The median salary for a typical Athletics Director in higher education is $97,348, according to salary.com. With that in mind, consider these two extremes in A/D compensation, as well as how to run an athletics program at a major university.
The Foley Model: Bigger is Better. The U. of F's Jeremy Foley recently became the highest paid A.D. in the nation. Foley's new contract — no doubt a reward for three national championships in a year — doubles his salary, zooming from a mere $600k to a Fortune 500 CEO-like $1.2 million per. Multiply that by the eleven year terms of the deal and it's clear Foley's got deeper roots in G-ville than most live oaks.
That's a lot more than you can say for Gator coaches. Foley runs his department like a major corporation. Each coach is akin to a brand manager. If your brand is successful, you cash in (witness Urban and Billy's massive raises). Should you have a couple of down years, get ready for that two-word phrase made famous by Donald Trump.
Foley wants winners that produce. If not in terms of revenue, at least a conference title. Critics say it makes a mockey of amateur athletics. Yet the on-field success generates an increasing flow of media and corporate dollars — not just for the jock factory, but the school as well.
The Vandy Model: The Best A/D Is No A/D. Vanderbilt Chancellor Goron Gee looked like a schnook in 2003 when he chose to go without an athletic director and an athletic department. Instead, he lumped athletics in with student life stuff like intramurals, greeks and the health center.
Four years later, budget-juggling university presidents around the nation are saying "Gee." And not just because that's Gordon's name. Vandy teams are doing the unthinkable. Not only winning games, but trophies (the baseball team, for example, taking its first SEC title since 1980).
Says Gee: "‘‘We proved you don’t need an athletic department that is isolated and segregated and separated from the rest of the university and acting as its own entity in some arms race for facilities.’’ Best of all, Gee's downsizing is saving the school about $1.5 mil yearly.
Which Is Best For FSU? Okay, it's probably too late in the game of big time athletics to consider an outside-the-box Vandy version. But it's not too much to ask to hire a guy (or a woman like the one running Maryland's sports programs) who's not a slash-and-burn, chainsaw-wielding junior Jack Welch. Somebody with a little perspective on college sports and a lot of class in dealing with coaches and the public. Who's approachable, down-to-earth and brings creative leadership as well as bottom-line discipline.
Finally, how about an A/D who even if he were offered a raise to a million plus, understands just how obscene that would be in light of distinguished faculty members earning less than one-tenth that amount.