Kirk Ferentz’s salary: the reason why Iowa’s budget is in crisis

The Des Moines Register is always a fun way for me to start my day. The perpetually unattractive Kum and Go ads, the shameless use of the word "Iowan" throughout the paper, and, perhaps most importantly, the SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS overzealously heralding the fact that the Register does exactly what it is supposed to do: be the media watchdog of our state’s goings-on. All these things add up to a wonderful spectacle in 24 pages that serve both as my morning entertainment and a nice paper towel to clean up after breakfast. Being the cynical young ass that I am, the Register reports often provide a means with which to release the anger I feel at school, America, my own insecurity, and having to deal with freshman Bo Fan. They are easy things for me to skim through, find facts that I misunderstand or misinterpret, and then yell at what I believe to be blatant corruption, governmental wrongdoing, or just general societal failures. It comes at no surprise, then, that when the Register came out last week with a massive analysis of the upcoming year’s state budget cuts, I was able to snottily find fault with the plans undoubtedly produced over multiple sleepless days by countless state employees in order to cut at least $565 million from next year’s budget. And what a fault it is. Kirk Ferentz gets paid way too much. An article on the front page the day after the big analysis issue detailed how the Iowa football coach could receive up to $1 million in incentives this season, in addition to the $2.9 million salary he is paid. Ferentz is the state’s top-paid employee. Governor Chet Culver gets paid $130,000 a year, and will get a 5-10% salary cut as part of the budget cuts next year. I may have done poorly in Advanced Algebra (again, sorry for that, Miss Meyer), but I know a big disparity when I see it. Ferentz’s base salary is 22 times that of Culver’s. 22. That doesn’t even include the $1 million in incentives Ferentz may receive for such incredible feats as: appearing on TV; finishing at the top of the Big Ten conference; and graduating 70 percent of his seniors. All this for a man who works roughly half of the year, then for the other six months travels around the country and looks at reports his aides slaved over to recruit players who have a high probability of eventually getting DUIs. ISU’s head coach, Paul Rhoads, gets paid about $1.15 million a year with possible incentives, according to ESPN. While still being an incredible amount more than what Culver and the rest of the (in my humble opinion) harder-working state employees are paid, it is a bit more reasonable. I have seen arguments that Ferentz needs to be paid this exorbitant amount beca use multiple NFL teams are trying to lure him, and he won’t stay if he doesn’t get paid big time. Okay, decent argument. But we are in a state budget crisis. How many "lower-level" state jobs have to be cut in order to keep that salary? How many middle-class workers have to be laid off so that Iowa can keep its prize coach? How many families must go into emergency mode in order to satisfy Kirk Ferentz? Of course, the one or two million dollars saved won’t really fix Iowa’s mortally injured budget. But it’s a step. It’s a step in the right direction that will eventually force me to direct my anger at some other defect of society.