Significant amount of Athletic Dept. get above-average raises

By Carl Ackerman

Forty-one percent of the NIU Athletic Department received more than the average annual pay raise.

Fifteen people received more than the average 8 percent salary increase. Some increases were as high as 30 and 40 percent.

“We had priorities in our salary increases this past year,” said NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell. “We took incremental dollars that we were allowed within the athletic department’s budget, then moved the money around (to other members).”

One key priority O’Dell had was increasing the coaching salaries for women’s sports. Of the 15 people receiving more than an 8 percent jump, only two of them were directly related to a men’s team.

O’Dell said raising coaching salaries for women’s sports was a priority so they would be comparable to the men’s. Many coaches for men’s sports have an advantage in their yearly salaries because they were with NIU longer than the coaches of women’s sports.

“It has been a priority to bring up the women’s teams salaries since I have been here,” said O’Dell, who is in his second year at NIU.

Gymnastics, swimming and field hockey are three of the women’s programs that head coaches did not receive more than an 8 percent raise.

Faculty Assembly Chairman J. Carroll Moody said one priority out of context is the disparity between the money NIU is offering the athletic department and other faculty departments.

“It seems to reflect a misplaced priority for the universitiy when we have lost so many faculty,” said Moody. “That is not a place I would displace the money for the university. The purpose of a university is not to provide spectator sports. The university is an educational institution from the faculty to the students.

“To be blunt, if it was a choice between an athletic coach who could get a few thousand dollars more at another institution and a professor with the same thing, my choice would be to retain the professor and say ‘good luck’ to the coach,” added Moody.

However, O’Dell said three people with “fairly high salaries” left their administrative positions last year, freeing extra money in the athletic budget.

“If there are opportunities and/or needs to increase the coaches salaries for next year, we’ll do that,” said O’Dell.

“I’m not anti-sports,” said Moody. “I’m a very good fan of all kinds of sports, but I think if you talked to any other departments they would object to this (increase).”

“As a faculty member, it’s hard to realize how a coach could be worth more than the president of a department,” said Gordon Dorn, president of American Association of University Professors. “Generally the faculty is unhappy with its low salaries. Whatever they (the athletic department) can get for themselves, I congratulate them, but I wish the faculty could get more.”

However, Jack Bennett, executive vice president for the Board of Regents, realizes the variation between a coach and a faculty member.

“Our raises have been too small, but you have to recognize that the coaching staff is different from the faculty. They live under different conditions. We are separate. A coach’s job is different than a professor’s job. It’s hard to constitute fairness between their wages,” said Bennett.

Catch-up pay also played a critical role in the salary increases, said O’Dell. This plan is designed to make NIU’s salaries comparable with other people in similar positions throughout the nation.

“We tried to identify this (catch-up plan) with comparable schools to NIU or what we call ‘peer groups’. We want to make (NIU’s salaries) more competitive,” said Eddie Williams, vice-president of finance and planning.

NIU received money for catch-up pay from the state legislature, said Williams. The legislature agreed to give NIU the money once they were convinced that raising salaries is a key issue.

“Something had to be done, and the state provided additional money with a tax increase. They said they wanted to see NIU improve,” said Williams.

Tax increases were a “definite factor” in deciding the amount of pay raises for the athletic department.

“We did a pretty good job in (Fiscal Year 1990) because of the tax increases. It allowed us to make some crucial increases in salaries,” said O’Dell.

Because of these tax increases, NIU gained $18-$19 million, said Williams. Salary plans exist in every area of NIU.

“I don’t think athletics was given top priority. We’re on a two to three-year plan to fill the gap in salaries,” said Williams.

NIU has gone several years without catch-up pay. Last year’s catch-up pay was not as significant because it made a lot of progress this year, said O’Dell.

“If we received a 5 percent increase, it would probably allow us to get where we wanted to be,” said O’Dell.

Williams said NIU was able to address “about 25 percent” of their problems because the state didn’t give enough money.

“In the third year of the plan, we’ll hopefully be able to get up to where we want to, but it depends on whether the state gives us more money,” added Williams.

One obvious guideline for salary increases is evaluating academic productivity, said O’Dell. This also would include influencing the students to attend study-table sessions and classes. In addition, coaches must monitor their programs and take care of liability and management.

A coach’s raise is not determined by a successful season. Instead, O’Dell’s priority is to balance the salaries of all coaches. For example, a winning coach might not get the big raise, but a losing coach might.

“The bottom line is that it’s not a win-loss situation that determines a raise,” said O’Dell.

Although women’s sports are getting a lot of the additional money, coaches of the men’s sports are not losing any dollars they deserve, said O’Dell.

“I think all the coaches would like to have significant increases, but at the same time you’re looking at an 8 percent increase. I think it (the increase) is quite generous,” said O’Dell.

O’Dell said he does not expect similar types of pay increases next year because of this year’s success.