[FoRK] What Americans Do...

Owen Byrne owen at permafrost.net
Wed Jan 5 04:51:33 PST 2005

>I'm just pointing out that even if the US government had done nothing
>after its original offer, the criticism of America(ns) as stingy would
>have been bullshit, given that on average Americans are provably
>substantially more giving personally (and in toto) than Western
>Europeans. There will be no headlines saying 'Amazon gives as much as
>many small governments'... maybe the average American needs a PR firm.
I would find these studies interesting - I have the perception that in 
general, wealthy people give to charities that benefit
the wealthy, while poor people give to charities that benefit the poor. 
And the non-profit sector in the US may be just better developed, have 
better PR, more celebrity golf tournaments, etc. How much of that giving 
goes to wonderfully deserving people like the coach of Florida's 
football team (see below)?


>           January 2, 2005
>     Big Boosters Calling the Shots on Campus
> THERE is a sticker price for a messiah coach. For $16 million, the 
> University of Florida recently banished Ron Zook with a $1.8 million 
> buyout, paid the Utah Utes what amounted to a savior transfer fee of 
> $250,000 and committed $14 million over seven years for Urban Meyer to 
> compete with Steve Spurrier's visorly ghost.
> Then the salary cloning began. Now there are messiahs everywhere, with 
> Mack Brown on the verge of receiving a 10-year, $26 million validation 
> hug from Texas, with Auburn's Tommy Tuberville agreeing to a $16 
> million makeup kiss after boosters plotted to fire him last season, 
> with each man joining nearly a dozen others in the expanding $2 
> million club of college football coaches.
> The excessive trash of the "College Coeds Gone Wild" video has been 
> exceeded by the obscene state spending of "College Caretakers Gone 
> Loony."
> Were the Gators the careless triggermen or innocent market victims?
> "I'm sure some will say Florida is the cause," Florida's athletic 
> director, Jeremy Foley, said in a telephone interview, "but Florida 
> didn't set the marketplace."
> Was it Notre Dame? The leprechauns were desperately pursuing Meyer 
> with a pot of gold. Was it Louisiana State? The Tigers had established 
> the bar with an $18.45 million deal for Nick Saban only to see him 
> jilt them for a $22.5 million deal in the N.F.L.
> Was it Bob Stoops? He sends the Sooners into bake-sale mode every time 
> he winks at another suitor.
> The culprit is not the obvious. On the surface, the spiraling salaries 
> seem like a clairvoyant snapshot of the foreboding "arms race" passage 
> authored by the deep thinkers behind the 2001 Knight Commission report.
> "Something similar is happening that is more insidious: expectations," 
> Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletic 
> Association, said when reached at his office. "In a number of our 
> major institutions with large athletic departments, expectations have 
> become unsustainable."
> This pressure is from within. The collegiate marketplace is set by 
> insider ego, the business model operates on the fickleness of rah-rah 
> and athletic departments have become the pawns of chief executive war 
> games.
> This is the era of the über-booster. So it's worth asking any messiah 
> coach: who's your sugar daddy?
> The most meddling of the boosters aren't the cheap-suit fans 
> tailgating on the back of a Ford pickup; some are Forbes-list 
> executives buying vicarious ownership of their college teams.
> Their power to shape a hiring, a firing - and, in some cases, play 
> calling - is the hobgoblin of financial dependency. With broadcast 
> revenue peaking for athletic departments but with salaries expanding, 
> boosters have gladly picked up more of the tab in a bottomless money pit.
> In 1997, Gator Boosters Inc. raised $16.2 million in contributions, 
> according to its 990 tax filing, a form used by nonprofit 
> organizations. In 2002, it brought in $23.7 million in public support 
> - or more than a third of Florida's athletic budget.
> Many variables influence giving, but Florida State may provide the 
> most direct link between winning and wealth, pride and pocketbook. In 
> the year before Florida State won the 1999 national title, Seminole 
> Boosters Inc. recorded $16.6 million in support. In 2000, 
> contributions jumped to $31.4 million.
> What athletic director wouldn't want to please the very folks who are 
> supplementing his salary and the income of coaches while financing 
> scholarships, stadium improvements and recruiting trips, and upgrading 
> cheerleader megaphones?
> "The expectations of boosters and trustees are pushing athletic 
> directors for a larger and larger rate of increase in expenditures," 
> Brand said. "And that's where they are getting in trouble."
> Some athletic czars are being devoured by their own design. At one 
> point, setting up athletic departments and booster groups as separate 
> nonprofit 501C3 charities seemed ingenious at universities like 
> Clemson, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana State, Florida State and, 
> most recently, Auburn.
> As if athletic departments weren't already isolated from the 
> university, with athletes existing in their own cultures. As if the 
> greatest charity cause wasn't already luxury-suite lighting, with 
> education as an afterthought. Fans were given a chance to 
> dial-a-donation.
> Why give to a university's general fund if you don't care a lick about 
> how many cadavers the science labs have? Why pay for orchestra flutes 
> when you can help develop the next Doug Flutie? Incorporating the 
> booster clubs as fund-raising arms for athletics provided friends of 
> the program a tax break, as well as ticket priorities, parking passes 
> and foam index fingers that indicate "We're No. 1."
> Never mind what this victory-obsessed culture says about society's 
> feel-good-by-crushing-others mentality. As Pierre Ramond, a physics 
> professor and faculty chairman at Florida, wistfully recalled, going 
> to a Gators football game used to be "kind of a quaint, a fun outing, 
> but that was many, many years ago."
> There is nothing quaint about the current corporate booster structure. 
> Many of the presidents and officers report six-figure incomes. The 
> president of Seminole Boosters received $221,241 in compensation, 
> according to the organization's 2002 990 tax form.
> Booster power only creates ambiguity about who is in charge of the 
> program.
> "There is room for problems there, and in some cases, there are 
> problems," Brand said.
> Some incorporated clubs give a lump sum to athletic departments 
> without any directive as to how it is to be spent; the Gator Boosters 
> director, John James, says that is how his organization operates.
> Other booster groups funnel money as they like. Peek inside some of 
> the 990 tax forms and you'll find autonomy's splendor: In 2002, 
> Louisiana State's Tiger Athletic Foundation paid Saban Enterprises LLC 
> $290,000 for consultant work and provided unspecified coaches with 
> $650,000 in supplements; in 2002, the Ole Miss Loyalty Foundation Inc. 
> directly compensated the football coach David Cutcliffe $737,625, the 
> basketball coach Rod Barnes $585,000 and the athletic director John 
> Shafer $100,000.
> Coaches at public universities may seem like state employees, but 
> unofficially they are the kept men of the private donors, particularly 
> of those who give up to seven figures a year to the programs. Some 
> contributors are more than boosters; they are powerful trustees who 
> mistake their gifts for entitlement.
> Bobby Lowder fits this profile. He is the Auburn trustee and booster 
> whose plane was used in the infamous tarmac scandal that nearly 
> resulted in Tuberville's firing last season. As the wealthy chief of 
> the Alabama-based Colonial Bank, Lowder has been known to give 
> millions to the athletic department. Months after the scandal, he 
> donated $4.2 million, the largest single gift made to the Auburn 
> athletic department, to finance the student-athlete development 
> center. The contribution made his $600,000 check in 2003 to Tigers 
> Unlimited - Auburn's booster club - seem like ashtray change.
> Vicarious access to the program isn't cheap. Some trustees turned 
> boosters - or vice versa - will meddle whatever the cost.
> "Some trustees, a minority, have wanted to gain influence over 
> athletic department decisions," Brand said, adding that whoever the 
> donor is, "sometimes, you can't afford the gift because there are too 
> many strings attached."
> Before the first coin toss of a Bowl Championship Series game, 20 of 
> 117 Division I-A programs had changed coaches, leading to this 
> question: As salaries expand, as leashes shorten, who pays the 
> severance deals?
> On its 2002 990 tax form, Seminole Boosters reported $260,000 to buy 
> out coaches' contracts. If Meyer doesn't work out in three years as 
> the Gators' chosen one, somebody will have to absorb the balance on 
> the $14 million owed to him.
> In the coming years, powerful booster clubs will bear the burden of 
> their own making in an arms race fueled by their outsized expectations 
> in a ludicrous cycle no one seems able to stop. Presidents and 
> athletic directors seem helpless, rendering the Knight Commission 
> report a romantic, idealist piece of paper disconnected from reality.
> University presidents like Michigan's Mary Sue Coleman haven't given 
> up. She has turned down excessive commercialism and gifts with 
> contingencies, bucking the trend of incorporating booster clubs. Even 
> so, Coleman, a member of the 2001 Knight Commission, understands the 
> pressure her peers face.
> "I think we're in a circumstance where we can't figure out how to deal 
> with salaries because there are forces out there that, when a single 
> institution is making a decision on hiring a coach, and knowing what 
> the marketplace is, what decision are they making?" Coleman said. "I 
> don't think they're going back to the Knight Commission report and 
> reflecting on it."
> If presidents are struggling for control, if the N.C.A.A. is legally 
> helpless to rein in salaries, the chance of financial chaos at some 
> institutions isn't that far-fetched.
> "I don't think we'll have an Armageddon," Brand said, "I don't think 
> we'll explode, but I think there will come a realization that 
> institutions can no longer" operate in a professional football market.
> Brand added: "In football, with coaches' salaries, it's interesting, 
> coaches and their agents have essentially extended the market. So now 
> the market doesn't include just college coaches, but N.F.L. coaches. 
> That larger market involves larger compensation packages. In this, so 
> comes the rules that are governing the N.F.L. coaches, and that's win 
> or get out."
> Ron Zook was tossed out of the Swamp. And for that, he will collect 
> $1.8 million from Florida, in addition to a $1 million salary from his 
> new employer, Illinois.
> One program's failure is another university's messiah at a sticker 
> price set by the sugar daddies of athletics: the über-booster.

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