Friday, March 6, 2009

"Exceptional Achievement" Bonuses at the UW

Let’s talk numbers. Badger Football Coach Bret Bielema just got handed a bonus check for a hundred grand for “exceptional achievement”. Not that many years ago, a hundred grand was serious money. Now, it’s just a door prize at the big jock palace on Monroe Street. So with a 3 and 5 record in the Big Ten last season, his performance was .375. That’s a heck of a batting average, if you’re talking baseball, up there in the Chipper Jones mid-season range. But if you’re talking coaching, it means you LOSE 62.5% of the games you play. Hardly “exceptional achievement”. 7 and 6 overall, but a couple of those wins were pre-season victories over glorified high school squads…as Bielema follows Alvarez’ method of lining up some cupcakes to dine on, in the pre-conference season.
Let’s see….did he win or lose that bowl game the Badgers played in this year? Oh yeah, he lost. Don’t know what his “exceptional achievement bonus” would have been had he won, but given the way they throw money around over there, it probably would have been SEVEN figures. Now we’re closing in on Wall Street-style bonus money!
Don’t get all riled up that it’s taxpayer money that’s being handed out to coaches whose performance can best be described as mediocre. It’s money from the corpuscles….the boosters….that underwrites the charitable nature of the bonus system. There’s a great history of generosity over at 1440 Monroe Street. If a rogue chancellor who can’t be brought into line should happen to deny pay raises to the coaches, well by God the boosters will happily hand out more money.
And the big boss, Mr. Alvarez himself, told the State Journal “you don’t change the rules once the game has begun”, in defending the hundred-grand handout to Bielema. How enlightened, Barry, but the “game” is over for another season and even if business isn’t down at your fancy steakhouse on the far west side, a lot of folks who are hurtin’ in this economy might find your statement insensitive at best.
During my days as a daily working stiff in the world of broadcasting, I had a bonus structure associated with my compensation package. If I performed exceptionally in agreed-upon objectives, I got a lot of extra money. Mediocre performance - “at expectations” - garnered a very modest sum (about 1% of my annual total compensation - Bielema got about 10% of his base for performing BELOW expectations, regardless of what his "contract" says); and performance below expectations would earn me a trip to the CEO’s office for a pointed discussion. You may well have a similar arrangement. You get rewarded when you perform well; you don’t get rewarded when you do only what’s expected.
Of course, they won’t change things over there at jock headquarters, because they don’t have to and won’t be under any real pressure to do so. The “exceptional achievement bonuses” will continue to be handed out for sub-par performance. Like the business tycoon who buys a big yacht and puts a Captain’s hat on his head. To him, he’s a Captain. To a Captain - he’s no Captain.

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