K-State’s scandal should end secret pay to coaches

Ron Prince, the Kansas State University football coach who was shown the door a year ago after racking up a 17-20 win-loss record, now is suing K-State for $6.2 million.
His suit claims he had a secret agreement to pay him $3.2 million in severance pay if he were fired. The university denies that a valid agreement exists. Now Prince wants his $3.2 million and another $3 million for damages.
A memorandum of understanding calling for the payment and signed by former athletic director Bob Krause apparently exists. But former university President Jon Wefald says emphatically that neither he nor any other person of authority knew about it. Wefald doesn’t consider the agreement binding.
The claim and counter-claim will be settled in court. The larger question of the legality of any secret contract involving public funds should be dealt with by governing bodies such as the Kansas Board of Regents and the Legislature.
Prince and his lawyers say the agreement wasn’t really secret because the arrangements were made through e-mails sent from K-State computers and on K-State stationery. In other words, it wasn’t secret because any CIA agent worth his salt could have run it down.
Excuse us, but that’s not good enough.
Prince, an ineffective, highly unpopular coach, had already been paid millions and had been given a contract extension a year ago in August that called for a $1.2 million buyout to end his tenure. The $3.2 million golden parachute now in contention would have raised the ante to $4.4 million.
How $4.4 million of the Kansas taxpayers’ money is spent should be a matter of public record; not after the fact a year or so later, but during the decision-making process to give others an opportunity to influence the process.
What if the money was going to come from donations to the university’s athletic fund? Or from a single donor?
Shouldn’t it be possible for state universities to keep payments to coaches a private matter?
No, it should not. So long as the teams are made up of students on university campuses, claim the university’s name, wear university uniforms and, finally, are coached by university faculty members, then the compensation — all of it, from whatever source — of the coaches and their staffs should be matters of public record.
Who needs to know that information? Every student on campus and their families; every member of the university faculty; every fan who follows the team; every member of the Kansas Legislature who must vote on appropriations for state universities; every Kansas citizen whose taxes pay to keep the university’s doors open — and probably many others.

THE CONSEQUENCES of letting the sunshine in on the financing of university athletics could change the campus scene in welcome ways. Maybe giving a so-so coach millions along with a pink slip would raise questions. Questions such as, why reward failure so lavishly? Whatever possessed us to pay a coach many times more than the school president? Why so much more than a science teacher with a national reputation as an expert in his field? Why write a contract with any faculty member that makes it super costly to get rid of them for whatever valid reason?
Those are good questions. They would be asked much more frequently and answered much more thoughtfully if our university sports programs were brought back down from that special world they have been allowed to inhabit and made to hobnob with the common folks once again.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.