Today in 'Duh': It pays to be NCAA exec

How much to NCAA executives make? About as much as you'd think.

The Chronicle of Higher Education examined federal tax documents recently made available to the public and found that the top 14 NCAA executives made a combined $6 million in the fiscal year that ended in August 2009. Former president Myles Brand (who passed away in September after a battle with cancer) made $1,145,880, and other executive salaries ranged from about $270,000 to $600,000. This is not exactly a surprise, but, given the recent recession and comparable salaries at other non-profit educational organizations, the Chronicle seems to take it as such. To wit:

The $6-million set aside in 2008-9 for executive compensation is just under 12 percent of the nearly $50-million the association spent on compensation for all of its employees last year, the records show. The organization, headquartered in Indianapolis, employs more than 400 people. By comparison, the American Council on Education paid its president, Molly Corbett Broad, roughly $507,000 in total compensation last year, while most of its key employees earned between $200,000 and $300,000.

I'm not the type to defend outsized executive salaries, especially the egregious, "Hey, you ran our company into the ground and nearly capsized the world economy, but here's $50 million anyway" type we saw so frequently in the banking implosion of 2007 and 2008. That stuff makes your skin crawl. And, as a general rule, CEOs are probably overpaid; they make about 300 times what their rank-and-file employees make, a rate that's been accelerating for decades. That seems a little silly.

But anyone surprised by the Chronicle's report probably shouldn't be. Brand's salary as president of the NCAA is pretty much in line with what you'd expect the NCAA president to make. University presidents typically make a similar figure -- new NCAA president Mark Emmert made about $900,000 while serving as president of the University of Washington -- and many top professors and researchers make the $300,000 or so you see at the lower level of NCAA executive compensation. Considering the NCAA will make about $776 million a year for the next 14 years from NCAA tournament TV rights alone, that compensation doesn't seem all that egregious, does it?