Hawkins well paid despite CU budget crunch

Maybe some priorities ought to be questioned?

By Joe Richey

| Aug 26, 2010

View or downloads Dan Hawkins’ current employment agreement (PDF, 131MB). Warning: long download time.

The economic downturn has cost Coloradans more than a pretty penny, and more pennies than in many states. It cost Colorado its public university in 2004, and nearly the entire system in 2010. It cost Colorado its electoral infrastructure. It cost Colorado its public libraries, public arts, public everything.

The University of Colorado is presumed to be publicly owned while being privately financed. In 2004, then-University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman begged and was granted “enterprise status” for C.U. As a result, C.U. is no longer a public university in the same way that neighboring universities in Nebraska, Kansas or Texas are public universities.

Coach Dan Hawkins during an August team practice (Photo:CUBuffs.com)

What price? Plenty. Plenty if you were studying Environmental Ethics at C.U., where the environmental ethics track was bought by Lockheed Martin to be converted into the Environmental Management track. Plenty if you study in the humanities at C.U. Plenty if you’re a full-time instructor, working years with nothing but semester-to-semester contracts.

In the midst of the fiscal woes experienced at University of Colorado we find the employment agreement between head football coach Dan Hawkins and the Regents of the University of Colorado (download PDF of agreement from link at end of article).

While the University of Colorado faculty has sported a field of several Nobel Prize winning chemists, physicists and climate scientists, (John Hall, Carl Wieman, Tom Cech, Eric Cornell, Susan Solomon, Tingjun Zhang), the university’s highest paid employee is (you guessed it) Dan Hawkins. In fact, C.U.’s football coach is the highest paid public employee in the state of Colorado; that is, he would be if C.U. were a public entity like other state agencies.

Base pay $1.1 million

His base pay for 2010-2011 is a tad over a million dollars, $1.1 million, and $200,000 of that comes from Nike, (page 8 of Employment Agreement). Coach Hawkins would top out at $2.3 million with unlikely performance bonuses, like if the Buffalos were to win the Big 12 (quarter million to Hawk) and then a national title (another quarter million to Hawk).

Coach Hawkins has some other perks that C.U.’s brilliant professors, lecturers and instructors can only dream about: a Boulder Country Club membership, a 50K incentive for academic progress of the team, 100K for keeping the team scandal-free (page 8 of Employment Agreement).

It only seems like a lot to offer. CU Athletic Department is quick to point out how poorly Coach Hawkins is paid as compared to head coaches in Kansas and Nebraska, and that the University of Texas football coach can make up to $6 million in any given national championship year, $3 million most years. Assistant coaches at C.U. make between $100K and $200K a year. Kansas Jayhawk assistant football coaches make between $150K and $300K in salary. [source: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/2009-coaches-contracts-database.htm]

Wage disparity between assistant coaches and head coach Hawkins aside, equity issues, within Colorado higher education, and other public-gone-private sectors, deserve serious auditing before cutting more services to university students and the public at large.

As our elected political leaders like to remind us: with limited resources, we need to set priorities. 

Joe Richey is an independent researcher, reporter and translator who has lived in Boulder off and on since 1980.