Jim Harbaugh might be the best thing that has ever happened to Stanford football. Since he became head coach, he has engineered a complete turnaround of the team–the culmination of which was yesterday’s resounding defeat of USC. And while his ability and success would normally dictate a salary raise, I stand firm in my conviction that giving Jim Harbaugh an enormously lucrative new contract right now–as is about to happen–is reprehensible and shows that Stanford’s priorities are extraordinarily misguided.
I don’t even dislike Harbaugh–I might even have a touch of the wildly contagious Jim Harbaugh fever, which seems to be the newest incarnation of swine flu. But in the midst of an economic recession that has ravaged the athletics department, to increase Harbaugh’s base salary to around 1.25 million dollars per year is ridiculous.
I originally wrote about Harbaugh’s and President Hennessy’s salaries in an article that http://stanfordreview.org/article/all-the-president%E2%80%99s-cash“>appeared in the Stanford Review, and at that time Harbaugh agreed that he should not get a raise given the economy.
What has changed? The economy has not improved significantly enough to warrant this change being made. The only difference is that Harbaugh has made enough waves with his coaching to be heavily recruited by NFL teams and other universities, which means that to keep Harbaugh the university is reneging on its idea that economic stability is more important than padding Harbaugh’s coffers, even in spite of Harbaugh’s formal and informal claims that he wants to stay at Stanford no matter what.
If we analyze this raise on a deeper level, it shows that Stanford believes that some of its student-athletes are more worthy than others–an idea that is as unfair and crazy as it sounds.
One of the consequences of the budget shortfalls has been the possible elimination of fencing at Stanford. Fencing is certainly not as lucrative a sport as football is, but it is a sport that is as important to fencers as football is to the Cardinal’s football stars. And, according to the Daily article about the possible cuts, the funds needed to save fencing are 250,000 dollars–half of what is going to be added onto Harbaugh’s current salary (which resides around $750,000).
Are fencers less deserving athletes than football players? While it is true that football revenue helps pay for many other sports (including fencing), cutting fencing to pay a football coach more than a million dollars per year–when he is already being paid substantially more than the university president–is a grotesque affirmation of the Athletic department’s unequal attitude towards student-athletes.
The budget cuts affect everyone, ranging from student activities to all departments to the sports teams. In the words of President Hennessy, “Throughout the university every unit set to work to help conserve our financial resources.” Is raising Coach Harbaugh’s salary in the wake of the university’s financial struggles conserving our resources?
If you think so, try telling that to all of the Stanford employees who lost job, all of the professors denied tenure, all of the prospective professors hurt by the hiring freezes, all of the researchers who lost funding, all of the students who have seen their favorite classes get axed, and everyone else at Stanford who has sacrificed for and adapted to the budget cuts in whatever fashion has been required.
And most of all, tell the students walking around campus with swords who used to be varsity fencers–they are the direct consequence of beefing up Harbaugh’s already-bloated contract.