A recent article in USA Today reported that Michigan head football coach Rich Rodriguez will rack up $2,521,000 this year, making him the 14th highest paid coach in college football.

The article, which included a database of all salaries of college coaches across the country, also showed that at least 25 college head football coaches make annual salaries of $2 million or more.

The issue of football coach salaries has been a point of debate recently in higher education circles.

Some think that coaches are overly compensated by institutions that are meant to educate students, despite the fact that some athletic department budgets — including the University of Michigan’s — are separate from their academic counterparts. Others say that paying top dollar for coaches is worth what could be a resulting increase in ticket sales, television ratings, overall fan support and school spirit.

University Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R–Ann Arbor), a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics — a college sports think tank — said coaches’ salaries are getting increasingly exorbitant.

“Do I think they’ve gotten out of hand? I do,” she said. “On the other hand, that’s what the market calls for.”

In an interview yesterday, University President Mary Sue Coleman said the Athletic Department, along with all other departments at the University, make salary decisions according to the University’s established guidelines.

“We have a compensation philosophy at the University that actually goes across the institution that we want to be competitive in our salaries,” she said.

“We often try and be in the upper quartile,” she continued, “because we know that in that arena, you want to get the best people to your institution, whether it’s the dean, or a vice president, or a football coach, then you’re going to have to pay what the market looks like.”

With regards to Rodriguez’s salary, Coleman said she thought it was reasonable.

“I think (Athletic Director Bill Martin has) done an extremely good job of being rational, being reasonable, looking at the market — we’re not by any means the highest, but we’re competitive,” she said.

Coleman said that while many athletic departments across the country are seeing skyrocketing costs, the University of Michigan’s Athletic Department has posted surpluses over the last several years and does not receive money from the academic side of University.

“The Michigan Athletic Department is in an enviable position,” Coleman said. “There are only a handful of programs in the country that are completely self-supporting in athletics.”

“I feel really comfortable about it,” Coleman added about the overall state of athletic administration at the University.

USA Today’s study followed another by the Knight Commission, which looked at Division IA presidents’ feelings about athletic department budgets.

Most presidents said that while they thought something needed to be done about spending on athletics at their university, a majority of them said that they did not feel like they were in a position to create that change.

In an interview last month, Coleman stressed that she was confident in her control over the University’s Athletic Department, citing a good working relationship with Athletic Director Bill Martin and effective procedures in place that give Coleman and the Board of Regents oversight over the Athletic Department.

— Daily News Editor Kyle Swanson contributed to this report.

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