Are the highest-paid Pentagon employees really football coaches?
Tommy Gilligan/USMA, "The U.S. Military Academy at West" via Flickr
If you get too technical, this story really isn't as much fun as it could be. So let's not be too technical for a minute and scream the meme that the highest paid employees on the Pentagon budget are football coaches.
Not surprisingly in an Internet world, this meme (a snippet of culture that can be easily shared on social media) came from another similar meme.
In May, Deadspin came out with an infographic that showed who the highest-paid state employees were in all 50 states.
The analysis found that "the highest-paid active public employees" were 27 football coaches, 13 basketball coaches and one hockey coach. That adds up to 41, but included one tie, leaving 10 boring states that had people like college presidents (Alaska) and medical school plastic surgeons (Nevada) in the top paid spot.
But as Deadspin explains, the money for all these coaches doesn't come directly out of tax dollars: "The bulk of this coaching money — especially at the big football schools — is paid out of the revenue that the teams generate. Far exceeding these base salaries is the 'additional compensation' that almost all of these coaches receive, which is tied to media appearances, apparel contracts, and fundraising. While this compensation does not come directly from the state fund it is guaranteed in the coaches' contracts; if revenue falls short, the school — and thus the state — is on the hook to cover the difference."
You also have factors like revenue from football programs not going into the university general fund, losing money, donations going to football that theoretically may have gone to the education part of universities, etc. — but this is starting to sound a bit too technical and not very fun at all.
A military meme
In June, Allen R. Sanderson at Chicago Life added a parenthetical observation at the end of an article: "The three highest paid officials on the Pentagon budget? The football coaches at Army, Navy and Air Force." This ignited a slew of articles and tweets and Facebook posts jumping on his comment.
The Daily Caller says who those coaches are: Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun, Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo and Army football coach Rich Ellerson. "Calhoun makes $882,000 a year," The Daily Caller says. "Niumatalolo makes $1.6 million a year. And Ellerson makes $600,000 a year."
The Farm Club puts the salaries in perspective: "As the numbers show, Niumatolo makes more than Ellerson and Calhoun combined. To put this in further perspective, the Vice Chief of Staff, John F. Campbell, makes approximately $220,263.50 (including allowances). That's not a bad pay by any means, but we'd argue being the second highest-ranking officer in the United States Army is more important than coaching football."
The Farm Club also observes that none of these three coaches are even in the top 60 highest paid college football coaches in the U.S.
The Marginal Revolution had a short mention of the meme and garnered a lot of reader comments that wanted to get too technical and point out that these coaches may not be on the Pentagon's payroll. One commenter pointed to The Naval Academy Athletic Association website where it explains, "All NAAA coaches, administration, and staff are compensated for their professional services via non-appropriated (non-government) funding that is externally generated by the NAAA."
Which is pretty much the story with all college football coaches to one extent or the other. But who wants to get technical and bring down a good Internet meme?