Alabama football Coach Nick Saban's new $6.9-million salary, unanimously approved Tuesday by the school's Board of Trustees, represents everything that is wrong, and right, with college athletics.
Saban's pay package will make him one of the highest-paid employees in higher education.
Saban's salary is, frankly, relatively obscene and further distances him from the "student athletes" who actually do the heavy lifting that make his vacation home possible.
The exponential — some would say gross — disparity between college administrators (coaches, athletic directors commissioners) and the players is the reason so many people are taking the NCAA to task (and court) these days.
This is the crux of college sports' current moral, spiritual and economic dilemma. College football has grown so popular that the sport has commanded billions of dollars in broadcast revenue streams.
This has allowed the five rich football conferences — Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12 — to pay coaches nearly $7 million per season.
The Pac-12 recently signed a $3-billion network deal with ESPN and Fox and this year distributed $27.5 million to each of its schools.
The paradox is that Saban, for what he's provided to Alabama, is worth every cent he is a given that his players are not.
He has brought three national titles to Alabama since 2008 and rebooted one of college football's greatest enterprises.
Saban is, right now, the nation's best college football coach. His salary celebrates all that is great with the American free-enterprise system.
The problem is college administrators and the NCAA operate under socialist principles as they pretend to preside in the world of group-think and amateurism.
It used to be easier to argue that student athletes got a pretty fair shake with a full-ride athletic scholarship. The cost of an education at places like USC and Stanford exceeds $200,000 over four years.
That deal doesn't look as good prorated against the extension Saban inked Tuesday or the bonuses that jacked Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott's annual salary to $3 million.
It's the reason players, current and former, are out in full force this summer. It's the reason Northwestern players recently voted on whether they should unionize as employees. It's the reason former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon is leading a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA arguing that the organization owes players licensing money for using their likenesses to make millions.
Saban isn't to blame for any of this.
Yet the timing of his contract signing serves as a flash point for a long, hot, simmering summer rooted in the increasingly uncomfortable disconnect between NCAA capitalism and NCAA amateurism.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times