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Berry Tramel: OU paying Lon Kruger $2.2 million is cents-less

by Berry Tramel Published: April 3, 2011

The University of Oklahoma is going to pay a basketball coach $2.2 million a year. Which is perfectly reasonable, so long as Lon Kruger can tutor field-goal kickers on the side.

Otherwise, I don't get it.

Oh, I understand the marketplace. I know that a lot of coaches have cracked the $2 million barrier. And not just the icons like Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo.

Texas' Rick Barnes, without a Final Four since 2003, made $2.2 million this season. Arizona's Sean Miller, without a Final Four since the first nailing of a peach basket, made more than that.

I know that if OU wanted Kruger, or any coach of a certain status, it would have to pay that kind of money.

But the market is flawed. It's artificial. And here's why. It's basketball. College athletics clearly showed us last summer that basketball is not that important. Certainly not important enough to pay coaches $2 million.

The conference realignment of last summer showed that hoops don't mean much in the grand scheme of campus athletics. Football is the ticket.

That's why the Big Ten sought Nebraska. Why Kansas, with Allen Fieldhouse and Rock Chalk and a history greater than grand, was scrambling for a conference home until the Big 12 was saved. Why the basketball-proud Big East admitted TCU, though the Horned Frogs play inferior hoops.

Football pays the freight. Football runs all but a few college athletic departments.

So why are basketball coaches being paid like kings? Why is Wisconsin paying Bret Bielema (football) and Bo Ryan (basketball) virtually the same, $1.78 million a year with similar incentives? Why is Florida State paying basketball's Leonard Hamilton ($1.5 million, with a shot at $575,000 in bonuses) almost as much money as football's Jimbo Fisher ($1.8 million, with a shot at $675,000)?

Yes, it's the marketplace. But the marketplace is screwed up.

Hey, you might think it immoral that Bob Stoops makes almost $5 million a year, but economists can put a pencil to it and show how he's worth it. Show how Stoops has provided OU with that much and more in football bounty.

But no way is a basketball coach worth $2 million a year, unless it's at a Duke, a Kansas, a North Carolina. There's just not that much money in the sport for a school.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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