I’ll defend this, a little. Football coaches are in large part responsible for the success or failure of a football team. In the grand scheme of things the position of a pigskin on a field is not exactly earth-shattering, but there’s more too it than that. Football is popular. Tremendously, staggeringly popular. At LSU, my undergraduate university, every single home game saw 96,000 people in the stadium. Expensive merchandising with the LSU logo sells by the truckload with royalties going to the university. Same thing at Texas A&M. This results in a tremendous amount of money, at while I don’t know how closely it holds at other universities, at many universities with large football programs the team is far and away a net financial benefit for the university. The coach’s salary is a good investment, and pulls in a lot more money than it costs.
Presidents and provosts? Can’t defend that. Administration is not that difficult. Certainly not nearly as difficult as being a professor. In fact, department heads to enormous amounts of administrative work while doing research at the same time. They do it on a professor’s salary. That college administrative personnel who don’t contribute squat to the progress of the arts and sciences make so much more than professors do is inexcusable.
Grad students? I’m biased, but I wouldn’t mind a bigger salary. But I also understand money is tight and especially during the first few years we’re not necessarily the most productive research workers because we’re pretty busy with studies and TA duties. That said, if any administrator out there wants to trade salaries, I’m game. Any takers?