salary was a reported $300,000; Before he was terminated last month Penn State Coach Joe Paterno’s salary was more than $1million. And Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s retired underling accused of child molestation that led to the revered Paterno’s dismissal, made so much money as an assistant that he was able to take a lump sum pension payout of more than $148,000 when he retired in 1999 and still recieves $58,000 a year in retirement benefits. What do the salaries of these past and current college coaches have in common with the death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion two weeks ago? Let me connect the dots for you.
While nobody has accused Meyer of anything illegal or immoral his salary and those of the other aforementioned prove that more value is placed on people and programs which are part of an institution’s cash-cow. If it wasn’t true college coaches wouldn’t command the salaries they do, college professors would get paid more than they do and the post-secondary education system would focus more on developing leaders with a moral compass instead of turning a blind eye to those who have little to no morals at all.
If it wasn’t true college administrators and local law enforcement would have chosen to protect the rights of underage victims instead of protecting their own reputations and those of their iconic coaches. And although police are still investigating the cause of Champion’s death after a FAMU football game, hazing clearly was a problem in the band. Before Champion’s death dozens of band students were suspended for hazing and four band members have been expelled since his death. But had FAMU’s president thought less about the money the band brought to the university through its paid performances and more about the well-being of students – before Champion’s death – he probably would be alive.
This is not an indictment of standout post-secondary athletic and music programs or the amount that college coaches earn. I’m simply pointing out the corrolation between their salaries and the aura of untouchableness that surrounds them beyond the sport they coach. Some people use their influence to empower. Others use their influence to victimize.
Before pointing the finger of blame and shame everyone should acknowlege their role in these tradegies. At 26 years old Champion likely was the oldest member of the Marching 100. So why he allowed anyone to haze him is beyond my comprehension. He already was in a leadership position as assistant drum major, and could have spoken out against the immature actions of his peers. And who actually pays those million dollar salaries that coaches get? Sports fans. They pay for overpriced game tickets, they buy overpriced sports paraphanalia and they contribute to the larger than life persona that some college coaches have. Sports fans are the reason that athletic and music departments are protected at the expense of innocent victims. Fans created this issue and they have the power to change it.
Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist. Send your comments, questions and appearance inquiries to Steffanie at