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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The best $1.6 million ever spent

    Here’s how a Phoenix news station started its Tuesday evening broadcast:

    “”As teachers and faculty worry about their jobs in this slumping economy, new kid on the block, Sean Miller, gets a multi-million dollar contract to coach basketball at the University of Arizona.””

    In journalism, we call that stretching a story to gain attention. Or using a false perception to raise eyebrows. Or straight up deceiving.

    And it kept going:

    “”U of A athletic director Jim Livengood made the hire and signed off on a multi-million dollar salary. And at the same time, the university is dealing with massive budget cuts.””

    An episode of TMZ could better evaluate Sean Miller’s $2 million contract.

    Miller inked a deal that gives Arizona’s newest employee a $1.6 million annual base salary from the athletic department and $400,000 from Nike and IMG.

    In light of statewide budget cuts and current economic recession, the uninformed may view Miller’s hire as irresponsible or absurd.

    And that Phoenix news station even aired Web site comments from those types of readers:

    “”The story has really caught fire on our Web site. ‘No wonder there’s talk about doubling tuition for the colleges. … That’s a lot of money. I don’t blame the kids for wondering how they are going to afford school.””

    You can’t help but wonder how many ASU graduates work at that network.

    This isn’t an AIG executive receiving a multi-million dollar bonus from the federal bailout package. For all intents and purposes, the UA athletics department is a private corporation just like any other professional sports franchise.

    It earns revenue through private boosters and ticket sales. As Jim Calhoun put it, not a dime comes from state or federal funding.

    UA athletics is actually profitable. Last fiscal year, UA basketball alone earned a gross $16.4 million.

    Can you name an employee on campus responsible for $16.4 million?

    Nobody. Not Paul R. Portney, dean of the Eller College of Management; not any professor, adviser or administrator.

    So if Miller equals that of 16 professors, why not pay fair market value? Any student could do the math, yet still the public perception thinks of it as $2 million that the University could be saving.

    Miller’s job endures enough pressure to make your ears pop. Livengood couldn’t have asked for a better deal based on Miller’s true value.

    His contract is actually a bargain. Other big-time coaches make between $2.5 and $3.5 million annually.

    But it goes beyond financials. What about the intangibles?

    As Miller said Tuesday, Arizona is national. Students, faculty and staff hail from all four corners of the United States.

    Just look around your dorm hall. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York – Tucson is a breadbasket, and athletes are no exception.

    Why does a Footlocker in suburban Massachusetts sell USC sweatshirts? Because of the national exposure. When ESPN’s College Gameday arrives on campus, there’s no better exposure for that university.

    A million-dollar marketing campaign couldn’t simulate the ‘awe’ factor that prospective students and athletes feel when watching thousands of raspy-voiced body-pained current students on ESPN.

    Show me a professor who can not only revive hungover students out of bed on a Saturday morning, but make them wait four hours in line for a two-hour lecture. Show me a professor who gets his lecture aired on national television during prime time.

    Show me a professor who sells his lecture hall seats for thousands of dollars.

    Without a big-name basketball coach, those current novelties that the program generates would evaporate. Suddenly, Arizona basketball would become as relevant as any other bottom-feeding BCS school.

    I’ll show you Sean Miller, a man better than 1.6 million professors.

    – Bryan Roy is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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