DATELINE TEXAS U.11 Executive Boys’ Club BY ROBERT BRYCE Shed no tears for Tom Penders. Sure he lost his job as the head basketball coach at the University of Texas. But he got a $643000 going-away presen4 and as an extra bonus gets to keep his membership at Barton Creek Country Club. Don’ t cry for John Mackovic, either. He lost his job as U.T.’s football coach four months ago, but he, too, keeps his member ship at the exclusive country club on Barton Creek, a membership that would now cost him $38,000, apart from the annual dues. The two ex-coaches are among at least fifty athletic department officials who have private club memberships provided by U.T. At a time when university staff members are staging protests over inadequate pay, the athletic department is spending thousands of dollars per month on club memberships. According to documents obtained under the Texas Open Records Act, forty-three members of the U.T. Athletic Department were given paid memberships at the Hills of Lakeway Country Club in 1997, the most recent period for which figures were available. New basketball coach Rick Barnes, whose annual salary is $700,000, and new football coach Mack Brown, who makes $750,000 a year, have memberships at Barton Creek Country Club. A handful of others are given memberships at other private clubs as well. Overall, the U.T. athletic department is spending at least $7,600 per month on such memberships. U.T. Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds defends the club expenditures, saying they are essential in attracting coaches and other personnel. “It’s the marketplace we live in,” said Dodds. But a random survey of schools with strong athletic departments found that U.T. is spending about three times as much on club memberships as its Big 12 Conference rivals, the University of Nebraska and Texas A&M University. And nationwide, none of the three schools contacted the University of North Carolina, the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan, this year’s national champion in football provides club memberships for their coaches. While the U.T. athletic department A John Mackovic U.T. Sports Information spends thousands of dollars a month for memberships at country clubs, the university is picking up club tabs for top administrators at both U.T.-Austin and the U.T. System. According to university records, U.T.-Austin spends $1,500 a month on nineteen memberships at the Headliners Club, for deans and upper-level managers. And documents obtained under an open records request show the U.T. System spending $1,920 a month on memberships for ten U.T. System employees. For example, Mike Millsap, U.T.’s vice chancellor for governmental relations, enjoys paid memberships at Barton Creek, Headliners, and the Austin Club, while U.T. Chancellor William Cunningham holds seven club memberships. So in an average month, U.T. entities spend at least $11,000 on memberships at clubs that are not open to the public. And that figure does not include the tab for food, drinks, golf fees, and other activities at these clubs. According to the university’s own records, athletic department personnel alone spent more than $21,000 on golf, food, and drinks at Barton Creek Country Club during the thirteen-month period between September 1990 and November 1991. And private club expenditures are coming to light at a time when U.T. staff members are protesting substandard salaries. A survey conducted last year by St. Louisbased Buck Consultants found that 94 percent of U.T. staffers are paid below-average wages when compared with the rest of the Austin market. Office and administrative assistants at U.T. earn, on average, only 70 percent of what non-U.T. employees in comparable positions are paid. And U.T. library workers face the greatest income disparity when compared with non-U.T. employees. A library assistant at U.T. makes an average of $15,212 a year, while a comparable position in the Austin market pays an average of $25,403. New U.T. President Larry Faulkner, who said he is being provided memberships at the Headliners Club and Barton Creek Country Club, believes schools such as U.T. should use private club memberships “in moderation.” “There’s no question the president has to deal with people in private settings, settings that can be confidential. And clubs are useful for that,” Faulkner said in a brief phone interview. “Whether it’s more appropriate to pay me a salary that allows me to pay those bills, or to include those memberships and have them paid for by the university, is something that could be argued about.” Faulkner held a private club membership during his tenure at the University of Illinois, and he defends the athletic department’ s use of private clubs. “What is happening with respect to club memberships in the athletic department is not particularly of concern to me with respect to the salary situation on campus. I don’t believe that money could be viewed as a source for solving this problem anyway.” 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 22, 1998
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