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LU athletics working to pay market value

By Halle Parker

Special to The Farmville Herald

Belonging to a conference where the highest average Division I head coaching salary reaches almost $200,000 and located in a state where the highest average sits at over a half million dollars, Longwood University’s transition to Division I and gaining membership in the Big South Conference raised the amount necessary for the athletics department to pay their head coaches competitively.

According to the annual salary data collected in the Equity in Athletics database by the Office of Post-Secondary Education, Longwood’s 2014-15 average head coaching salary of $58,932 is the ninth lowest of all 11 institutions with full Big South membership.

The number includes the average of all money received by each head coach, including bonuses and benefits in addition to base salary.

In comparison, when Longwood first joined the Big South in 2012, the database stated the university started with nearly the lowest average salary in the conference, $47,159, one step above bottom-dwelling Virginia Military Institute before the school officially moved to the Southern Conference in 2014.

In three years, Longwood’s average rose by $11,773.

According to Troy Austin, Longwood’s director of athletics, the athletics department will continue to try to increase its numbers to reach market value in order to better compete with other Big South schools when employing coaches.

Austin said the market value of the position, which depends on how much other Big South schools pay for coaches in each sport, was the key factor in determining an offer to new head coaches.

“Longwood is a Division I school that does not sponsor football. Based on that, I try to be in a range that at least makes it fathomable that a coach would want to come take a head coaching job,” said Austin.

“That said, we’re nowhere near the top. So, I try to gauge the market based on what the Big South has near the average and then non-football sponsoring schools.”

For the 2014-15 year, Liberty University topped the Big South overall with the highest average head coaching salary at $164,136.

Coastal Carolina University was the only other Big South school averaging six-figures. Of the other schools without a football program, High Point University had the highest average of $76,772.

As other schools continue to increase the salaries of their coaches, the market value rises with them, forcing programs like Longwood to either rise with the rest of the conference or find coaches who will work within its offered salary range.

“Generally, with head coaches, we have to make a decision, either we have to get near that market average or above it or in some way find someone who can meet our salary range,” said Austin.

Senior Associate Athletics Director for Athletics Administration Michelle Meadows said, “We use the resources that are provided to us so we can go out and attract the best candidates we can.”

Both administrators noted increasing the salaries of their employees to make the institution more competitive was not only confined to the athletics department, but the Longwood campus as a whole.

“I know it’s a priority for President (Taylor) Reveley for all of campus to try to get salaries closer to what market standards are, and I know you’re examining this from an athletics standpoint, but it really is a university initiative to try to make us more competitive as an institution,” Austin said.

“It comes in a variety of ways: tuition and fees is one aspect of that, philanthropy is another aspect, how the state assists the institution is another and other types of private sources of revenue like sponsorships or ticket sales, that kind of thing,” Meadows said.