Without knowing what school you’re talking about I can’t tell you how your coach is paid or where the money comes from. Just because he is listed on a list of state employees does not mean his money comes from the same place that other state employees get their money.
While I know nothing about Texas, I know that in many states when it comes time for budgeting programs are paid for in one of three ways:
- General Revenue (any tax revenue or similar things raised by the state)
- Direct Revenue
- Federal Funds
The term Direct Revenue probably has a more accounting-specific term but I’m reaching as to what it is actually called. Basically, “direct revenue” is money that a state organization generates on its own.
I’ll bring up a much simpler operation than a state university.
Think instead of a state park, now imagine a state park that rents out cabins, camp sites, and other such things to individuals or groups.
When it comes time for the state legislature to decide how state parks are funded, the very first thing they’re going to look at doing is saying “alright, you can take all of this money you’re generating in direct revenue to fund your operations.” That isn’t something that, by statute, is required. It is very possible and even often the case that programs or entities at the state level that generate direct revenue are not funded by that revenue. Meaning their revenue just goes into general revenue and is part of the blob of money that everything gets small slivers of.
Depending on the program and the state, sometimes the direct revenue is enough to cover its operations entirely, and sometimes even generate additional revenue for the state. Imagine a highly successful state parks department that generates excess revenue, in that case they actually aren’t taking any money “from” the state general revenue. So you might look up the manager for a state campground and see he’s making $45,000 a year; but that doesn’t mean your taxes are paying his salary. In my scenario he’s actually being paid out of the direct revenue that is given to his department to operate.
Universities are usually complicated beasts financially. However, in many states, major universities generally generate the lion’s share of the money required to operate themselves. Mainly because given the financial situations in most states, these universities simply wouldn’t operate unless they were generating a huge amount of money all on their own. In my state, I believe the last time I heard anything about it, state colleges and universities tended to receive something like 10% of their funds from the state’s budget. That’s obviously significant, but it also shows the state is a “little brother” when it comes to covering the costs of operating a major university.
The Federal government is probably a bigger player albeit indirectly (via subsidized student loans which allows a huge portion of a public state university’s students to attend.)
Since universities are very large organizations, it is rare that they are managed to a meaningful degree by state government. Instead, they are self governed (with typically the governor having the ability to appoint a board of regents/trustees to maintain some governmental control over state schools), that means at the end of the day budgetary measures are primarily handled by the university itself. When a university needs more money than it can generate, then it will go to the state legislature and obviously at that point the legislature can, if it wishes, scrutinize their spending.
However, within the university itself, if the athletic department is almost or even nearly self-funded, it’s very unlikely that the legislature or the university administration would look to make cuts there. Why would they? If the athletic department is self-funding, there’s not much of a reason to make cuts. In a self-funding athletic department a $1.5m/year coach isn’t the reason a professor is having to suffer “austerity measures.”
Since coaches are typically going to be paid out of athletic department money, that is part of the university money, and universities are usually given control of their direct revenue (the revenue they generate) and universities typically give athletic departments control of the revenue they generate, it also isn’t the case that your tax dollars are paying the salary of the football coach. He’s most likely paid via a combination of “guaranteed endorsement contracts” and money from direct revenue.
My understanding is that most athletic departments are either actually self-funded or “supposed” to be self-funded at the major schools. However, I believe only 14 actually are self funded (meaning they genuinely bring in entirely enough revenue to cover any and all expenses.) The rest are varying degrees of “mostly self-funded” I think the average subsidy across the top athletic division is $10m (meaning the average athletic department at a major sports school costs the school around $10m dollars after settling everything up.) How that gap gets filled is obviously complicated and has many, many different answers.
What I can say is that lowering your coaches salary doesn’t really help anything. The reasons are multiple:
For whatever reason the big name alumni really seem to love sports. Even when they give tens of millions to academic programs they’ll often throw just as much if not more at sports facilities and et cetera. Even though an athletic department may be a net negative on the ledger, if you piss off guys like T. Boone Pickens your whole university is worse off because you’re getting fewer alumni donations.
If the athletic department was only football, it’s most likely the case it would be entirely self funded. All the money brought in by a major football program can get eaten up very quickly buying new practice facilities for money-losing sports, new equipment and et cetera. So by lowering the salary of the coach you probably just made your football team less competitive and generate less revenue, thus exacerbating the financial drain of the athletic department as a whole.
Every FBS coach I’m aware of operates under contract, meaning you can’t lower his salary. You could of course ask him to renegotiate his contract and accept a lower pay. He would tell you to go pound sand. The university could dismiss him citing that they can’t afford to keep him around, but most coaching contracts in FBS have massive buyouts, so terminating the head football coach without cause usually will result in the school having to pay a buyout equal to typically multiple years of the coach’s salary. Unfortunately most other employees of the state of Texas don’t operate under a formal contract negotiated by high priced lawyers, so their compensation and benefits have far fewer protections (although state employee unions aren’t anything to sneeze at, either.)