Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood makes over a million dollars a year to coach football. Most would agree that’s a very nice chunk of change, especially when you consider he is far better paid than the vast majority of Rutgers academic employees, including professors, TA’s, Deans, and other high ranking administrators. Flood’s job and related salary, however, are not guaranteed with tenure in the same way as professors, but instead tied directly to his performance on the football field. It should also be noted that he won’t see an extended contract or pay raise for graduation rates, and academics to most coaches only end up serving as a burden at the end of the day (if you want proof just look at the lengths Flood went to make sure one of his star players could stay eligible). Instead, Flood’s salary is completely dependent on winning football games, and to do that you need your best players on the field — no matter the cost, even if it means bypassing NCAA rules and “working a deal” with a professor. Unfortunately, Flood’s clandestine meeting with a prof is what has put him in the news this week.
Living in a capitalistic country provides many incentives, but at the same time often creates unique and sometimes unwanted responsibilities. In the case at Rutgers, keeping a job that pays over a million dollars a year likely prompted Flood to “think outside the box” a little when it came to the eligibility of one of his better players. It’s probably a safe bet to assume if Flood had his way, his coaching job security would be completely independent of student athlete grades, but in order to coach at the big college level he realizes he also has to invest in taking care of things on the academic side, too. Therein lies the conundrum – trying to win games, but knowing kids need to remain eligible in order to do so.
Big salaries expose integrity vulnerabilities
Would Flood have engaged in the covert communication with the professor if his salary fell in line with what other employees at Rutgers earn, or if his job security were tied more to academics and not exclusively football success? It’s impossible to say, but most would likely agree that having so much money on the line challenges integrity and puts people (even really principled people) more at-risk for doing things they might not do otherwise — like trying to secretly meet with a professor to get a grade changed.
It might not be entirely fair to put all the blame on Flood here, especially when you think about how many other examples we have seen in recent years where colleges have been caught doing an array of rule-breaking simply to keep star players eligible. By keeping the best student athletes on the field, everybody wins — more fans attend games and buy apparel, coaches make more money, and newer athletic facilities get built, and the college flourishes as a whole. None of these things happen if your best players aren’t on the field to win games.
Winning games v. keeping SA’s eligible
It’s almost impossible to promote a message that grades matter as priority #1 when at the same time colleges across the country regularly place student athletes in “dummy” majors and/or take extreme measures similar to what Flood did at Rutgers in order to keep athletes eligible. If Flood has bonuses in his contract, the bet here is that they are far more heavily weighted toward winning and getting into bowl games than he is incentivized to graduate students.
The Rutgers incident should be a reflection of the current college sports system more than the actions of Kyle Flood, a guy who got caught up trying to do whatever necessary to keep his job and enjoy the millions of dollars he makes from coaching. To think he is the only guy with his hand in the cookie jar is short-sighted, as there are countless “grey area” examples all the time when it comes to the balance between academics and athletics.