Friday, May 13, 2011

Texas lawmakers criticize raise given to Longhorns basketball coach Rick Barnes


— Several Texas senators on Thursday criticized the recent $200,000 raise for Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes, calling it “nuts” and “tone deaf” during a state budget crisis that threatens deep cuts to higher education.

The state is facing a budget shortfall that some estimates put as high as $27 billion. Current spending proposals would cut money for universities and tuition programs for poor students.

Barnes’ raise was approved by university regents Wednesday.

“I think it’s nuts,” said state Sen. Steve Ogden, chairman of the Senate’s budget writing committee.

“It’s not appropriate, not at a time when we’re scraping for money for education,” said Sen. Jeff Wentworth, a member of the Senate higher education committee.

Ogden and Wentworth are Republicans with connections to Texas’ chief rival, Texas A&M; University. Texas A&M; is in Ogden’s district, and Wentworth is an A&M; graduate.

But Democrats with connections to Texas also chimed in.

“It is bad timing,” said higher education committee chairwoman Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Texas graduate. “They didn’t ask for my advice.”

Sen. Kirk Watson, whose district includes the Texas campus, said the raise suggests regents are “tone deaf” to the budget crisis boiling at the Capitol less than a mile away.

“I’m a big fan of UT basketball and coach Barnes,” Watson said. “But at a time when everyone up here is fighting to come up with money to pay for education, it was disappointing.”

The Texas athletic budget is separate from the academic budget, and Barnes’ raise does not include tax money. Texas officials note that the university’s new $300 million contract with ESPN will send millions of dollars toward academics.


Don Everett 7 years, 1 month ago

Leave it to texass to continue to look beyond the reality of the rest of the USA. This is just the standard method of operation for those aholes. My livelyhood comes from oil and gas, and I don't live there and I have no alligence to any in state school, but as soon as it dries up in texass, they will no longer be relavant and knowing what I know, it's not that far away!! texass needs to be ready to pay the taxes you have avoided to have everything piped to the refineries on the coast. It's coming, you know it and there's not one thing you can do to avoid it. Let's see what you can afford to pay ricky, mack and every other over paid coach/state employee then!!!!!

actorman 7 years, 1 month ago

"Several Texas senators on Thursday criticized the recent $200,000 raise for Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes, calling it “nuts” and “tone deaf” during a state budget crisis that threatens deep cuts to higher education."

They left out the rest of the quote: "I mean it would be one thing if it were football. But it's just basketball, for Christ's sake ..."

nuleafjhawk 7 years, 1 month ago

Lol - good one! But, I guess you could reverse the sports and say the same thing about Kansas!

notigers4me 7 years, 1 month ago

I am sure the same lawmakers that are belly aching about Barnes getting a raise don't hesitate to give theirselves a raise every year. It's unfortunate that most people in goverment have lost sight of what it takes to actually run a business that has to operate witnin a budget.

Kevin Studer 7 years, 1 month ago

That's the problem: a government is not a business, and can and will never be run like one. The idea that "businessmen" would make good government leaders is a little kindergarten.

Mike Ardis 7 years, 1 month ago

Salaries for Texas legislators were last raised in 1975 to $600 a month and a lot of people believe the problem with the Texas legislature is that the pay is so low that members are beholden to business, not the public. In “The Wrecking Crew” Thomas Frank (who attended KU) noted that bad government is the natural product of rule by those who believe government is bad and Texas lives up to that.

d_prowess 7 years, 1 month ago

Same tired argument that we hear around here at KU by people that have no clue. This is not state money! The raise came from donations directly to the Athletic Dept, not UT. The lawmakers have no power over an Athletic Department, so why make any noise?

Alex Berger 7 years, 1 month ago

Thank you. I like how the last paragraph is just swept under the rug. "And by the way, no tax payer money is going into this..."

rob4lb 7 years, 1 month ago

Agree d_prowess-
I live in Texas. The budget tightening is happening here just like the rest of the country- even though the politicians here would like the rest of the country to believe otherwise. There is NO taxpayer money funding any these salaries. Most major athletic programs are self funding and actually give money to the university. I'm not sure why this had to be announced. It is a matter of public record, but I think there was a press release.

I don't like UT, but in this should not be made into a big deal. The new Longhorn ESPN network will easily cover Barnes' salary increase.

tis4tim 7 years, 1 month ago

People are allowed to make whatever their employers are willing to pay them.

Kevin Studer 7 years, 1 month ago

That's the point. No one is mad at barnes. This is a public relations screwup as education funds are being cut back.

kranny 7 years, 1 month ago

The issue isn't funding, it's perception. Texas is a publicly funded university and academic programs are going to be cut because of funding. But they are giving a raise to an underachieving coach who has a number of McDs All-Ams. and also has a graduation rate of 42%, one of the worst of any programs in the nation. This sends a crappy message to the state of Texas and where the priorities are. I'm an old jock and support athletics all the way but this is wrong.

LAJayhawk 7 years, 1 month ago

All of what you said is legitimate criticism of the raise. Unfortunately, that's not what the legislators are making a big deal about. They are criticizing a self-sufficient business for making decisions they have a right to make (even if it is misguided). Not only does this raise not effect the state budget, but the athletic department gives money to the same educational programs that the legislature is cutting.

My problem is that these elected officials aren't taking issue with the reality that you explained above, but instead are creating a false controversy based on untrue assertions. Linking this to budget crises that exist across the country resonates better with voters who don't take the time to examine an issue at depth.

There's an old cliche that says "politics is perception." I actually think that needs to be revised to "politics is distraction and resonation." It's not about the truth, it's about finding the right note to play in order to get the public reaction you desire. These politicians are deliberately misleading the public in order to score political points based on the general public's anxieties over the economy and the popular talk of budget deficits, because posing it this way will "stick" better than the (correct) reasons you gave.

Honestly, this story is a great symbol of the problems we have in this country of politics and news coverage of government. Just one more thing to shake your head at.

kranny 7 years, 1 month ago

You have raised good points and I completely agree. The viewpoint that I'm coming from is that as a school administrator we are making cuts and doing away with other entities because of perception issues that may cause voters to ask why the heck should we give them more money if they are willing to do this. Texas' athletic department is funded by taxpayers ultimately. I fail to understand why athletic boosters who are also taxpayers who fund schools would agree to contribute money to raising the salary of a basketball coach but at the same time be against raising taxes to fund schools or indifferent to the issue. I'm not in favor of raising taxes but if we have to cut or conserve then prioritize and send the right message.

LAJayhawk 7 years, 1 month ago

Again, I think you are spot on and I totally agree (also, I grew up with a parent that was a school administrator, so I completely get your frustration). The points you make further the idea to me that these legislators should stick to the truth of the matter instead of purposefully misleading. How much more effective is it if they said, "The Texas Athletic Department receives their funding from donations and contracts, and this raise will not come in any way from state taxes; however, we disagree with giving the raise as it threatens to give the wrong perception at a time when our state is struggling financially. Ultimately, the AD, like any independent business, has the right to make its own choices, but we feel the need to voice our disagreement with both the timing and the reasoning in giving this raise."

Saying that does a number of things: first, it gives the politicians a chance to defend themselves from those who will, incorrectly, blame them for allowing taxpayer money to go to a coach's raise. They need to show they have no control over it and explain why. Second, it gives the people a better understanding of the process, and they have a clearer picture of how college athletics generally work. They can see it as a separate entity, and it probably helps eliminate the perception issues of which you speak.

In the end -- it is cliched but still accurate -- the truth shall set you free. If you just explain the reality, people will ultimately understand. I don't live in Texas, and I don't care about the Texas Athletic Department, so all of this really shouldn't concern me. However, there is a "bigger picture" problem to all of this, and, as I said earlier, this is a perfect symbol that's reflective of misinformation that floats through the entire American political process like a computer virus.

Why can't we talk to each other like adults and logically look at the issues instead of hiding behind distractions and misguided anxiety?

Okay, I will step off the soap box now :-)

optimist 7 years, 1 month ago

I can't help but think that some people just look for things to complain about and find fault in anything they can. In the case of the politicians it's clearly to focus attention away from their shortcomings.

"The Texas athletic budget is separate from the academic budget, and Barnes’ raise does not include tax money. Texas officials note that the university’s new $300 million contract with ESPN will send millions of dollars toward academics."

Because of, in part, Barnes' efforts the university will receive an additional $300M in television revenue that will benefit academics. If the basketball program were a loser no way is it worth that much. I can't imagine how so many people are able to go through life without actually thinking. Let's try to look at the big picture. It clearly seemed like a good return on investment if a bunch of academics approved it.

Ryan Wood 7 years, 1 month ago

The worn-out method of communicating to the lowest common denominator--namely, voters who don't understand the structure of athletic department finances as they relate to the universities--has made political discussions idiotic.

As many have stated here, taxpayer money doesn't go near Rick Barnes' paycheck. These politicians know that. Yet they speak out against this "injustice" anyway. And we wonder why Americans are less and less informed every generation?

I swear, between zany bills being introduced and quotes like these, state senators are just dumb people.

actorman 7 years, 1 month ago

I disagree with your assertion that state senators are dumb people. I think most of them are actually quite smart -- smart enough to know that if they can get a good soundbite out there and make it sound like they're fighting for people, they can keep getting reelected easily. That's the biggest problem: that their main focus is getting reelected rather than doing anything productive. And, not to get on a soapbox myself here, but nothing will ever really change until we can get the money out of politics. Without REAL campaign finance reform, everything else is just whitewashing.

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