Coaching a college athletic team is an extremely challenging job for anybody.
On average, a college football coach holds his job only four years before being fired, according to a USA Today report. The average tenure for a college basketball coach is even shorter at only three years, according to the New York Times.
But the smaller college football coaches who don’t make millions per year or lack the expansive budgets to fund and support a team perhaps face an even greater challenge than top talent such as Alabama football coach Nick Saban, who is reportedly earning $5 million a year.
The Baltimore Sun recently broke news that Morgan State University officials accidentally forwarded an e-mail to their head football coach, Don Hill-Eley, detailing their plans to dismiss him from his position by January, following a 3-8 season. It was the third straight losing season for Morgan State under Hill-Eley, results that university President David Wilson deemed unacceptable.
Hill-Eley told the Sun he knew expectations were high when he was hired by MSU President-Emeritus Earl Richardson two years ago. But, with the school’s spending plans for the football program unchanged, the coach said higher expectations for success became unrealistic.
“He said the expectations had changed," Hill-Eley told the Sun. "But the input didn't change, so how do you expect things to change on Saturday? It's about resources, bottom line.”
“They think that just because they have a stadium, that's enough,” he added. “But you look at a place like Towson [University], and they’ve significantly increased their investment in their program. I'm doing everything I can here, and the administration sits back and says I'm already getting enough.”
According to USA Today’s NCAA athletics budget database, Morgan State University spent $9.4 million on athletics from 2006 to 2011, $10 million less than Towson University spent on its athletics budget during the same period.
Morgan State’s football team has faced Towson’s football team almost annually during that span, losing all but one matchup against the neighboring school.
But Towson isn’t the only opposing school that spends more on athletics than Morgan. USA Today’s database shows that Morgan was outspent by many Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) schools during that period. Norfolk State University, which claimed the MEAC Football title in 2011, spent $11.9 million between 2006 and 2011. Delaware State spent $12. 4 million, and South Carolina State spent $ 9.9 million. Both of the latter schools each won MEAC football championships during that period.
Coppin State University, also a member of the MEAC, had the lowest reported athletics budget at $4, 088,874, but they don’t field a football team. Coppin StateAthletic Director Derrick Ramsey said he is keenly aware of the challenge of working with a low budget–but also knows how green the grass is on the other side of the fence.
Long before his days as an administrator, he saw how a major college runs an athletic program, and how much money it spends. He played quarterback at the University of Kentucky, where the athletic budget was $80 million between 2006 and 2011, according to USA Today’s database.
Ramsey said more money pays for state-of-the art training facilities. It also covers the pay for staff to run those facilities, along with nutritionists to manage the diets of athletes, tutors to keep the student-athletes in good academic standing, state of the art equipment and protective gear and even money for transporting teams by air instead of vans and buses.
“Here at Coppin, our basketball team takes a van for our road schedule, while at Kentucky they take planes or trains to visit their opponents,” Ramsey said. “They can offer their student athletes fully paid scholarships, while we can only offer as much as a partially paid scholarship.”
Ramsey said that’s why he could never hold Coppin State’s head men’s basketball coach Fang Mitchell to the exact same expectations that Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart applies to Wildcats head men’s basketball coach John Calipari.
“It’s a matter of apples and oranges,” Ramsey said. “Coach Cal [Calipiri] has unlimited resources to his advantage. If they want a player, Coach Cal can fly in to that person’s home, offer him a full ride and tell him about Kentucky’s world-class physical trainers at their disposal, or the best medical staff on payroll.”
“By no surprise, we simply don’t have that type of budget at our disposal at Coppin so I wouldn’t dare hold the two at the same expectations,” he said. “I would still want us to be winners, but I know the challenges of winning with a lower budget and take that into full consideration upon my evaluation.”