WTF: July 9, 2020

I want it now! I want cake now!

It's hard for me to look at Jim Harbaugh and not think about him whining about cake. But when I get past that, I find there are plenty real things about him at which to marvel and recoil.

University of Michigan football coach, Jim Harbaugh was getting roundly roasted on Twitter yesterday for his armchair epidemiology. It was funny because I'm not a fan, but not entirely accurate.

The Michigan Daily: A Jim Harbaugh controversy with no substance

He noted the importance of students being on campus, which University President Mark Schissel and Athletic Director Warde Manuel have said is a must if football is to happen. Harbaugh noted the safety precautions in place, both in athletic buildings and the rest of the University, and it’s clear that if Michigan’s reopening plan fails, it will almost certainly be due to behavior that happens outside the purview of those guidelines.

He’s probably wrong in saying no expert thinks sports will make it worse …. but an epidemiologist told The Athletic the risk is hard to quantify if students are already on campus, and might be mitigated by extra testing. So at minimum, there’s certainly no consensus over whether sports would make it worse.

A couple of interesting points here... a Big Ten football coach acknowledging that maybe, you know, students and education should take precedence over football and, oh, hey, if everything goes sideways, it's gonna be the students who mess this up. At least he didn't blame Ohio State. Or did he? According to the transitive property:

Students = U of M Students = OSU Students

Students = Beer Pong + Parties + Making New Friends

Beer Pong + Parties + Making New Friends = Coronavirus Outbreak

Coronavirus Outbreak = No Football

No Football = OSU Students

∴ It is Ohio State's Fault.

I mean, I think that's the transitive property. So let's transitive ourselves from the math we learned in school that we really haven't used to actual real life math that we all use, budgets. Budgets should be seen as a statement of an organization's values and priorities. And in this perfect example of the bizarro priorities of the American education system, the priorities are pretty clear. But are they rational? Does it make sense that the head football coach makes NINE times what the University President makes? If sports brought in a majority of the revenues to keep the schools solvent, then maybe. But what if the revenue for the entire sports program represented less than 2% of total revenues? What then?

MLive: Search salaries for all 51,000 University of Michigan employees

The fourth-year coach earns much more than that, of course, after signing seven-year contract in December 2014 that paid him $7.5 million this season.

In addition to his base salary, the contract pays Harbaugh $4.5 million in additional compensation for media, promotional and public appearances. He’s also able to draw from an annual $2 million life insurance policy, a compensation addendum that was tacked on in 2016.

In January, Harbaugh received a 10-percent raise in his base salary and supplemental pay. He is the third-highest paid college football coach behind Alabama’s Nick Saban and former Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer.

UM President Mark Schlissel is the university’s fifth highest-paid employee, earning $852,346 in 2018. In September, he received a 3.5-percent raise, making it the fourth-consecutive year UM’s Board of Regents approved a bump in pay.

uminfographic(4)

Some notes: I tend to harp on the problems caused when there is a sizable imbalance between authority and responsibility. Like when you have a president who wants infinite power without actually having to do any real work. Because it is difficult to quantify so many elements that would ideally feed into this equation, I have used salary as a stand in for authority and total budget as a stand in for responsibility, then I multiplied it by 1,000 to give more tangible results. So if a 1:1 relationship is ideal, the President should be making about $1M a year and the football coach about $187,000, which doesn't seem insane to me. The numbers aren't entirely correct -- I used entire athletic budget for Harbaugh because I just didn't have time to pull out football, so this means his authority/responsibility ratio is even higher than stated. Also, the athletics department is looking at a sizable deficit this year given the pandemic, so that would change the calculation too. Finally, yes, I took econ, I don't blame Jim Harbaugh for taking a salary that the "market" was willing to pay though one could blame him for repeatedly getting his ass handed to him by Ohio State and Michigan State while taking home $7.5M a year. My argument is that the people who make up the market are dealing with imperfect information and fundamentally misunderstand the relative importance of college athletics to the functioning of an education institution. Highlighting this upside down budgeting for people and the massive inflation of ticketprices that keep them out of reach for most of the fans, may change how the"market" views this resource hogging sidehustle that warps the American education system at all levels. Data from University of Michigan 2019-2020 Budget

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