Today’s Clarion Ledger reported that the MS State head football coach, Sylvester Croom, will receive a $700,000 raise, to bring his total salary to $1.4 million. He is a great guy, wonderful role model, and knows his football so I’m glad for him.
But should sky-rocketing coaching salaries really be the priority of any university? A December USA Today story found that the average salary for a Division I football coach topped $1 million for the first time last season. In 1999, only five college coaches topped the million-dollar mark
If the market for big-time athletics can support that level of salary, then that’s free enterprise. But I get bewildered by those who care so much about evangelism and the Church making large gifts for Division I athletics (not just at State but all across America) when those dollars would do so much good for God and His Kingdom work, through Christ-centered higher education, rather than inflated coaches salaries.
I wrote a column about football salaries and giving for our campus magazine last fall, and had lots of comments about it. So here it is again:
There are two visible trends in higher education this time of year, which I don’t like at all —
1) Making the football coach the highest paid person on campus. In fact, at most football powerhouse schools these coaches make more than 25 or so top faculty combined — that is not right.
2) Including in the annual report a listing of donors in decending order, by the amount of the gift, in order to pressure alumni and friends into giving more — that is not biblical.
We pay our football coach reasonably, and we don’t list our supporters by the amount of their gift.
In our annual report thanking our givers for your support of Belhaven, there is a name you won’t know. And if we did follow the pattern of the rest of higher education and list the names by the amount you give, this name would be near the bottom of the list.
This friend of Belhaven grew up in a communist country and escaped from the oppression of Christians a quarter century ago. He left his wife and family behind to get established in the United States as a student, and to eventually bring his family here. He was enrolled in a course my wife taught years ago, and become a friend of us both.
He was a man of great stature in his homeland, but gave that all up to come to the US and start over again — he moved from the top of the list to the bottom, because he wanted to give his children the freedom to follow Christ.
Through these years, he has slowly been able to bring his children to this country but his level of sacrifice to give them a fresh start in America is remarkable. He has so little of the world’s possessions.
This year he made a small gift to Belhaven for scholarships and his name is in our honor roll. But that gift is not out of excess or because he could afford it. Rather, he gave knowing what a Christ-centered education did for him and he wanted to help our students have opportunity too.
We have friends who give us very large gifts — their gifts are critical to our ability to help students and I’m deeply thankful for these supporters. But if we used a biblical standard, and listed all the gifts in decending order of significance, my friend’s name should be on the top of the list:
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44
Football coaches get huge salaries at major universities and the big donors have their names listed first in the honor roll of donors.
At Belhaven, we don’t follow these two patterns of higher education — and as we do in many areas, we buck the trends as we seek to honor Christ in all we do.