Texas gives football coaches raises despite academic pay freeze, financial uncertainty

Sporting News

Despite having lost millions of dollars amid the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Texas will give three football assistant football coaches raises, a board of regents official confirmed to Sporting News on Wednesday.

The school said on April 14 it would freeze merit raises for all faculty and staff in an effort to stave off layoffs and other academic budget cuts. That apparently did not apply to offensive line coach Herb Hand, associate head coach/running backs coach Stan Drayton and strength coach Yancy McKnight, who will have their salaries bumped by a combined total of $268,000.

They will now all make more than $500,000 annually; the median salary of UT employees is $60,000.

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Less than an hour before the raises were confirmed via closed-door vote on Wednesday, regents chairman Kevin Eltife acknowledged further cost-cutting measures to the academic side of UT institutions would likely be in store as the system hemorrhages money amid the pandemic.

"We'll be looking at every dollar we're spending," Eltife said. "We're gonna have to look at everything from top to bottom."

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Texas universities have been struck by a pair of economic blows during the pandemic: They not only are losing money by paying back students for housing and parking fees, but also have seen their reserve funds slashed by the cratering oil market.

The Texas Longhorns football team, of course, is currently inactive and unable to bring in any revenue. Spring practices were canceled due to COVID-19 shutdowns, and summer workouts are also in jeopardy. Even the 2020 season is uncertain. Coaches' full salaries are guaranteed regardless of whether games are played.

After this story was published, officials from the University of Texas at Austin told Sporting News the raises were negotiated (but not approved) before the pandemic. Even before this period of uncertainty, however, the school system faced the prospect of significant cuts.

"The funds for the raises come entirely from the budget of Texas athletics, a self-sustaining arm of the university that fully supports itself and generates revenue for the university’s academic enterprises," school spokesman J.B. Bird said. "Texas is one of the few universities with an athletics division that receives no funds from the university budget. As the landscape of collegiate athletics faces challenges from COVID-19, the university will continue to expect Texas athletics to operate within the constraints of its revenues while transferring funds to UT’s academic enterprises."

While the athletic department is financially sustained separately from the rest of the school, it nonetheless provides crucial funds to the academic side of the institution, meaning its balance sheet is important to the well-being of the school at large. It relies heavily on donations and event-related revenue, which could be struck by the pandemic.

Football programs elsewhere have not been immune to salary reductions and furloughs. At Boise State, for example, most staff members were furloughed. Louisville followed suit with a similar announcement one day later.

Texas has inched its way back toward national football relevance under coach Tom Herman but has yet to reach the highs of the mid-2000s. The team last won a national championship in 2005 and last played for one in 2009. The team went 8-5 in 2019.

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