salary.

So, although it sounds ludicrous to worry that a coach earning a quarter million a year might need more money, UB Athletics needs to do what’s necessary to keep its best coaches here – and fast.

Doing so helps to ensure a more successful athletics program, which in turn supports the school as a whole.

Because of course, it’s also important to look at the bigger picture. There’s much more to UB than its athletics department.

The majority of students here don’t compete on these teams, and many don’t even attend games. They don’t benefit from the millions of dollars being poured into UB Athletics – at least not directly.

But arguably, all of UB benefits from its athletics program’s increasing success and recognition.

An elevated athletic profile means an increase in name-recognition for the school as a whole, not just its athletics department. If UB’s rising popularity can translate to an uptick in applications and admissions, the school as a whole benefits.

The vast amount of money that UB spends on sports can certainly seem off-putting, especially as multiple programs across campus are in need of funding, and many students who aren’t athletes deserve scholarships as well.

But if the cycle of spending works as it should – UB funds its athletics departments, and in return the department helps bring in more revenue for all – there’s not much to complain about there.

Of course, it is important that UB remain an institution that welcomes and provides resources for all its students – those who spend their days in Alumni or those who pass the hours in Lockwood.

Ultimately, all of UB’s students deserve their shot at success – whether success means winning games or earning A’s.

Maintaining that balance must remain the top priority. It might not be as exciting or newsworthy as making it into March Madness, but its importance is unrivaled.