What Is Wrong With Our Value System?


by Phil Goldstein

I am going to bite the hand that fed me for 30 years. In early November 2019, Florida State University (FSU) fired its head football coach, Willie Taggart. He was partway through only his second season, and his record was 9-12. FSU hired Taggart after one season at the University of Oregon, where he was 7-5. FSU paid Oregon $3 million for its trouble. In his two previous head coaching stops before Oregon, Western Kentucky University, and then the University of South Florida, Taggart’s record was just 40-45. When FSU fired Taggart, they owed him over $17 million under his six-year contract. Reportedly, most of the $20 million that it cost FSU to get Taggart, then get rid of Taggart, was donated by boosters. And despite his then overall head coaching record of 49-57, Taggart was hired only a month after his firing by FSU to coach Florida Atlantic University’s football team at an annual salary of ‘only’ $750,000, plus incentives. And as of this writing, Taggart has been fired from his job at FAU, presumably with the remainder of his $1.5 million contract payment in hand.

Meanwhile, also as of this writing, here are some other reported contract buyouts for college football coaches just from this past season: Karl Dorrell, University of Colorado, $8.7 million; Paul Chryst, Wisconsin, $11 million; Herm Edwards, Arizona State, $8.3 million; Brian Harsin, Auburn, $15.5, million; Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech, $11.4 million; and Scott Frost, Nebraska, $15 million.

One of my favorite movies is 1979’s North Dallas Forty, a story about an aging pro football player played by Nick Nolte. His character rails against the team’s manipulative, win-at-all-costs mentality by saying, “Every time I call it a game, you call it a business. And every time I call it a business, you call it a game.”

I worked for 30 years in intercollegiate athletics administration at four major college programs, where I oversaw business operations. When I think of the value to true philanthropic causes that the $20 million that changed hands just at FSU in 2019 could bring, let alone the aggregate $71.4 million doled out this year, that reinforces why the profession’s value system wore out its welcome with me. 

It had ceased to be a game for me, and it indeed was not good business.

Phil Goldstein writes Tales from Timnath periodically for North Forty News. Phil is a 12-year Timnath resident who proudly serves the Town of Timnath as chair of the Timnath Planning Commission. Phil is finally using his journalism degree after getting sidetracked 49 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column or suggestions for future columns at [email protected].


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