Scrutinizing sports salaries

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by Anthony Berteaux, Senior Staff Columnist

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President Hirshman has once again become the center of controversy as he becomes criticized for receiving yet another pay hike to add 3 percent to his already high salary. Hirshman’s salary has always been the topic of debate. If one can recall back when he was first hired, California governor Jerry Brown openly slammed the decision to hire Hirshman at such an astronomical rate in the face of the deep budget cuts that have caused the 23 CSU campuses to raise tuition. This renewed criticism for Hirshman feels new, but is an argument that is three years old.

However, I feel like there is something missing in this dialogue surrounding astronomically high salary rates. Let me let you in on a secret: Hirshman isn’t making the most money at this school. In reality, there are positions at this school that make twice as much as Hirshman does, and if we care to include bonuses, thrice as much. These are the salaries we should be protesting.

These astronomically paid people happen to be sports coaches.

While students and the public lose their minds about how President Hirshman’s salary has reached a whopping $412,000, an amount exceeding the salary the United State’s president makes, they’ve conveniently turned a blind eye towards the even more outrageous salaries of sports coaches here at San Diego State. These salaries are not justified and compromise the very mission of this educational institution.

According to USA Today, Steve Fisher, coach of our men’s basketball team, makes an annual rate of $907,000, along with an additional $160,000 bonus should our basketball team prosper and win. Now, should we add this up, Steve Fisher’s salary could very easily go over $1 million. However, everyone is focusing their energy on protesting Hirshman (justifiably so) and is ignoring this equally and if not more outrageous pay rate.

What’s even more is that Fisher has just signed on for a three-year extension to his contract, meaning he will continue to lead our team throughout the 2017-2018 season. Understandably so, even a sports novice like me knows that Fisher has revived our basketball program, getting our Aztecs into the NCAA tournament during his third season, leading ten 20 win seasons and two 30 wins seasons. Furthermore, Fisher has brought our Aztecs into the NCAA eight times, including two Sweet Sixteen appearances over the past four seasons. Fisher has an impressive score with our Aztecs.

However, does this justify his salary? Fisher’s salary is 220 percent higher than Hirshman’s but does he hold a position that equates and exceeds the duties that Hirshman does? Sports fanatics will say yes, but I disagree. I believe that this prioritization of athletics over academics has dire effects on how money is allocated in the system.

San Diego State’s operating budget report stated that there was a budget of $6,611,982 invested into the Athletics department. A total of $6,469,321 of this budget was used for salary, as well as personal benefits and services. This amount is astronomically higher than the budget allocated for financial aid and scholarships. Priorities show that our school budget system favors athletics over the financial well-being of its students.

What’s even more interesting is noticing the percentage of budget increase from the previous year. The athletics department was one of two departments out of 7 departments that survived the budget cuts of last year. All other departments suffered budget cuts, however, athletics saw an increase in budget by 5.32%. This is evidence of an increasing prioritization of athletics over academics or student affairs.

Furthermore, this trend continues on throughout sports outside of basketball also. Rocky Long, San Diego State’s football coach, makes $850,000 a year along with bonuses that can compete with Fisher, according to CoachesHotSeat.com.

In fact, Fisher and Long aren’t even the worst offenders of astronomical salaries. Fisher is 37th in the country in terms of salary, a list headed by Mike Mrzyzewski of Duke, who makes $9,682,032.

Athletics are a crucial part of the college experience. Sports, is a powerful medium that transcends barriers established by politics, race, sex and age.

It allows for a unity and opportunity for a people on polarizing spectrums of any divisive matter, to come together to cheer for the same team.

However, athletics cannot overtake the mission of a university, which is to get an education. The We cannot allow for this importance of athletics to justify these outrageous salaries. Protestors need to put their pickets down and look across the field to attack a far worse injustice in coach salaries.

What they’ll find is an offense in itself.

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