The College World Series is underway. If you ever get a chance to go to Omaha, you should. It's a great event.
It's also, let's be honest, the only time the general sports public cares about college baseball. On most campuses and in the minds of most college sports fans, the baseball team runs a solid third behind the football and men's basketball teams.
But don't tell that to the college baseball coaches of America -- or at least the college baseball coaches of the Power 5.
According to data published by USA Today, at least nine college baseball head coaches earn more than the manager of the Boston Red Sox.
That's not the Boston Red Sox's Triple A affiliate. That's the real-deal Boston Red Sox, the global brand that did $516 million in revenue in 2018 and is worth $3.2 billion. Those Sox paid manager Alex Cora a $900,000 salary to lead them to an MLB-best 108-54 regular season and a World Series title last year.
Much of that discrepancy is due to Major League Baseball's post-Moneyball top-down management structure where the general manager is the most powerful person on the baseball operations side, but that doesn't explain why college baseball coaches make so much.
Five coaches in this year's College World Series -- Vanderbilt's Tim Corbin, Arkansas's Dave Van Horn, Louisville's Dan McDonnell, Auburn's Butch Thompson and Texas Tech's Tim Tadlock -- all earn at least a $1 million a year. Corbin led the way at $1.3 million -- and that's for the 2017 calendar year, the most recent year private-school Vandy's financials are available. LSU's Paul Maineri, eliminated by Florida State in the Super Regional, earns $1.225 million and will get a $100,000 longevity bonus at the end of this month.
And it doesn't end there, according to USA Today:
(Coaching compensation expert Bob) Lattinville -- whose practice areas include representation of college coaches, athletics directors and NCAA schools – said that compared to college football and men’s basketball coaches, baseball coaches more frequently have contracts that include automatic term extensions and pay raises for postseason success. Arkansas’ appearance in the 64-team tournament field, for example, gave Van Horn an additional year on his agreement and a $50,000 salary increase.
So, what explains it?
Baseball is big business, or at least medium-sized business, at SEC schools. If you've got a successful coach, Lattinville reasoned, it's easier in the long run to pay him top-dollar to stay and keep the machine humming than risk losing him to someone else.
Also, it certainly doesn't help when your conference distributes $40-plus million a year, largely on the back of your football program.