SEC salary gap demonstrates how much fans value sports over academics | David Whitley

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun

Forbes came out with its annual list of the 50 highest paid athletes last week. Surprisingly, no player from Texas A&M’s recruiting class made the cut.

That’s a joke, at least until we see the Aggies’ 1040 forms. But do you want to hear something really funny?

It hit me during the SEC Spring Meetings last week. When the 14 university presidents had their meeting, their combined annual salaries were approximately $11 million.

When the 14 head football coaches met, the combined annual salaries were approximately $85 million.

That’s not exactly shocking news, and I’m not going to rant about how crazy it is that it takes 12.1 university presidents to equal one Nick Saban. I just want to pause and marvel at what lunatics we are about sports.

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Ultimately, that gusher of cash wouldn’t exist if fans weren’t willing to fund it. So in honor of LeBron James becoming the first active NBA billionaire, I’ll sprinkle a few more financial tidbits below.

They will either warm your free-market heart or convince you the world has gone completely bat guano when it comes to $ports. ...

Carsten Finnvold a Florida Gators baseball hero

Stud of the Week:Carsten Finnvold. Oklahoma had the bases loaded and nobody out in the first inning of Sunday night’s regional elimination game. The little-used freshman came from the bullpen, got the Gators out of that jam and pitched a 27-out relief gem as UF stayed alive 7-2.

He earned $0.00 for his performance, which made it all the better.

Big weekend for former Gator Billy Horschel

Stud II:Billy Horschel. The ex-Gator won Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament. He pocketed $2.6 million for four day's work.

Stud III: Queen Elizabeth II and her Platinum Jubilee. Anyone who rules 70 years deserves a pat on the crown. The Queen’s personal wealth is estimated to be $530 million, or about half that of the Lakers’ King James. Of course, she hasn’t dunked a basketball in 37 years.

Dud of the Week: The climate-change protester who tied herself to the net with wires to disrupt a French Open tennis match. She wore a T-shirt with the message, “We have 1028 days left.”

That presumably means the world will melt on March 27, 2025, or that’s the day Vanderbilt signs a quarterback for $10 million. ...

Speaking of NIL, Ohio State coach Ryan Day told a Columbus business organization that it will take $13 million to keep this year’s roster intact. He said the going rate for a stud QB is $2 million, while a stud offensive lineman or pass rusher is getting $1 million.

Day then tied himself to the lectern and refused to leave until the group gave him $500,000 to buy a good used linebacker with low mileage. ...

Dustin Johnson joined the LIV/Saudi blood money tour for a reported $125 million last week. His agent said DJ didn’t really want to, but it was “in his family’s best interests.”

Johnson made $75 million on the PGA Tour. Even without Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s largesse, chances are his family would not have been eating Ramen noodles from the 7-Eleven anytime soon. ... 

SEC Update: If all the football coaches had been fired without cause last week, they would have been owed approximately $369.2 million in buyouts. Fortunately, none are expected to be fired until at least mid-November, so all schools can devote their resources to buying Arch Manning. ... reported last week that Los Angeles lifeguard Daniel Douglas was paid $510,283 last year, and that 20 L.A. lifeguards made more than $300,000. The president of the United States makes $400,000 a year. Then again, he doesn’t have to buy gas to get to work in California. ...

Forbes’ Top Five Highest Paid Athletes of 2022: Lionel Messi $130 million, LeBron James $121.2 million, Cristiano Ronaldo $115 million, Neymar $95 million, Arch Manning (pending bidding war outcome between Texas and Georgia). ... 

Please note: In the interest of not becoming the next dismembered journalist, I want to apologize for saying the Saudi golf tour is being funded by blood money. And watching guys like Richard Bland and Hennie du Plessis compete for the $4 million first prize in this week’s inaugural tournament should be better than Sunday at the Masters. ...

If the world ends on March 27, 2025, do SEC coaches still get their buyouts? ...

Listen Now!:Gainesville Sun columnist David Whitley talks SEC Meetings

A high school junior and big LSU fan snuck past security during a lunch break at the SEC Spring Meetings and offered Nick Saban $5,000 if he’d either retire or return to coach the Tigers. That story is true. I’m not sure about the rumor that Saban offered the kid $10,000 if he’d go dump a plate of spaghetti on Jimbo Fisher’s head. ...

That’s about all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. We’ll try again next week unless I get accepted into the L.A. Lifeguard Academy or Prince bin Salman doesn’t accept my apology.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley