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Coaches Say $12,000 Not Enough

May 6, 1998

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ It’s endless nights of macaroni and cheese for dinner, driving a car with 100,000 miles on it. Or maybe not having a car at all.

That’s why restricted earnings coaches brought suit against the NCAA, which has been enriched by a $1.75 billion television contract for its basketball tournament.

A federal judge ruled the NCAA violated antitrust laws by acting in concert to limit the salaries of some coaches to $12,000 a year, plus $4,000 for holding camps during the summer in some cases.

A federal court jury, many of the members wearing blue jeans and plaid shirts, gave the NCAA its stiffest penalty ever, awarding the 1,900 coaches in the class action suit nearly $67 million Monday. The damages were trebled by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil.

The NCAA is appealing Vratil’s guilty verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court, and almost certainly will appeal the damage award _ first to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

But the verdict elated many of the coaches.

They understand the reasoning of the 1992 rule _ it was supposed to create entry-level positions for young coaches. But in fact, the suing coaches said, it penalized many longtime assistants with more than a decade of service who had advanced degrees.

It forced the restricted earnings coaches, who already worked long hours and cared deeply about their players in whatever sport they were involved in, to find second and even third jobs to make ends meet.

``You ate a lot of macaroni and cheese,″ said Jerri Daniels-Elder, a former restricted earnings coach with the women’s track team at Penn State. ``You drove a car with 100,000 miles on it. You shared an apartment with three or four roommates.″

Daniels-Elder said the rule worked in reverse at Penn State _ to create an entry-level position, a fully paid assistant coach’s position was eliminated.

She was making $24,000 a year when the rule took effect _ and that was cut in half to $12,000.

``Boom,″ she said.

``It drove me out,″ the 38-year-old Daniels-Elder said after she quit in 1994 when she became pregnant. ``It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out you can’t live on $12,000 a year.″

But like Jennifer Dhaeniens, who coached women’s volleyball at Michigan as a restricted earnings coach before she also quit to start a family, Daniels-Elder volunteers her time to coach the women’s hammer throwers on the track and field team at Penn State.

``It became a selfish endeavor for me,″ said Dhaeniens, who had to juggle her children between child care, her husband’s schedule and family members on a salary that left her with $100 a month after taxes and the child care bills.

``Finally, I had to quit. It was extremely hard for me to quit coaching. I just loved it so much.″

The coaches said they got in the game because of the personal satisfaction of helping young athletes develop _ not only on the playing field, but as people.

But in the end, Daniels-Elder said, $12,000 ``is just not worth it.″

``The money would be nice,″ she said of the jury award that probably is a long way away from being paid as the appeals process drags on.

``But the most important thing is the jury told the NCAA this was a bad rule and you hurt people. Now I can’t feel too bad they’re going to have to pay some serious cash.″

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