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USF Athletics Is In Crisis, And Not Just On The Field

It's even worse than you think


USF's football team is 3-7, and the landscape of college athletics is changing yet again with a strong possibility of the Bulls being left behind. Enthusiasm for the program is at the lowest ebb in decades, and the turnover of staff inside the Selmon building is fast and furious.

We've got a head football coach that could politely be described as "embattled," an athletic director that hasn't taken questions from any legitimate journalist in front of a microphone or camera in so long we can't remember, and the possibility that less than 15,000 people will walk through the turnstiles at Ray Jay for our final home game this year. Not to mention our students and fans got blown out of the gym by UCF's enthusiasm during the grand opening of the revitalized Sun Dome.

It's the worst it's ever been in the Football Era. There are exceptions such as
softball or women's basketball, and congrats to men's soccer on another NCAA appearance. But quite frankly, and this is from someone that loves USF Volleyball more than Football... that doesn't pay the bills.

I asked for all the following data from USF as part of a public records request (one that took nearly 6 weeks to get back), but the data they gave me didn't match what they told the federal government here. For example, the data they gave me said the department budget in FY 2011 was $38,047,947, but they told the feds it was $41,948,123, and that expenses were $43,494,246. Let's give USF the benefit of the doubt however and say that our accounting procedures might be far different than those required by the federal government.

But since that's still a big difference, and for the sake of consistency, all the following numbers come from the USA Today Athletics Database as of 2011, which uses the Department of Education numbers. Also, since West Virginia was still in the conference and Temple wasn't at the time of this data, and WVU played all sports as opposed to just football, we went with the Mountaineers instead of the Owls.

Revenue Expenses Subsidy % of budget Student Fees
Louisville $87,736,323 $81,837,054 $10,061,012 11.50% $1,861,502
Syracuse * $73,287,687 $69,187,052
Connecticut $63,089,340 $62,993,983 $15,029,723 23.80% $8,744,642
West Virginia $60,451,426 $61,709,469 $4,365,703 7.20% $4,219,457
Rutgers $60,190,100 $60,190,100 $28,475,523 47.30% $9,032,350
Pitt * $56,338,449 $56,338,449
Cincinnati $42,724,841 $43,688,807 $14,708,672 34.40% $0
South Florida $41,948,123 $43,494,246 $16,561,617 39.50% $15,231,708

* FY 2012 athletics budget as submitted to Department of Education since schools are private/semi-private so data is not available by USA Today Database

^ Cinci just gives money directly to athletics instead of using a tuition fee. Their students are still paying, just under a different mechanism.

Subsidy is defined as "the sum of students fees, direct and indirect institutional support and state money. The NCAA and others consider such funds 'allocated' or everything not generated by the department's athletics functions." So basically everything you get from your foundation and student fees, but didn't earn.

A few notes: Rutgers has the highest percentage of "subsidy" in the nation for BCS schools, USF is second, Cincinnati third, and Oregon State fourth. Every other school in the BCS is under 30%, most by a lot. The B1G and SEC don't have a school over 10%, and four of them are at zero.

So by these measures, USF has the smallest budget in the Big East, but the highest amount of student fees paid directly by tuition dollars to athletics.

Current Big East football head coaches total compensation (most of it from here):

Charlie Strong, Louisville - $2.3 million
Skip Holtz, USF - $2 million
Paul Chryst, Pitt - $1.75 million
Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut - $1.6 million
Butch Jones, Cincinnati - $1.575 million
Doug Marrone, Syracuse - $1.23 million
Steve Addazio, Temple - unclear, but likely <$1 million
Kyle Flood, Rutgers - $750,000

Holtz, like most other coaches above, also has an opportunity to earn additional bonuses for things such as attending a bowl game ($25,000), winning the Big East ($200,000), or winning the national championship ($500,000). And as you're probably aware, because of his contract extension signed in June of this year, firing Skip Holtz after this season would cost USF $2.5 million in a buyout.

Current Big East athletic director total compensation:

Tom Jurich - Louisville $1,422,204 (2011)
Doug Woolard - USF $709,657 (Presently) *
Steve Pedersen - Pitt $599,807 (2011)
Daryl Gross - Syracuse $575.227 (2011)
Michael Thomas, Cincinnati - $301,716 (2011, before leaving for Illinois)
Warde Manuel - Connecticut $450,000 (2012, when hired)
Tim Pernetti - Rutgers $481,436.33 (2011)
Bill Bradshaw - Temple unknown

* Going strictly on the public info request I got from USF. They list Woolard's base salary as $579,657 presently. He also received a $100,000 annual increase from Judy Genshaft on Nov. 8th, 2010 "in an effort to establish a more competitive compensation structure relative to other peer university institutions" which is paid in $50,000 installments every December and June. Woolard also earns a separate $30,000 bonus each year described as a "contractual incentive" and has every year since 2006, though what that's for isn't in his offer letter and not defined in the paperwork I received.

He also has received other small bonuses, such as one for $13,564 on July 29th, 2011 that many athletics staffers received in what seems to be proportion to their salary. Those are not counted above.

Also as part of his new agreement with the University signed this past June (at the same time Skip Holtz and Stan Heath were also given extensions), Woolard rolled over his previous contract with one addition: he is now "eligible for and paid incentive payments in equal and cumulative amounts to the performance incentives which are earned and paid to the head coaches according to those respective employment agreements." Therefore all the bonuses received by head coaches are now matched for Woolard. As an example, when the men's soccer team reached the NCAA Tournament this past week, both coach George Kiefer and Doug Woolard received a $5,000 bonus for the appearance per the incentive clause in Kiefer's contract. No other assistant athletic directors, associate athletic directors, or sport administrators appear to have such an arrangement, and no senior staff member has received any "contractual incentive" since 2006.

As we noted here previously, the amount of money tied up in salaries at the top end of the administration is quite high in terms of percentage of the budget, and the championships per dollar spent is pretty small. Those numbers are even worse than when we looked at them 15 months ago, but is any of that money trickling down to the proletariat staff as well?

The answer appears to be no. The Department of Education website also lists the average salary for assistant coaches across all sports as well, which is the best tangible comparison we can make from peer school to peer school.

Average Assistant Coaching Salaries across all sports as reported to the Department of Education

Avg Asst Mens Coach Avg Asst Womens Coach
Connecticut $154,719 $77,428
West Virginia $150,939 $43,687
Louisville $144,856 $55,811
Syracuse $135,156 $61,408
Pitt $131,555 $46,439
Cincinnati $113,907 $42,145
Rutgers $108,684 $43,895
South Florida $105,997 $39,153

So to recap, out of eight Big East football playing teams:

Overall budget: 8th

Percentage of budget from university subsidy: 7th (second to last among BCS schools nationally)

Total dollars received directly from student fees: 8th (largest amount in the BCS)

Head football coach compensation: 2nd

Athletic director compensation: 2nd

Head basketball coach compensation: 6th

Assistant coaches across all sports compensation: 8th

* * * * * * * *

As part of our public records request, we asked for the salary of every current USF staffer and coach that's full-time. Originally we wanted to compare and contrast them with their equivalents at other peer schools, but we simply didn't feel comfortable publishing the rank-and-file salaries of people busting their butts every day. If you're a football coach or athletic director, you put yourself in the spotlight. If you're taping ankles before practice, making sales phone calls, setting up arenas before games, etc, you don't really need your business splashed on a website.

But it's all public info, so if you want to know, here's the websites where you can check out peer schools. They're not all updated daily, and some of the info might be at least a year old, but it'll give you an idea.

Cincinnati Staff Directory
Connecticut Staff Directory
Louisville Staff Directory
Rutgers Staff Directory
West Virginia* Staff Directory
USF Staff Directory

*WVU requires signup

We did do some comparing and contrasting, and guess what? A great majority of the time, the person from another school made more money for an equivalent job title. And not by a little, but by a lot. The low cost of living here in Tampa is only part of the reason for the general low pay: the rest is because USF continues do things on the cheap. There are staffers that have been integral parts of the institution for years and decades that are woefully under-compensated compared to their peers. People that are respected up and down the line, people that bust their butt and face insanely long hours because they love the school, the Bulls, and the student-athletes they serve. Loyalty seems to often be mistaken for job satisfaction, and not being appreciated is the rule of the day.

This might be the reason for the amount of turnover amongst the staff, which has been furious in 2012. Between June of 2011 and June of 2013, over 50% of the full-time staff will have turned over, with the overwhelming majority of replacements coming in at a lower salary and with less experience than their predecessors who were already already underpaid and underexperienced. I'll give a personal example.

I left USF Athletics in December of 2007 to move to California. Though I spent the majority of my five years at USF as the communications coordinator for the Bulls Club, just before I left I took over as the interim media relations assistant for the volleyball team even though I had already given my notice I was leaving. I took over the salary of my predecessor directly, which was $29,400, slightly less than I was making before. When I left, I was replaced by someone making $24,000. When she left under a year later, my job was given to an intern making $8 an hour. It is still an hourly/intern position.

When I worked in media relations, there were five full-time staff members and a few interns. Now, if the info in my public records request is right, there's three full-timers and more interns than ever. And because of that the quality of the work product suffers. Things like this happen because budgets and staff are slashed to the limit. Look at the official website: we still don't have a track schedule or roster. They start in two weeks. That's not a knock on Jeremy Sharpe and his staff... they're doing the best they can. But they're also stretched so thin they can't possibly begin to worry about these things. It's the same reason why we spent $15,000 on Roscoe Dash for Hoop-La, and this was the crowd that showed. You can't ask interns to run events like that at the last second and have them succeed. And it's because hard working and well-intentioned folks don't have the staff positions and budget to do their jobs correctly.

We also have direct confirmation that Athletics is already preparing to ask for another tuition fee increase. I was once a USF student that sat on an athletics fee committee (and I believe Jamie was with me there as well). Lee Roy Selmon came to us and said Athletics needed the money to grow the program, and we happily obliged. This was over 10 years ago, and that money was needed to grow us to the BCS. But asking students to spend even more presently would be utter malfeasance. When we see how money is being spent presently, why should they be asked to shoulder the burden of a coaching buyout of a contract that was extended following a 5-7 season, and then followed up by a 3-7 campaign that looks likely to end 3-9? Asking students to pay even more money on the backs of how the current money is being spent would be unconscionable. There are systemic changes that are needed before we continue to throw good money after bad.

I have a follow up public records request I placed just over three weeks ago, and when we get that information I'll pass it along as well. But here's the reason I asked for it in the first place: because many of my former colleagues asked me to do so. Because so many staffers are sick and tired of being abused, betrayed, beaten up, and watching all the money flow to the top of the food chain. Many have families that preclude them from leaving Tampa Bay, so they stay and stick it out. But those who can leave are doing so at an incredible rate. And they couldn't be happier when they finally escape.

* * * * * * * * * *

This is the status of USF Athletic Department. It is a status quo that is no longer acceptable between the lines or outside of them. Wholesale changes are needed from the top down. Team performance and internal morale is at an all-time low for all of the reasons listed above. There is no time to waste, and with the impending conference moves, action needs to be taken immediately. USF Athletics is in crisis. The time for action is now.