Clemson, Inc. out of touch with reality


In these times of hardship, when people are losing their jobs and homes, when the value of everything is contracting, when international markets are adjusting to a new world order, college sports still walks around with a cocky strut as if it were immune to economic reality.

Just last month, Clemson University thought nothing of paying football coach Tommy Bowden a $3.5 million buyout bonus not to coach the football team anymore.

That's after they paid him more than $15 million over the past decade and kept renewing his contract so he would stay.

Earlier this week, the University of Tennessee did the same thing, only worse. Tennessee officials decided to pay their football coach, Phillip Fulmer, $6 million not to coach the Volunteers after this season.

In both cases, these coaches were given lucrative, long-term contracts just a year ago when their athletic directors were desperate to keep them. Then, before the next season was over, they were willing to do anything to get rid of them.

In any other business, this would be considered totally irresponsible management.

Reality check

Truth is, perfectly rational people get very angry when corporate executives receive million-dollar golden parachutes for poor performance and demand that the government step in and stop such stupid behavior.

But when it comes to their favorite college football team, money is not the issue.

Well, those days are gone.

Money is the issue.

If indeed our economic bubble has burst in the real world, it most certainly should relate to this unreal world we know as college sports.

We seemed quite willing to pay a coach several million dollars a season to coach our favorite football team as long as our home values were doubling every other year. We were all riding the glorious wave of unprecedented prosperity.

Now, home prices are falling, our retirement funds are shrinking, and our expectations are being re-evaluated in every area of our lives except sports.

Ultimate insult

If you were a stockholder in Clemson, Inc., you'd be calling the chairman of the board and demanding to know what the heck they are doing with the money.

The folks at the top of these collegiate corporations surely must see the irony of having to cut academic classes, teacher positions and important educational programs at the same time they are paying these ungodly sums of cash to get rid of unwanted coaches.

Then, without shame, they'll go right back out on the open market and pay the next coach several more million a year and give him a guaranteed contract, knowing they'll have to pay it off someday.

Because, as we all know, all coaches are hired to be fired. It's just a fact of life.

Supporters argue that these are separate issues, that athletic funds are privately donated and therefore unconnected to the university as a whole.

Hogwash. They both wear orange and call themselves Tigers and bask in the glow of the school logo.

For a public university to throw money away with one hand while begging with the other is the ultimate intellectual insult.