Some parents of suspended University of Miami players can’t help noticing that their kids are getting hammered while their highly paid coaches remain at large. With Miami in mind, Tom McMillen, in the New York Times, is appalled that “Bloated college sports budgets, with coaches who earn millions of dollars, often more than college presidents, have created a situation where the tail is wagging the dog, with the result that colleges are losing control over their own athletic programs.”

Similarly, recent law graduates – huge swathes of them unemployed and in hock for hundreds of thousands of dollars – are noticing that their law professors continue to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year while failing to produce many employable students.

It is kind of an amazingly sweet deal for these two university employees. You hire a coach at three million dollars a year and he gets that even if his team loses every single game. He’ll get more the next year, even with total losses, because breaking his contract and finding a new coach will cost too much money. Then he’ll get even more the next year with the same win/loss record. I mean, eventually they’ll fire him, but he’ll rake it in for a long time before that happens.

The tenured law professor has it even sweeter. Over the course of five years, only half of her students, say, get jobs. She snuggles into bed at night secure in the thought of a low course load and regular salary raises despite hundreds of idle young people suffering under the weight of immense loan repayments because she and her school were unable to train them well enough to make them attractive to law firms.

You’d think a market correction would come into play in both of these arenas. If coaches are corrupt and hurt their players, or if coaches win too few games, shouldn’t their three million dollar salaries take a hit? If law professors teach at schools half of whose graduates remain unemployed for years, shouldn’t their hundred and fifty thousand dollar take home take a hit? No, you say! Silly UD! Both of these groups are eminently re-employable! Universities need to be scared, onaccounta if that law prof gets huffy enough she can just up and take a job at Cravath! NO university football or basketball coach is too corrupt or inept to fail to get another lucrative position!

Well, first off, this isn’t at all necessarily true. Things can get a little undignified even for high-profile coaches. And a law professor at a substandard school (the ABA will accredit anything) doesn’t have many options.

And second: Why would you want to tempt fate (lawsuits from UM players are going to happen, and lawsuits from unemployed law school grads are already happening) by keeping such people at your school? Wouldn’t you prefer reasonably paid, competent employees?

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6 Responses to “Things are Beginning to Get a Little Hot for Coaches and Law Professors.”

  1. Michael McNabb, Attorney Says:

    The sad truth is that too many law professors have too little practical experience to be able to teach their students the practical skills that the students will need to actually practice law. To compound the problem, few law firms have training programs for new lawyers. The attorneys are preoccupied with attempting to maximize their billable hours.

    See also the October 27, 2010 post on Above The Law at and the July 6, 2011 post at

  2. GTWMA Says:

    I’d love to take Tom McMillen seriously, but his university just hired a football coach at $2 million per year (an increase of more than $1.5 million over his previous contract). If he didn’t protest that decision with vigor, he’s got no foundation to be pointing fingers at USC or anyone else.

  3. Erin O'Connor Says:

    It’s fascinating to watch the oldish argument about coaches’ pay cross over into academics with the law school example. This argument is getting traction, and there is even a class action lawsuit or two out there against law schools that falsely advertised their job placement rates. How long before the same logic is applied to PhD programs with poor placement rates (the word “ENGLISH” starts to hover in the background)? How long before it trickles down to certain highly non-utilitarian undergraduate majors? I am thinking of the NYT piece from a couple of years ago about the NYU grad who got six figures deep in debt just to get a women’s studies degree. Now she can’t pay it off, because her credentials don’t set her up for the sort of salary that could. Or this morning’s NYT piece about Dartmouth grads on food stamps, etc.

  4. Roy M. Poses MD Says:

    This is also reminiscent of astronomically paid leaders whose organizations are not performing well in health care, including academic health care, see:

  5. Michael McNabb, Attorney Says:

    Our oldest daughter, Jennifer, graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 2008. Her third and fourth years in medical school were spent acquiring practical skills during rotations among the various medical services at the hospital. She is now in the fourth and final year of her OB-GYN residency during which she has worked 60 hour weeks treating patients. The training of young physicians is far superior to the training of young attorneys.

    In 2007 the Carnegie Foundation recommended that law schools integrate practical training into the curriculum. See, Reality’s Knocking at

    Dr. Poses does make a good point about lavish compensation for medical school administrators and professors. See, Financial Perils at Medical School at

  6. dave.s. Says:

    You say: ‘..because she and her school were unable to train them well enough to make them attractive to law firms..’

    Randy Newman, he said: ‘.. college men from LSU / Went in dumb – come out dumb too / Hustlin’ ’round Atlanta in their alligator shoes..”

    It’s not going to happen that the kids who get into third tier law schools are going to develop into Cravath candidates. Maybe not never, but hardly ever. Your exemplary prof can be doing a splendid job, and the student who came into law school with middling LSATs and a plausible degree from Directional State College will not be a Cravath candidate at the end. A nice wills and divorces practice in the exurbs, yes, to the extent that those are available in these trying times.

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