November 30, 2011

WHERE WERE PENN STATE’S TRUSTEES? When the most highly paid employee is the football coach, it’s clear something is awry. “Every generation or so, a scandal emerges that not only exposes the flaws of an institution but shakes entire industries to their foundations. For higher education, that scandal should be Penn State. The unfolding events of the Penn State sports scandal show a major university that has been more interested in protecting itself than in educating students or serving the public. The institutional reckoning must begin and end with the governing board. It is responsible for the actions of university leaders, and its members owe taxpayers and students accountability and transparency.”

UPDATE: Reader Ken Bullock emails:

I don’t write in very often, but your uncritical quotation of a vacuous WSJ article has moved me. Ms. Neal apparently didn’t look up the facts about Joe Paterno’s salary, which was 11th among the 12 Big 10 coaches. More to the point, the ousted PSU President, Graham Spanier, made about eight times as much as Joe did.

Both Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and Michigan’s Brady Hoke made over three times as much as Joe did, even though their life achievements are only a small fraction of Paterno’s . I’m sure that Jim Tressel made much more than Paterno did, before he was forced out. And none of the direct salary comparisons take into account the fact that Joe contributed a large portion of his pay back to the university.

The PSU Board of Trustees has some sins to answer for, but first among those sins is the way they ousted Joe Paterno.

Updated.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oops — I was tired and missed this but my alert readers didn’t. Reader Theodore Simon writes:

Quote: “More to the point, the ousted PSU President, Graham Spanier, made about eight times as much as Joe did.”

Don’t think so. From the information at the links your reader Ken Bullock provided:

11. Joe Paterno, Penn State: $1,022,794 (64)

PSU President Graham Spanier is fifth on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s survey of public college presidents’ pay at $800,500 in total compensation.

It looks to me as if the coach is paid more than the prez. Bad math: someone has slipped a decimal point. If Spanier earned 8X what Paterno earned, his annual salary would have been $8 million. According to the sources linked by your reader, Spanier’s salary was only $800K, or ten times less than that.

Those decimal points can be tricky. And reader Gary Rosen emails: “Ken Bullock made some good points in his response to the WSJ article on Paterno’s salary. I read the article before that and something about it didn’t seem quite right to me, more of a rant about relative salaries than the ugly goings-on. But Bullock was off-base in condemning the firing of Paterno. One comment I heard put it all in perspective – ‘Coaches get fired for having a losing season’. Maybe you could argue he should have been put on leave instead in the spirit of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. But Paterno has been the public face of PSU for 40 years and regardless of their own shortcomings the trustees were well within their rights to not let him continue in that role.”