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Holy cow, Boise State actually furloughed their coaches

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Now, to the big news from yesterday:

Wait, Boise State did WHAT?!?

I’ve never met Bryan Harsin, or anybody else currently on Boise State’s coaching staff, but it looks like we share something in common. We’re gonna get furloughed.

Boise State coaches will be required to take furloughs as the university deals with funding shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic.University President Marlene Tromp emailed faculty and staff about the furloughs on Monday, saying events that have been canceled stretching into summer have contributed to nearly $10 million in losses. A university spokesman confirmed Monday night that coaches are included in the furloughs.Per the school’s announcement, all employees who are paid more than $40,000 a year are required to take furloughs.

All of Boise’s coaches earn well north of $40,000, so they’re all going to be taking some unplanned, mandatory vacation, just like me. I’m sorry y’all. I’d welcome you all over to grab some beverages from my fridge and commiserate with me, but if we were allowed to visit each other’s living rooms and complain about our bosses, well, we wouldn’t need to be furloughed!

The moves will save Boise State some money, but I don’t think that’s the real story

It sucks whenever anybody has to take a paycut or have their work interrupted. But these are not three-month furloughs. For this coaching staff, we’re looking at a ten-day furlough, and all of these coaches are well-compensated individuals.

Two weeks of Harsin’s salary is $63,000. According to Dave Southern of The Athletic, Boise State will save about $165,000 from football staff furloughs. That’s real money, sure, but certainly not enough to close a significant university-wide budget hole. In an email from University President Marlene Tromp, the school claimed that mass event closures and student refunds created “ a nearly $10 million impact.”

That’s on top of budget cuts required late in 2019 by the state government. And if enrollment declines in the fall, or if additional cuts are required by the state, that impact could continue to grow.

The real story, in my opinion, is how this shifts the Overton Window in college athletics

We’ve seen plenty of coaches and administrators voluntarily accept salary cuts. I’ve even written about it here. I think coaches and administrators volunteering to make those sacrifices is a good thing!

But that isn’t a furlough. For one, coaches can’t work during a furlough. When my furlough becomes official on May 1st, I can’t use my SB Nation email, my slack, my CMS, anything that would allow me to do any actual work. While I wouldn’t be surprised if Bosie’s coaches find some ways around any potential work restrictions, you’re not supposed to work during a furlough period, and unquestionably, it will become more difficult to do so. It’s a really disruptive move. It could interrupt recruiting efforts, among other things.

It’s also, as far as I can tell, unprecedented in modern college football history. Coaches are among the highest-paid and most powerful figures on almost any campus. They have agents. They have contracts that are ten pages long. They have juice, the kind of juice that the IT administrator for the Physics department doesn’t have. You can lay off that guy, even if he makes $96,000 a year. You wouldn't do that to the football coach, and even if you wanted to, you might not be able to.

Maybe Boise’s ability to force their coaching staff to accept a furlough is a quirk of Idaho state law, I can’t say I know if every state could pull this off, legally.

But I suspect other schools would probably like to. And if Boise State, a school that might be the poster child for the benefits of a successful bootstrapped football program can pull this off, shouldn’t a school that doesn’t have quite as much political and cultural capital tied into college football be able to do it?

If Boise State can force their football coach to take unpaid days off without the world ending, couldn’t Akron? Couldn’t Ball State? Couldn’t UNLV?

Plus, and maybe I’m needlessly projecting here, I’d probably feel better if I was a professor or administrator at Boise State, and I knew that everybody had to participate in shared sacrifices, even the athletics department, and even the coaches. There’s nothing worse than feeling like your department needs to shoulder a disproportionate portion of that sacrifice.

Especially since Boise State IS a university and all, not a minor league football franchise.

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