• July 18, 2019

THE IDLE AMERICAN: Now isn’t that special? - Odessa American: Guest Columns

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THE IDLE AMERICAN: Now isn’t that special?

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Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2019 1:00 am

A common practice when decision-makers arrive in Washington, D. C. is to check common sense at the door. There’s daily evidence of “bonehead” decisions that make us wonder about competencies.

The other day, President Trump hit replay when citizens came unstuck with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ announcement that the federal government would no longer fund Special Olympics.

She, too, quickly “pedaled backwards,” finding out how special the Special Olympics are. Folks looking for trouble might have better chances taking on God, motherhood, apple pie and Chevrolet.

Higher education seems to have more than its share of boondoggles. (How ‘bout rich parents spending big bucks to get their kids into top-tier universities, where many such kids then find new ways to skip class?)

It’s not a stretch to segue from fortunes expended for some to get into college to the subject of bloated salaries paid to some coaches. Back when some institutions initially went “salary crazy,” majorities of some governing boards were asleep at the switch.

Yep, had there been some “bud-nipping” when million dollar salaries for football coaches came up, big-wig chairmen (chairwomen?) could have resorted to understandable “gavel-pounding” to restore clear thinking to the body, or at least take deep breaths. It’s absurd that board members didn’t stiffen in disbelief when seven-figure salaries were first mentioned.

Instead, they went along. Thus, the monster has been created, and on some campuses, is running rampant. Blame the boards.

This is not to say that most coaches aren’t capable and committed, with reasonable compensation.

Two of the very best were longtime Baylor University Coach Grant Teaff and former Texas A&M grid boss R. C. Slocum.

Many observers felt that Teaff made a grave error when he took the Baylor job in 1972. He was paid the “princely” annual sum of $25,000, and after two decades at BU, he served two more decades as Executive Director of the American Football Coaches’ Association. Slocum, still revered by Aggies far and wide, laughed—as Teaff did—when asked if he had an agent.

Almost as nauseating as some salaries are the additional incentives added if coaches’ teams do well.

A current example is Coach Chris Beard, who has brought basketball respectability to Texas Tech. For sharing the Big 12 title with Kansas State, he got $250,000. There was another $50,000 for reaching the “sweet 16” in the NCAA “March Madness” tournament, and for making it to the “elite eight,” another $75,000 bonus. Qualifying for the hallowed “final four” netted $100,000 more. This season’s incentive payments almost doubled his starting salary at Tech three years ago.

Tech regents recently re-wrote his contract—$19 million for six years that could require “sweetening” post haste. He’s not far removed from a seven-year stretch when he had a new coaching gig annually, including one year (2012) at McMurry University in Abilene.

My 106-year-old Uncle Mort, a veteran “head-shaker,” isn’t optimistic about pennant prospects of the 2019 Texas Rangers.

“Too many gaps, and they’ve rarely had a team worthy of the grandeur of Globe Life Park, which will be abandoned after this year for snazzy, air-conditioned environs,” he said.

Predictably, Mort has a suggestion for future managers.

Only one of seven Ranger managers during Globe Life History has managed to win openers in his first year. That was back in 2003, when Buck Showalter’s team beat Anaheim, 6-4. The other six managers posted opening day losses.

For those keeping score, the Milwaukee Brewers bested Kevin Kennedy’s 1994 team, 4-3, and when the late Johnny Oates debuted in 1995, Cleveland prevailed, 11-6. In 2002, Jerry Narron’s bunch lost to Oakland, 8-3. In 2007, Ron Washington’s team fell to the Los Angeles Angels, 4-1, and in 2015, Jeff Banister’s team bowed to Oakland, 8-0.

“In the future, new managers should call in sick on opening day. New managers have won second games following openers three times.”

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