Is Shaka Smart paid too much?

Morgan White
Opinion Editor

VCU loves to throw money at Shaka Smart. In a 2013 Richmond Times-Dispatch article, Smart’s pay was broken down in order to find what his total income from VCU is. His base salary as of 2013 is $450,000. On top of that his supplemental income is $1 million a year. As if that weren’t enough he also receives $25,000 for university-sponsored television and radio appearances. He makes another $25,000 to speak at or attend university sponsored events. In total Smart’s compensation amounts to $1.5 million a year.

illustration by Shannon Wright

In addition to that he makes $6,500 for each VCU game broadcast nationally and $3,500 for each game broadcast outside of VCU or the Atlantic 10. Smart receives a yearly clothing allowance of $10,000. If the Rams win 20 games or more in a season Smart receives a $20,000 bonus. He even receives $4,000 for each player who graduates upon the completion of their athletic eligibility and $2,000 for each player who graduates within a year.

Sure, the only time we’ve gotten to the NCAA’s Final Four, Smart was the coach. Is that what makes him deserving of this incredible compensation? The enrollment during the 2010-2011 school year reached 23,483 students. The national recognition that VCU received from reaching the Final Four brought in more students.

The 2011-2012 school year saw 23,754 undergraduate students enrolled and the 2012-2013 school year reached 23,951 students enrolled. However, enrollment fell in the 2013-2014 school year and ended up decreasing to 23,657 students. The limelight lasted for merely two years which brought in, at most, 483 more students. Of course, there is not a direct correlation between reaching the Final Four and an increase in enrollment, but Smart has not brought VCU Athletics to the level of other Virginia universities in the area. VCU Athletics has a $10,000  allowance for Nike apparel; this makes up about 3 percent of the total athletic equipment budget according to a Jan. 21 Richmond Biz Sense article.

The deal that put this in place also requires VCU to spend a majority of the remaining 97 percent on Nike products. The deal that Virginia Tech has with Nike allows VT to receive $1 million for their apparel allowance. The University of Virginia receives $1.3 million in apparel each year. VT also receives $275,000 in cash each year for their deal with Nike. VCU will put the Nike logo on television more times than ever before this season. Whether or not this will lead to a better deal when the contract ends in 2015 is not yet known. Even though Smart taking the team to the NCAA Final Four led to the sponsorship from Nike, that’s not good enough to make up for the amount of money Smart receives per year.

VCU, if you can afford to pay this much to the head basketball coach then why have prices for VCU parking increased in order to allow the garages to operate without having to subsidize them? If you can allocate $10.5 million in student fees to a $25 million private basketball practice facility then what happens to the facilities that every student is allowed to use? Do they just get thrown to the wayside so that you can stay in the spotlight with the help of this facility? Is this going to somehow magically teach your players integrity so that players like Briante Weber finally realize that stealing an iPod is morally wrong? Given that it has only been three years since the Final four, I understand it may take more time to see Smart reach his full potential. It will take more time to see his presence acrue more money for VCU than he has been paid. I’m just tired of the wait-and-see game.


  1. You need to do some research on the amount of income/revenue that Shaka and the men's basketball program generate for the university before allowing such a negative feature to run in your publication, especially one that is published on the university's dime!!!

  2. This article apparently has a very difficult time in understanding what metrics matter and which do not. Apparel contracts should only be measured between VCU and other 1-AAA schools. Football eats up a huge, huge chunk of that allotment for 1A schools and it is sound reasoning to try and cross compare the two. We absolutely were 'brought to the level' of other Virginia universities- in brand awareness (for basketball alone) and competitiveness.

    Further, the goal of any university isn't to achieve more enrollment but get the better quality applicants for the slots they do have. The decrease in enrollment has more to do with outside forces (the decline in the value of college education nationwide) than anything VCU is doing or can ameliorate with who is leading the basketball program. However, I would imagine VCU does get more interest from 'well qualified' applicants than they did prior to Smart's hire.

    I do not have a problem with the premise of this article (though I disagree). I do not have a problem with it appearing in a VCU publication. I have a severe problem, however, with the cursory look the author took to reach her conclusion because it was not only intellectually irresponsible to not investigate and ask which metrics were most important but it also violates common principles of statistical significance and make the author (and us, by virtue of our shared degree) look foolish. Get some facts, get some synthesized statistics and tight analysis, and come back with a well-reasoned op/ed.

  3. You do realize how much football apparel costs vs Sneakers ..both VT and UVA have that…also realize VCU charges people to be sponsors…before Shaka…I was not a I am.Do you also realize you receive Huge amounts of money for televised games…do you know how many games are not televised..ZERO before Shaka that was not the also only mention the student enrollment..not those applying..You are a student, learn to be more complete with both sides .Tired of the wait and see? Tired of Ncaa Appearances and National exposure?..Take your instant gratification down the road to odu…What do you think, do you think they would want Shaka?

  4. While everyone is entitled to an option and your entire goal may be that you want to be the Keith Olberman of The CT, it is my opinion that you are way off-base.

    Lets start by your irresponsible comments about Briante Webber. Did he commit a crime? Yes he did. Has he paid for that crime? Yes he has. Is it relevant to this article? No it is not. Coach Smart is no more responsible for Webers mistake than the police chief would be responsible if one of his officers committed a crime. All you can do is mentor and try to create an environment of education and direction. If there is wrong doing then you correct the action and administer consequence. That was done. Whats interesting is that you chose to focus on the seemingly one misstep the team has had in recent history. I suppose it wouldn't do your article justice to speak to he points of the teams going out in the communities countless numbers of times that we never hear about. Why don't we hear about them you ask? Because we do not pony show our guys for PR. The program creates an environment of service. Service to each other and community with out expectation of reward.

    In the matter of the Nike contract. It is my suggestion that you don't speak of things you don't know the intimate details of. That is of course less you can get all of the numbers, the facts, and the factors that go into decisions. However as a responsible journalist you are entitled to do what you want.

    Its understandable why after the final-four run you would look directly at enrollment as the key factor to try and understand why one person would be worth so much money. However again in my opinion you have to step out of the tunnel that your vision is in. Enrollment is one measure that can be used for assuming worth. Another that you failed to mention is exposure. I was told that an interview segment on American Got Talent is worth 25-50 million dollars in marketing. Thats 1 segment. Our mens basketball coach is not only mentioned and featured on many segments in media outlets, he also is invited to host shows about basketball on national media outlets. There are many that can argue that we don't pay our coach enough for the amount of exposure he provides the school.

    The details of his contract while public knowledge are set in place so that he has incentive to strive for excellence. Incentive that he doesnt need. Its ingrained in his character. However instead of saying heres 1.5 million dollars just come to work everyday. It allows flexibility and bench marks. Many professions do the same things with their pay scales.

    Assuming coach Smart was not here, or even better assuming coach Smart made 100K a year as a flat rate do you think your parking pass prices would not increase? Do you think tuition would stay the same price. Are we to assume that you would be able to practice shooting your free throws beside the basketball team as they practice or even in the same facility? Student fees help build everything on this campus but not everything is open to the mass population. For examples just because you play an instrument does not mean you have access to the school of musics practice rooms.

    I typically would read an article like this and not give it a second thought but the last line of the article struck me entirely wrong. While I am no opinion editor I am an opinion owner. It is my opinion that the society we live in has garnered the " I am tired of the wait-and-see game" mentality, also known as the microwave society. Everything has to happen right now or its bad. You see it everywhere, Presidents, sports, jobs, and peoples life habits. Your need for instant gratification while is quite admirable is not only lofty but irresponsible. Less than 1% of success is instant. Things take time to develop. The road to greatness is not one that is labeled "Short-cut" Then there is the definition of success. We have turned the tide of being an after thought to being a forethought.

    Your question should not be is coach Smart paid too much. It should be why do I feel this way. If its truly the points you mentioned on your piece then well you are off base. However given the benefit of the doubt, which is what I afford all people, I will assume the better question is…. Why are entertainers and sport stars paid so much while teachers, civil servants, and other noble professions like military are not compensated equally. For that answer you will need to seek out your economics professor. Capitalism! No one has a set worth. Your worth is whatever someone is willing to pay you. Maybe one day you will write for some prestigious publication and you will have paved your way through the field and make a great living. Then some up and comer will write an opinion based piece as to why you make so much money while the firm they are with continues to skimp on office supplies and only stocks the bathroom with 1 ply toilet paper.

  5. Because a basketball jersey and sneakers costs the same as football helmets, pads, football jerseys, ect.

    And to your point about enrollment; When I arrived in 2007, the demographic of the average VCU student was very different. For better, or worst now, our school is now attracting more wealthy students who will probably be able to give more money back to the school after they have graduated. That is a direct correlation to the work Smart has done.

    Also, the degree you'll be earning has gone up significantly in value because of the basketball team. Now that we're more of a household name, people take VCU a bit more seriously. (Its true.) So quit complaining, and if you're having trouble paying for parking, pack your lunch and stop paying 5 bucks for a cup of coffee at a coffee shop.

  6. The ascension of VCU as a premiere university (alongside the likes of UVA) is going to be accomplished through establishing a baseline standard of excellence across a wide spectrum. We have a fantastic medical school and allied health program. We have a nationally acclaimed arts school and many other accomplished and improving schools and programs. Our geographic footprint continues to impress and improve both aesthetically and in mass. The quality of students and graduates improve every year. Athletics is just one of many facets that in todays society we must address and achieve a degree of excellence. Whether you choose to admit or not, athletics is the optics that a lot of our society (nationwide) views not just our university but all universities. We had an opportunity in 2011 to double down on the unexpected traction we were given in this space and accelerate the excellence process in athletics -and that is what we are doing. The final decision on whether it worked (or is working) will not be known for decades. But as a member of the corporate community I will fully support the quest and applaud all those supporting it with me. There are plenty of schools and universities across the country that you can be a part of that choose not to innovate or be disruptive and are perfectly content with the status quo -VCU is not one them.

  7. VCU basketball is one of the top basketball teams in the Nation. Sold out games at home every time they play, National Tournaments sold out, and the National recognition, brings big dollars to The City of Richmond, The State of Virginia and local businesses, hotels motels, cab drivers, etc. If Coach Smart wasn't such a winning and awesome coach and the VCU Rams a run of the mill team would these dollars be pouring into the Richmond economy? I doubt it. my question is how does VCU keep him without paying far more than he is being paid?

  8. VCU basketball is one of the top basketball teams in the Nation. Sold out games at home every time they play, National Tournaments sold out, and the National recognition, brings big dollars to The City of Richmond, The State of Virginia and local businesses, hotels motels, cab drivers, etc. If Coach Smart wasn't such a winning and awesome coach and the VCU Rams a run of the mill team would these dollars be pouring into the Richmond economy? I doubt it. my question is how does VCU keep him without paying far more than he is being paid?

  9. Hmmm . . . compare the revenue Shaka Smart has brought to VCU versus his salary and then comment on his salary He also brings knowledge of the game, energy, spirit, generosity to his players and staff, and class. How many coaches do you see who care more about their players than the scoreboard? Yet he is competitive and brings everything he has to the game. He also displays good sportsmanship, poise and composure and makes sure that his players do too. VCU is the Number #1 choice for many seniors in high school now and I can't help but think VCU basketball has something to do with that along with the great schools/programs VCU has to offer.

  10. Morgan White did not do the research, or analyze the information that they did have readily available to them. As others have stated, football equipment is miles ahead in terms of cost when compared to basketball. The amount of revenue brought in since Smart's hire completely eclipses his paycheck, did you look at information regarding television contracts, ticket sales, endorsements, donations, etc? I read every issue of The CT, and have since I first arrived at VCU in 2009. Most of the articles are fairly good, but the opinion editors have always been lacking in their arguments. If you're going to take on a topic as popular as Shaka Smart and put his abilities in a negative light, do all the rest of your fellow students a favor and do your damn research, And don't take pot shots at one of the kids when you have nothing to do with any of it (and they have nothing to do with this article?), that's just admitting that your initial argument doesn't hold up. One minor incident in five years? Compare that to just about every other college basketball program.

  11. You should do research and read the article written circa 1991/92 when one Paul G.. Stankevich penned a piece against the proposed "Trani Dome" on campus basketball arena. Stankevich said the university needed to focus on building more dorms….this at a time when the dorms (all 3 on the VCU campus) were at less than 100% capacity.

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