$750,000 goodbye

The firing of University of Connecticut football Coach Paul Pasqualoni on Monday suggests how out of whack is the pressure placed on and the salaries paid to coaches at the top level of college football and basketball.

The general assessment was that Mr, Pasqualoni, after two consecutive 5-7 seasons as the UConn head coach, had to get the UConn program turned in the right direction this season.

When she visited with The Day editorial board back on Aug. 21, UConn President Susan Herbst was asked if that perception was accurate. Indeed it was, she told us.

The administration's patience ran out quickly. After an 0-4 start, including an embarrassing 41-12 blowout loss to Buffalo last Saturday, UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel said the university had seen enough.

"I am disappointed in the record of our team thus far," said Mr. Manuel.

Guess so.

Even the NFL does not typically ax a struggling coach this early in a season. But in today's college athletics the pressures to build a big-time program, successfully recruit, attract alumni donations and boost the university's visibility are too great to have the decorum of letting a coach finish out the season.

Then there is the matter of compensation. Many were left wondering why the former coach will walk out with a $750,000 severance check after winning only 10 games and losing 18 during his brief coaching stint here. That is more than President Herbst makes annually, about $713,000, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The answer, of course, is that Mr. Pasqualoni had a contract requiring the big payoff UConn fire him. It was included in the $8.5 million five-year deal he signed in 2011. He will end up getting about half that money.

But outrageous pay for these coaches is the coin of the realm, salaries justified by the colleges because of the revenue these programs can generate and for their ability to raise an institution's profile - if they win. Nick Saban earns $5.6 million annually at Alabama; Mack Brown, $5.3 million at Texas; Bob Stoops, $4.6 million at Oklahoma. UConn's women basketball Coach Geno Auriemma recently signed a $10.86 million contract to take him through the 2017-18 season.

In 40 of the 50 states a football or basketball coach is the highest paid state employee.

Crazy? Certainly. But unlikely to change.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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