Coaches Deserve Fair Pay

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UCSC women’s basketball coach Todd Kent holds practices five days a week beginning at 5 a.m. The team is having their strongest season in program history, and they’re on the way to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. Kent is a part-time employee, but with practices every day, games often multiple times a week and extensive traveling due to the lack of Division III athletic programs in California, UCSC coaches reportedly put in 40 to 60 hours of work per week. In return, Kent makes less than $23,000 per year.

And that’s on the high end for coach’s pay at UCSC. A Santa Cruz Sentinel article exploring the deplorable pay of UCSC coaches shows it is essential for our coaches to earn a fair wage at least close to their market value. Unlike low pay for adjunct or part-time faculty — which is common at universities across the country — low pay for coaches at UCSC is the result of this administration’s low prioritization of NCAA sports.

It is unfair that extremely dedicated coaches and their players aren’t being offered reasonable pay. The shockingly low salary for UCSC coaches is not only making it difficult for athletic programs to grow because of high turnover rates of coaches, but also makes it nearly impossible for coaches and their families to survive solely on their pay from UCSC. These coaches are not asking for much. They are fighting for a living wage on par with what coaches receive at other Division III programs in the state.

Comparisons are sometimes difficult because most Division III universities are private and do not publish salary information. But outside of California at the Division III level, Massachusetts’ Salem State University men’s basketball coach and compliance coordinator makes $64,515. At University of Texas at Dallas, another Division III institution, the men’s basketball coach makes $73,525 and the women’s coach $63,675. Yet the living costs in Salem and Dallas barely compare to Santa Cruz, where the median home price is $669,500 according to Zillow, compared to $287,700 in Salem and $143,600 in the Dallas metro area.

It’s appalling that UCSC’s former men’s tennis coach Bryce Parmelly can’t afford a living wage despite leading the Slugs to a top 25 ranking. His $19,856 wage was not close to what a minimum wage hourly salary would add up to and, without any benefits, it was simply not a feasible amount to live off of in Santa Cruz.

Many coaches claimed Chancellor George Blumenthal’s actions, or lack thereof, blatantly show that having successful NCAA teams and tournament wins are not priorities at UCSC. Chancellor Blumenthal approving a venue switch from the West Gym to Kaiser Permanente Arena — which costs UCSC no money —may appease coaches and players, but it is not helping the team’s finances. He is quoted as saying NCAA sports are equal to club and intramural sports, yet none of these programs received adequate funding.

Chancellor Blumenthal has made no proactive steps to help the coaches make a fair living wage and continues to put athletics on the back burner. The budget for UCSC athletics is one-third of the average Division III school, and if teams are successful, fundraisers are required for them to earn money to cover travel costs.

Unlike Division I programs that generate up to over $100 million yearly through ticket sales, donations, media rights and branding, Division III programs are not necessarily a money-making business. While Division I coaches can earn more than $1.5 million for large scale football and basketball teams, this is not the type of program UCSC coaches are fostering. The model of NCAA Division III is about developing student athletes and providing a learning experience on and off the field, court, track, gym or pool.

Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports (OPERS) director Andrea Willer hopes to readdress suggestions made in 2010 to improve athletics before she was hired in November 2012. One idea suggested that all UCSC NCAA coaches earn $25,000 with benefits. This is the bare minimum of what should be done to improve the discrepancy of UCSC coaches’ salaries.

UCSC is one of the few public schools in California and the only UC to offer Division III sports. As a public school, we should not tolerate the casting aside of any part of the student experience. NCAA programs are doing all they can to fight and win despite these circumstances, but low wages for coaches in no way translates to a more positive experience for players.

It is crucial for the administration to find a way to more adequately fund our NCAA teams in order to allow for program growth. Primarily supported by a $5 per quarter student fee, NCAA teams deserve to be funded more by the university to allow for coaches to earn closer to their market value price.