The Department of Athletics must live up to a high standard of competitiveness to assert itself as a powerful player in the Ivy League. But with an average salary for head coaches more than $18,000 below the Ivy League average, Brown may be losing its competitive edge off the field when attempting to attract top coaches for its programs.
Brown pays its head coaches a league-low average of $63,618 — 30 percent lower than the average salary at Cornell, the highest-paying school in the league, according to information for last fiscal year compiled by the Office of Postsecondary Education.
Head coaches earn nearly $14,000 less on average at Brown than at the second-lowest paying school in the league, Dartmouth. Cornell pays its head coaches a league-high average of $91,368.
The University Resources Committee — which confirmed in its February report that many coaches, assistant coaches and administrators receive salaries much lower than the Ivy League median — recommended athletics be allocated $70,000 to "improve salaries where most needed." But the report also stated that administrators estimate "it would take approximately $450,000 to raise all the appropriate salaries to a competitive level," and the University has meanwhile determined that the athletic department's budget must be cut.
Sacrificing salaries for Brown
Brown may be losing coaches to similarly competitive and prestigious institutions, but Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to the president, said many coaches choose Brown for reasons they deem more important than salary.
Men's lacrosse coach Lars Tiffany '90 chose to coach at Brown because of his personal connection to the school. He called his experience here as a student-athlete "the best four years of my life."
Tiffany said he took a slight pay cut when he left the State University of New York at Stony Brook for Brown. "But I feel good about that choice, because I truly love the balance that Brown provides," he said.
"I don't know that I've worked harder at Brown, but it means a lot more. There's an extra sense of passion and pride," he added.
Tiffany said he did not know how his salary compares to the salaries of head lacrosse coaches at the other Ivy League schools.
Similarly, Stuart LeGassick, head coach of the men's and women's squash teams, said he was not aware of the substantial discrepancy between coaches' salaries at Brown and the rest of the Ivy League.
Men's soccer Head Coach Patrick Laughlin said he did not care how his salary compares to Ivy League averages. "Whatever any other coach at another university is getting paid is not really any of my business," Laughlin said. "Whatever they're able to negotiate for themselves. … If they're receiving a great salary, then well done for them."
Trouble on the sidelines
Tiffany confirmed that assistant coaches at Brown receive salaries below the Ivy League average. Assistant coaches of men's teams earn about $29,733 — 36 percent less than Cornell's average salary for assistant men's team coaches — while assistant coaches of women's teams make about $23,615 — nearly 23 percent lower on average than their Cornell counterparts.
"Our assistants are well behind the Ivy League norm, and that frustrates us head coaches," he said. "It frustrates us as we try to look around and attract the most passionate assistants. It's disappointing when we get into a battle for the same recruit. When compensation is discussed, we have a harder sell job. … We don't usually win that."
Colleen Kelly '06, assistant coach for the women's basketball team, said she does not believe Brown's lower assistant coaches' salaries make Brown less competitive in the league. Rather, it means assistant coaches tend not to stay at the University for more than a few years.
"There's a higher turnover of coaches, because you'll get coaches that are just joining the profession," Kelly said. "Then, after a few years, they go on to a higher-paying job."
Coaches at Brown are willing to tolerate Brown's lower salaries because they "love Brown that much," she added.
Like Tiffany, Kelly came to Brown because it is her alma mater. She had a great experience as a student-athlete and believes having alums on a coaching staff is helpful, she said.
Kristy Fuzellier, a swimming and diving assistant coach, does not have an alumni connection but used to live in Massachusetts and said she came to Brown because she loves the area and the school. She said she does not know if her salary is competitive, but she has heard other coaches talk about salary discrepancies between Brown and the rest of the Ivy League.
Football Head Coach Phil Estes said the number of assistant coaches and other athletic personnel substantially impacts team performance. But he said he does not think a team's success depends on the salaries of its coaches.
Around the Ivy League
Despite facing budget crunches that affect hiring, Brown and the other Ivy League schools still manage to attract coaches.
Dartmouth women's ice hockey Head Coach Mark Hudak wrote in an email to The Herald that he took a pay cut to work at Dartmouth.
"When first applying 15 years ago, (salary) was not super important," Hudak wrote. "I wanted to coach, loved Dartmouth and the area and saw it as a great opportunity to work at a job I loved in a place that fit me and that may also provide me with opportunities further down the line in my career."
Though Tiffany and Hudak each have personal attachments to Brown and Dartmouth, they said budget inequalities between the Ivy League institutions may limit their schools' ability to stay competitive.
Yale football Head Coach Tom Williams said coaches' salaries are an important factor when choosing a job position. Yale coaches get paid an average of $90,691, second highest in the Ivy League.
"Everyone's trying to make ends meet and put food on the table," Williams said. "As a coach, as a person, you're looking to provide for your family, so when you do that, salary has to come into play." But he added he did not decide to coach at Yale because of money. He decided to join Yale's staff after working in the National Football League as a defensive assistant for the Jacksonville Jaguars, because he missed one-on-one interactions with players on a daily basis, he said.
Williams said he does not know how his salary compares to other Ivy League football coaches.
He added that salaries have to be structured competitively to keep both head coaches and assistant coaches around for several years. "The old adage ‘you get what you paid for' is pretty true," he said.
But at schools like Brown that want to compete on the field yet cannot pay as much as rival schools, the formula for winning may just be finding people who are willing to sacrifice for the University.
"When we compare ourselves to our peers, I think (Brown) coaches try to be more effective at their jobs," Tiffany said. "We need to go find coaches who have got that hunger and who are thirsty."