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.
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione helps set the marketplace in football, since in Stoops he employs one of the faces of the sport.
But in basketball, the Sooners are just following along.
“It's the marketplace,” Joe C. said. “We understood the marketplace.” If OU sought a certain level of coach, “we had to understand what it might take.”
Castiglione said he informed president David Boren and the regents that the stakes had risen. If they wanted a coach of Kruger's caliber, a proven winner with a pristine reputation, he wouldn't come cheap.
Kruger now ranks No. 3 among Big 12 coaches in salary, behind KU's Bill Self and Barnes. Missouri's new hire could supplant Kruger, I suppose, and some coaches aren't far behind. Oklahoma State's Travis Ford makes $1.8 million and Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon $1.6 million.
“I know people will point to compensation,” Castiglione said. “He's being compensated for the quality of coach he really is. His pedigree commands that level of compensation.”
Joe C. offered this comfort: OU did not agree to a contract beyond its mean. The Sooners will be able to pay,
The money doesn't all come from athletic department coffers. Broadcast partners help out. Equipment agreements, like with Nike. Other endorsements and sponsorships. Coaches are asked to do more than ever for those big salaries, and most universities collect all the money and dole it out to the coach.
Heck, some of the money comes from fundraising done by the coaches themselves.
So these contracts don't necessarily bankrupt an athletic department. But can we agree that no way do these contracts pay for themselves?
OU basketball does not generate enough profit to warrant a $2.2 million coach. Neither does Texas basketball or Florida basketball or most any other basketball.
They pay that money to get or keep the coach they want, because of an artificial market.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.