Steve Berkowitz: ‘Full Family Commitment At Every Level’

USA Today college football writer Steve Berkowitz co-wrote a compelling piece on Mark Richt this week, exploring the big business of NCAA athletics

Berkowitz – along with Erik Brady and Christopher Schnaars – found that top-tier college football coaches are making twice as much as they did in 2006, when FBS coaches were making an average of just over $950,000 per year. The average salary today, however, is about $1.95 million.

What does this mean? It means that salaries, even when adjusted for inflation, have doubled.

Richt has spent 14 seasons at Georgia, and his salary, $3.3 million, is middle of the pack in the SEC, even though Georgia generated $77.5 million in 2012, 2013 – fourth most in the nation.

To many, Richt – if not all college coaches – seem overpaid. But delve a little deeper, and you’ll discover that being a college football coach is arguably the most pressure-packed job in sports.

“I don’t know that people get the idea that these guys – the entirety of their success (and) their failure – (depends on) the decision-making of 17-22-year-old men, both in terms of when these guys are deciding where to go to school and the kinds of decisions these guys make once they get to school,” Berkowitz said. “Richt’s wife talks about this. There is no time when you’re sort of off the clock. You’re always available and you have to always be available. There’s only so much they can do, and there’s only so much they can control, and they set a certain tone and do the best they can. Different guys seem to have different levels of engagement with the players, and I don’t think you ever really fully see what that’s like unless you’re in the program.

“But I’m not sure that people really understand how totally consuming this is of their lives and of their family’s lives and things like that,” Berkowitz continued. “It’s a full family commitment at every level for these guys. I’m not sure that that’s an aspect of this that fans in general understand.”

Not only are coaches never off the clock, but they’re also under enormous pressure.

“In (Richt’s) case, I think he’s been there long enough that it’s not the same kind of pressure as other people feel, but all these guys are wired to win. That’s what they’re trying to do. There’s no point in kidding around. For all of the talk and all of the incentive bonuses and everything else and the academic part of it – and that’s supposed to be part of the deal – these guys get hired and fired based on whether or not they win.”

Indeed, a coach has two jobs: win, and generate revenue as a result of those wins.

“Richt’s contract is very specific about that,” Berowitz said. “While that’s sort of part of the territory, Georgia puts it in writing. Part of his job is to generate revenue.”

And yet, enormous changes could be coming in the NCAA, mainly in terms of how players are compensated. Will things look vastly different five years from now?

Well, it depends on your definition of vastly.

“I think the schools in the wealthier conferences, through the legislative autonomy that they’ve gotten, they seem pretty intent upon being able to change the nature of what a scholarship covers,” Berkowitz said. “How far that’s going to go, I think the schools may only go as far as the legal system and judges push them. That remains to be seen.”

“But I think things are going to change,” Berkowitz continued. “What college athletics looks like today, I don’t think it’s going to look quite like it does today five years from now – both in terms of what the athletes are able to get, and, as a result, there may be a big difference in what athletic programs look like in terms of the number of sports that are offered and all those kinds of things.”

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