Thursday, October 6, 2011

pay this man

So here is a USA Today table of the compensation (pay, for the back of the class) brought in by the various athletic directors around the country.  I'll save you the looking through the table: Craig Littlepage makes $350,000 a year, with no bonuses.

That sounds like an OK chunk of change.  I sure wouldn't mind $350,000 a year.  But here are some quick facts about where that ranks, out of the 111 listed salaries (all 120 I-A football schools minus the nine that didn't respond because either they're private schools or they're Penn State which isn't required to):

-- Tied for 64th in the nation
-- Tied for 9th in the ACC (of 11 - Miami doesn't answer)
-- Tied for 54th among BCS schools

The gentleman that Littlepage is tied with is Florida State's Randy Spetman, who also makes $350,000, but with the potential for a bonus of as much as $190,000, so Spetman really counts as better-compensated.  Littlepage is also tied with UNLV's Jim Livengood, whose maximum bonus is even bigger.

The ADs on either side of Littlepage are Memphis's R.C. Johnson at $332,500, and - get this - the AD at East Carolina, who the astute will remember is Terry Holland.  Holland makes $363,400.  Our former AD, at a school that the ACC turns its nose up at, makes more than our present AD.

(Disclaimer goes here: this is where you might as well stop reading if you're the football-and-basketball-only type.  Please come back tomorrow for the recruit profile on Anthony Cooper.  But do keep in mind that UVA, when choosing a direction for its athletic department, commendably decided to try and shoot for the moon in everything, and that is the mission by which we must judge Littlepage.)

UVA is getting great value here.  But you know me, I like numbers with my value.  After Holland was nudged gingerly yet respectfully aside, Littlepage was charged with creating excellence in every facet of the athletic department.  Of course, the best indicator of that is the Director's Cup, which awards points based on how well you do in every NCAA championship.  UVA has finished in the top 10 in the Director's Cup in the past I dunno how many years - 3rd two years ago, 7th last year.  Consider excellence achieved.

ADs must also managed the business side of the department, of course.  It's about the profits.  Profits mean more money you can sink into creating excellence.  Who makes the most ducats in the conference?  Why, the University of Virginia.  Hell, that kind of profit means that if they wanted to, they could almost fund the planned new indoor practice facility in one year of operation.

So, Littlepage is a success in the money department.  Being the best in the conference at bringing in the bux is as good as you could hope for.  He is also a big success in the performance department.  I will admit there have been missteps here and there, like the sign ban in Scott Stadium, but that pales in comparison to the fact that he's delivered in spades in the two areas he's charged with.

Now for that numbers with my value thing.  First, I took the total compensation of the nation's ADs, except for the ones that weren't given.  I decided "total" should be the "total pay" column in the database, plus 1/4th of the "max bonus" column.  Divide the number by Director's Cup points to get dollars per point.

UVA is getting great value, remember?  The third-best number in the country, in fact: on AD compensation, UVA spends $320.51 per 2011 Director's Cup point.  Only UNC and TCU spend less, and UNC's number isn't necessarily valid any more because of the resignation of Dick Baddour.

(Please take this as the rough approximation of value that it's meant to be.  I realize there are numerous flaws.  Like the fact that Debbie Yow is barely responsible for last year's numbers at NC State, Baddour is no longer at UNC, small sample size of only one year of Cup points, etc. etc.  The fact that UVA is so low - or high - on the list, though, is still significant.)

In order to bring Littlepage to the median level of dollars per point nationally, he'd have to be paid almost a million and a half per year, which I don't think anyone is proposing.  To get to the same median, but in the ACC, his pay would have to be about $730,000, which I still don't think anyone is proposing.

But.....would it kill us to take some of those most-profitable dollars and redirect them to the man who's making it possible?  Understand, I'm not trying to call our administration out for being cheap or any such thing.  I have no idea how Littlepage's compensation schedule has been laid out over the years.  Perhaps he just got a raise.  I don't know.  On the other hand, here are some schools that pay their ADs more than we do:

New Mexico
Florida International
Iowa State

Why do we pay our athletic director less than Florida International pays theirs?  (I suppose you could say that they have to or else never win anything, but c'mon.)  Virginia Tech pays Jim Weaver close to $600,000, plus bonuses, and for what?  VT doesn't give a horse's butt about anything else.  The trophy case is still empty.  UVA has won, I think, four national titles in Littlepage's tenure.  I dunno what Tech has achieved in Jim Weaver's tenure, but it ain't "winning."  Except in football, and Weaver's main contribution in that regard is not firing Frank Beamer.

If UVA gave Littlepage a raise of $100,000, it would drop us from third nationally in dollars-per-Cup-point all the way to.....fourth.  Perhaps Craig Littlepage feels he is perfectly well compensated for what he does and happy about everything.  I don't know.  But here's one fan who thinks he's been doing a bang-up job and ought to be rewarded.  You know, toss a bonus or two into his contract.  Maybe give him that hundred grand or hundred-fifty raise.  If not for his sake, then for the next guy that'll one day take over and who we'll want to be as high a performer.


Anonymous said...

No, don't pay him.

First, the total profit numbers are bogus. UVA allocates $12.5MM of student tuition/fees to sports. Without that allocation we're in the red. If that allocation were similar to, say, GIT's $4.5MM allocation, we'd be near the bottom of the ACC in total profits. So the "profit" number is derived almost entirely from accounting mumbo-jumbo, shifting money between entities to look pretty.

And this shouldn't come as a surprise, as UVA has TERRIBLE attendance at the two revenue sports, football and basketball. I love what Littlepage is doing on the non-revenue side, but they're called "non-revenue" programs for a reason.

As much as you'd like to ignore it, the primary revenue driver for most schools is football. At UVA, we turn a $3MM profit. Compare to over $7MM at UNC, and over $9MM at GIT -- two schools which we should be able to OUTPERFORM in terms of football attendance, football merchandise sales, etc.

To be fair to Littlepage, the Gillen extension that destroyed the basketball program was Holland's parting gift to us. Leitao was Littlepage's failure, though, and the jury's out on Bennett (though things are looking very promising).

And I believe the Groh extension (and refusal to terminate) that destroyed the football program was Casteen's doing, not Littlepage's. The jury's still out on London (which looks less promising than Bennett, but the hole's deeper qua football).

Littlepage has done a tremendous job with respect to the non-revenue coaches. But that's the low-pressure world of non-revenue sports, not a reason to give a raise.

Warcja said...

Well, to be fair, UVA students don't have to pay for tickets to sports games, whereas at many institutions they pay through the proverbial butt. Such as Virginia Tech.

Anonymous said...

If students had to pay for tickets, would any go? Last year the student sections for the revenue sports were maybe half full. Even assuming all of those same students would have been willing to pay for tickets, we're talking about $2MM in ticket revenue, not $12MM.

Brendan said...

If the student fees thing is accounting mumbo-jumbo, then everyone is doing some mumbo-jumbo. We're not the only one; in fact, rare is the school that doesn't put some student fees toward athletics. So in that respect the playing field is still level and the comparisons to other schools in the conference are valid.

Dave said...

In response to the first commenter above:

You make a good point about accounting. But as for the terrible attendance at revenue sports, I wouldn't lay the blame at Littlepage's feet. He's laid a strong foundation in both sports -- he's not only put the right coaches in place, he's done some major wheeling & dealing in getting expensive facilities built. Now it's up to the coaches to win games, and then it's on the fans to... attend.

That last point is worth emphasizing. If this were Clemson, we'd have a lot higher attendance regardless of what the AD did or didn't do. That's just because they already have a broader fan base. UVA isn't the type of school (read: it's not agrarian) to generate a huge base of reliable redneck fans. And Charlottesville, ditto.

Not that we can't increase that fan base, of course. But Littlepage has done his part, I think.

Anonymous said...

"rare is the school that doesn't put some student fees toward athletics. So in that respect the playing field is still level and the comparisons to other schools in the conference are valid."

Who else allocates $12.5MM of student fees? The Forbes article suggests this practice -- to this extent -- is absolutely not comparable to the rest of the conference. Any data to back up your thought?

Anonymous said...

"I wouldn't lay the blame at Littlepage's feet."

I wouldn't either. Like I said, I don't think the Gillen and Groh deals weren't his, I love his non-revenue hires, I'm thrilled with basketball so far, and I'm hopeful about football.

"If this were Clemson, we'd have a lot higher attendance regardless of what the AD did or didn't do. That's just because they already have a broader fan base. ... Not that we can't increase that fan base, of course. But Littlepage has done his part, I think."

We're talking about whether he should get a raise, not whether he should be fired. We have the fan base to support MUCH better ticket/concession/merchandise revenue than we're seeing now. Unlike some schools you need to field a winner for that to happen at UVA. Suggesting the AD merits a raise when neither revenue sport made the postseason makes no sense to me. Considering his role in the Gillen/Groh debacles, I wouldn't call for his head just yet. But I don't see any argument that he's not being paid fairly right now.

Brendan said...

Here is the database of athletic department spending:

Click through the database for the ACC schools and you will find that while UVA has the highest dollar amount of student fees allocated to the program, it doesn't have the highest percentage of revenue from student fees, and that number falls reasonably well in line with the other ACC schools.

While it's true that our profit would dry up without the student fee allocation, so too would that of the rest of the ACC schools. (And quite a few outside the ACC.) Maryland would be a whopping $9M+ in the hole - in fact, their deficit would be exactly the amount listed from student fees. We are also one of the few ACC schools listing no "direct institutional support."

In other words, the student fee issue is a nonstarter IMO. Even if you consider student fees to be another form of direct institutional support....well, at worst all that does is bring the other ACC schools even further in line with our revenue stream in that area.

If you want to know the secret of our success, don't look at student fees, look at the VAF. We dominate the conference in the "contributions" department. And that is a reflection on Littlepage, as it's pretty well known that one of the AD's hats is chief fundraise.