Despite the sentiments of all the women in my family, Matthew McConaughey just doesn’t get it. This week, when McConaughey was asked what he thought about UT’s Charlie Strong as a coach, McConaughey said Strong “had one goal in mind: What’s best for these young men. That’s been his goal . . . he’s been about what’s best for these young men, and who they are in the rest of their life.”
Just what planet is Matt living on?
Football comes first in college academia. In fact, football comes first in the entire role of public institutions and government. Why else would football coaches be the highest paid public officials in 39 of our 50 states? Would we pay $6 million a year to some irrelevant college chancellor? Of course not. There’s simply no way that the person over the 221,000 students and 100,000 employees in the sprawling UT System deserves to be paid anything close to the coach of 99 students in Austin. Obviously, one football coach is more valuable than our governor and all the other Texas statewide elected officials and judges combined.
And what’s this about “what’s best for these young men”? Come on, we should have known he was bad news when Charlie Strong kicked nine players off the team when he arrived. All I’m saying is that there were a bunch of starters dismissed. Who gets rid of a 6-foot-7, 290-pound junior veteran right tackle? This is football, not knitting!
To borrow a word from Joe Biden, what’s this malarkey about looking at who the students will be “the rest of their life”? Doesn’t Matt realize there are at least three future NFL players among those 99 players? We can’t worry about those others. Talk about priorities out of line!
This week we hear rumblings of a major coach shuffle in Texas and, boy, are we about to spend some smart money. There are signs that Strong (Texas), Kingsbury (Tech) and Sumlin (A&M) might be let go, and Morris (SMU) and Herman (Houston) moving to fill those slots. And all the buyouts for this shuffle, including what Baylor University’s Art Briles might have been paid, could total over $46 million. But hey, only 70 percent of that would be taxpayer-related. And that doesn’t count the more than $100 million that would go to the combined multi-year contracts for five new coaches. Surely that’s best for the kids, right?
And surely we’ll get it right this time. If not, we can buy those new contracts out when the Aggies get whooped by LSU and go 6 and 6 in three years, right?
But thinking it all over, the women in my family might have a point. After all, they’re usually right most of the time. Although I know I’ll get bad looks next time I go to George’s, I have to agree with Matthew McConaughey.
I pay tuition to Baylor and UT and I know students feel good about a coach who tries to clean up a program and tries to show that playing at a top university is a privilege for which bad behavior won’t be tolerated. I might agree that Charlie Strong has some issues coaching on the field, but he has worked to clean up the program while at the same time bringing in top athletes.
I’m not naive enough to think anything will change in the slightest. America will continue to value and pay even assistant coaches exponentially over any real person pay. I’d say that it’s all about the money except only 24 of the 128 FBS colleges make a profit in athletics. I guess it’s true that football and, to a lesser extent, basketball subsidize the volleyball and rowing teams, and I hear lots of complaints about that. But shouldn’t college also be about the vast majority of student athletes who will never perform professionally?
Winning will always matter. I can assure you I blow every Saturday every fall watching the same and spilling my fair share of anguish over losses as I play Vince Lombardi from my couch. But we should at least discuss our priorities periodically and acknowledge how many full-ride four-year scholarships that $46 million we might burn on coach buyout would pay for (more than 55,000 if you’re interested). We should understand the number of extra nurses and doctors and engineers we could graduate by spending the money to expand those enrollments and thereby eliminate the need to import those professionals from overseas.
I’m looking for winning seasons in 2017, but let’s also consider investing a bit more in the real purpose of higher education — building our future.
Local attorney and former state representative Jim Dunnam, a Waco native, graduated from Baylor University in 1986 with a bachelor of business administration degree and from Baylor Law School in 1987. He represents several sexual-assault victims who have filed a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor. Among other honors, Dunnam was named Young Lawyer of the Year by Baylor University in 2001. He has served on the Texas Supreme Court Rules Advisory Committee and Texas Sunset Advisory Committee.