Something Is Wrong With Our Priorities When University Sports Coaches Make More Than Governors


Earlier today I wrote about proposed increases in pay for North Dakota’s executive branch elected officials. Per Governor Jack Dalrymple’s proposed budget, the officials (including the governor himself) would get an 11.4% increase in pay by 2015 over their 2012 levels.

People tend to get pretty wound up about how much public officials make, but I really don’t find these pay increases all that controversial. The salaries aren’t really all that high, and spread out over time these increases are fairly modest.

What I find far more controversial is the fact that the governor, and the lieutenant governor and the rest of our statewide elected officials make far less than other, far less important state employees make.

We could talk about officials such as North Dakota University System chancellor Hamid Shirvani who upon taking that position got a year-over-year raise that is larger than the governor’s entire salary (Shirvani now makes $349,000/year, as compared to the governor’s $113,594 salary in 2012), but the most glaring problem comes from the state’s sports programs.

Dave Hakstol, the head coach of the University of North Dakota’s hockey team, has a $300,000/year base salary, thanks to a new six-year extension signed earlier this year, with bonuses potentially adding another $135,000/year. Craig Bohl, head coach of North Dakota State University’s Bison football team, just signed an eight-year contract extension worth $206,503 with a minimum 5% annual raise, 3% of gross ticket sales and $42,500/year worth of performance incentives.

These are lavish contracts, and all the more so when you consider that the sports programs at NDSU and UND aren’t profitable. Many people assume that the hockey and football programs bring in revenues for the universities, but it’s not true. According to numbers from the NCAA, even after revenues from things like ticket sales and merchandise are included, both UND and NDSU have to subsidize their programs to the tune of millions of dollars (and hundreds of dollars per student) every year.

So not only are these coaches making big money as the heads of heavily-subsidized sports programs, but they make far more money than the officials we elect to make laws and govern the state.

Perhaps it’s a sign of our society’s priorities. In the media world, for instance, Fox News is the king of cable news ratings dominating all other networks including CNN and MSNBC, but dominating all of them routinely is ESPN.

The sports and entertainment sections of newspapers are read far more than those covering politics and government affairs. If you don’t believe me, look at the mastheads of those publications some time and count how many people are in charge of sports/entertainment content and how many are responsible for covering government.

Even in the world of blogging, the biggest and most popular political blogs are often dominated in traffic by those websites dedicated to sports and celebrity gossip.

We wonder why we are so ineptly governed. Perhaps it’s panem et circenses. We’re too busy entertained to worry about who governs us and how.