Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Recently, Sid DeLong wowed us with an interesting perspective on the case of Danish performance artist Jens Haaning. As readers of the blog well know, Haaning was commissioned to produce artwork incorporating $70,000 in Danish currency that the commissioning museum advanced to him for incorporation into the work. Hanning never provided the work; instead, he delivered two blank canvases entitled Take the Money and Run.
No biggy, Sid pointed out. People get paid for doing nothing all the time. Farmers get paid not to plant crops when the government is trying to control against overproduction. Young William Story was entitled to collect from his Uncle William for successfully abstaining from certain corrupt behaviors before turning twenty-one.
But if you really want to get paid the big bucks for doing nothing, I recommend coaching. As I learned from Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck on their excellent, most recent, edition of the National Security Law Podcast, Texas A & M University is paying Jimbo Fisher (right) $75 million for not coaching its football team between now and 2031.
Doug Lederman provides some details in Inside Higher Education. According to the story, Mr. Fisher's contract was renewed in 2021 for ten years, and the contract was guaranteed, which meant that he would be paid whether or not he continued as coach. You might be wondering how the taxpayers of Texas feel about having their money being used in a Bobby Bonilla style boondoggle. The answer is probably that they are fine with it. What's government for if not for building college football programs? But just in case Texas taxpayers have other priorities, the university stresses that the $75 million will not come out of the university's regular budget but from "donor funds."
This strikes me as a relatively transparent shell game. That $75 million in donor funds that will be going into Mr. Fisher's pocket are $75 million that the university might use for other, presumably sports-related, purposes. And if the university cannot raise more private donor funds to attract its next football coach, or football stadium, or training facility, or whatever else it needs, the money to cover these new costs will indeed come from university funds that might have been used for, I don't know, educational purposes?
Last I checked, the Texas A &M football team is not ranked in either the AP nor the Coaches poll, nor did they have any votes in either poll, meaning that nobody polled thought that they were a top 25 team. CBS Sports ranks them at 37. Meanwhile, Texas A & M's law school is ranked 29th. By my math, that ranking should entitle the law school's Dean to a guaranteed ten-year contract worth at least $85 million, and some portion of that money ought to go to the Blog, given that the Blog was founded by Texas A & M law faculty member Frank Snyder (left), and Texas A & M faculty member Mark Edwin Burge (right) continues to serve as a contributing editor. Even a million or two would go a long way towards meeting the Blog's pressing fiscal needs. I'm not asking for much.
One might think that Mr. Fisher will not in the end actually collect his $75 million from Texas A & M or its donors, because of the duty to mitigate. But we've been down this path before on the blog, and I think we discovered that coaches who depart with guaranteed contracts do not have a duty to mitigate. Mr. Fisher is perfectly free to move on to his next gig, command another Brobdingnagian salary, and continue to collect his spoils from Texas A & M. In our world of the parable of his talents, this is righteousness. Not compounding his windfall with greater lucre would be regarded as a wasteful, and Mr. Fisher would be consigned to that outer darkness, complete with ambient weeping and gnashing of teeth.