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Spring 2012

Hey Legislature: These people have found revenue

by Council 2 President Chris Dugovich on February 26, 2012

Times have been tough for the past three years in the public sector. In the better than 280 local government jurisdictions across the state wage freezes and cuts, medical insurance that does not cover like it used to and costs more, and layoffs are certainly the norm. Very few jurisdictions have raised any revenue via tax increases and due to the constant no-tax mantra a good percentage have cut taxes.

Surprisingly one place starting in 2012 will enjoy a fourfold increase. By some estimates income will go from about $6 million a year to better than $20 million. These dollars will flow into one of the hardest hits areas of our state budget and arguably one of the most worthy, higher education. It will go into UW and WSU coffers. 

Now before I go any further, I’m a diehard football fan who spends quite a bit of my off time in the fall rooting for UW and WSU. Football is important. But there needs to be some balance and restraints placed on how this new PAC 12 television money is used.

Reported by the Associated Press, the new 12-year Pacific Athletic Conference, PAC 12 TV, deal is worth up to $250 million a year or maybe $3 billion over its life. It is evenly split between PAC 12 schools.

What did UW and WSU do with these dollars during this worst economic downturn in this country since the depression? Offset any portion of the academic cuts? Offset the 26% increase in college tuition in 2011/2012? Fund more slots for students? Heck no, they spent a big chunk on new coaches.

I’ve spent a career making sure public employees are compensated fairly, but are these numbers really justifiable and necessary to attract the best talent?

WSU gives $2.25 million to Rick Leach and the Huskies fire their $750,000-a-year defensive coordinator whom they lured with zeros away from USC several years ago and replaced him and his assistants with a better paid bunch. The new UW defensive coordinator starts this year at $750,000 that escalates to $850,000 a year over the three years and it is all guaranteed. The offensive coordinator is probably upset, He received only $375,000 this year that escalates to $425,000 in three years and of course it is guaranteed. Keeping in mind Head UW Coach Sarkisian will make the same $2.25 million a year that Leach does at Pullman.

For many of the new UW coaching crowd these were sizable increases that their previous employers like California stated they tried to match but were unable to due to financial restraints!

UW Athletic Director Scott Woodward in a statement said they need to be competitive and that it was a prudent investment of the additional money from the PAC 12 TV deal.

Oh yeah, we hear those statements all the time at a public sector bargaining table when a salary as reported went from $164,000 at CAL to $375,000 at UW. My opinion is these guys would work for less, much less, but who can blame them? I’m sure they are excellent coaches and individuals and why not take the dough when it is being thrown at you?

The real hero is PAC 12 commissioner Larry Scott who beat up ESPN and the FOX Network to fork over the $3 billion to televise the PAC 12 games. Now what we need to do is get Larry to negotiate the salaries with the coaches so there is something left over for the real job of these universities — educating our kids!

It is a system gone way too far and until there is some real oversight by our State Legislature or other officials the athletic coaches will be multi-millionaires while our kids’ tuition escalates. And that’s only if there is space for them to attend.

The scary part for us may be the hit the rest of us in the public sector take if individuals start to confuse these coaches, their salaries and the process in which they received them as anywhere near the reality in the rest of the public sector. Let’s hope not!