Happy Holidays from the 40 Acres

billandkim_250Kim and I wish to extend our season’s greetings to everyone in The University of Texas family.

At UT, we strive to be the best, and we could not succeed without the contributions of our dedicated students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends.

The UT community is large and extends to almost every corner of the world. Tower Talk is another way for us to stay in touch. I’ll be sharing news, as well as important information about our budget situation; our remarkable students, faculty, and staff; tuition; the admissions process and the Longhorns trip to the BCS Bowl Championship. I look forward to your feedback.

You can subscribe to Tower Talk via email or RSS. It will also be included in our new UT iPhone application, available soon.

Happy Holidays!

A Self-Sustaining Athletics Program

A number of you have commented on Coach Mack Brown’s salary, especially in these difficult economic times. Feedback like this is one of the reasons for Tower Talk, so I hope you will continue. First,...


  1. Nicely done! Great idea, and good way to stay up with the times, and in touch with many of your audience.

    Happy Holidays, and Best Wishes for an Awesome New Year!

  2. President Powers – Im suspect that youve generated a grin at the least when you read various esteemed UT associates question your and the regents judgement [or is it veracity] regarding adjustments to Coach Browns salary. It doesnt appear that they will likely grasp the economics – and it is said they are some of the our fine folks that part of our institution that ‘changes the world’? Thank you for your leeadership and Hookem!

  3. Joel Hestness says:

    The sports program constitutes a large portion of university funds, but it would be nice to know how it stacks up against other university budget items, even if in estimation, to get a better perspective.

    I am currently a grad student in the Computer Science department at UT-Austin, and I have another concern as well:
    First, over the last 3 years, a number of very influential computer science faculty have retired or moved to industry positions (computer engineering researchers are in high demand as computer performance gains get tougher). The department has sought out new faculty, but very few have been acquired. Those that have come into the department in the last couple years are young and thus, need to build up their influence as they seek tenure.
    Second, NSF projections show that the number of computer science related jobs will grow faster than the sum of other engineering fields over the next few years, yet enrollment in computer science programs has been declining since the bubble ’99/’00. UT has a top 10 computer science department, and to stay on top, it must provide incentives to attract both new faculty and new students.
    Are other departments dealing with the similar issues of declining faculty numbers? How can the university make a more compelling case that existing faculty should stay and that new faculty should come to UT?


  4. Jcal and M Anderson,

    Thank you for the field of reference as to Mack Brown’s salary (that’s you, Jcal) and the specific questions about who decides how the football millions are spent (M Anderson).

    I wouldn’t hold my breath for substantive answers–let alone replies to your questions. UT Administration doesn’t like to supply specifics; rather, it’s all generalities or promises to get back with you later or broad statements to the effect that everything is just peachy, this is the way we have always done it so why should we change? (Hm: Wonder how long an employee would last if they said that to their boss?)

    Here’s an example: President Powers recently stated in a meeting of the Staff Council that he supports creation of an independent Ombudsperson at UT. The students have an ombuds; so do the faculty; so do the staff at most of UT’s peers. However, this issue has languished for years because neither the Regents nor anyone else in power at UT want the staff to have any leverage, even in the case of the most egregious abuse of authority by UT supervisors. Administration wants to keep a tight lid on things in-house at Human Resources (whose motto is “Making UT a Better Place to Work” but ought to be “Guarding Administration from Liability”). HR likes to brag that grievances have declined in number because everything is great; in truth, it doesn’t take a PhD for a staffer to understand that HR’s Dispute Resolution system is designed to hush things up and show employees who is boss, so don’t try to play David to the Goliath University. The plantation must endure!

    If President Powers actually supported creation of a truly independent Staff Ombuds, that position could be set up within a month. But he doesn’t want it and he knows the Regents don’t want it, either.

    However, the Regents like their football! So is it any surprise when they commit hundreds of millions of dollars to stadium upgrades? Must be nice up there in those luxury boxes drinking free whiskey! And I wonder how many of the rooms at the Regents’ Hotel–oops, I meant the AT&T Conference Center–are comped for the Regents and their rich friends before & after home football games?

    Why doesn’t someone in the Economics Department undertake an unbiased evaluation of the football program including the real costs (and cost-effectiveness) of holding Neroesque extravaganzas in a billions-of-dollars-plus facility on prime real estate that sits vacant most of the year? I’m talking the real costs in terms of tying up the entire campus with parking reserved for the rich (including booting out employees who have paid for garage space), creating stupendous traffic jams, denying researchers and others with no interest in football from getting to their offices–not to mention the cost of policing all the drunken hordes around the campus, removing their heaps of trash after tailgating parties, etc, etc. Does UT athletics compensate anyone for that?

    I doubt this will go online. Shame on us for thinking, anyway, when our pal Bill just wanted to have a nice little friendly soapbox.

  5. M Anderson says:

    Dear President Powers: As the coach of The University of Texas Longhorns, Mack Brown works under the auspices of UT Austin, or at least he should. Those who say that the Athletic Department should be able to spend whatever it takes in (i.e., “What’s mine is mine” or as a Department official supposedly put it: “We eat what we kill.” ) gloss over this relationship. To the degree that the Department makes a profit from its teams and contributors, that should be UT’s revenue to spend on its primary mission of education. Entertainment is not even a secondary mission. My impression is that the Department is not required to share with the University proper but does so in modest amounts from time to time. Given the controversy surrounding Brown’s salary, this is a good time to clarify the matter. For example, how big a profit center is it? Whose profit center is it? Does the Department pay for all expenses of its athletic programs? How much, if any, comes from the University? Are contributions from alumni used to offset expenditures by the University? Who controls how the Department spends its money? How does it spend its money? How independent is it? Who decides what to do with the profit? How does paying Brown over $5M quantitatively benefit the University? I hope you will soon answer these questions in your blog.

  6. Happy Holidays Everyone! All the best for the New Year.

  7. I think this blog is not only a good idea but a brave one as well. Anytime a public figure such as President Powers invites communication the number of responses alone (leaving aside content) can be real job to manage. Thank you for opening up the conversation!

  8. Wayne Voskamp says:

    Looks like a great idea. Keep on with the communications.

  9. Lynn Utter says:

    Bill –
    Love the foray into new spaces. If I knew how to subscirbe to an RSS feed, I would do so (maybe I’ll figure that out in the nes year?), but in the meantime I’ll try email.
    Have a warm and wonderful holiday. Won’t be in Pasadena (but anyone in PA will surely hear my cheers), but I wll hopefully be in Connecticut in January. see you soon.
    Hook ’em,

  10. Dear President Powers,
    I’m a college student in China now. As I’m totally inspired by the quality and achievement of your school, I plan to apply for the finance major in your school. Thanks to the invention of Internet, I’ve got a chance to go over your blog. And it’s my great pleasure to get to know more about the information concerning the faculty, and students in your university.
    Thanks for providing us with a window to see what is going in UT.
    Merry Chiristmas and warm blessings to your family!

  11. Letty Fernandez says:

    Great idea on the blog…for those of us who live outside of Austin, this will keep us connected to the university. Thank you for all you do for Texas Exes! Happy Holidays and Hook em Horns!

  12. Dear President Powers, Thanks for the greeting. My son is a sophomore in your esteemed university and is an honors student. We were wondering how come a football coach gets to earn (I have nothing against pay for talent) millions but my son cannot get a decent scholarship for his academic achievements which I believe is equally if not more important than sports in the long run. We wish you and yours a joyous holiday season.

  13. A number of readers have remarked that Mack Brown’s salary is a reflection on the revenue generated by the football program. In addition, readers have made comparison to corporate officers who are compensated based on revenue generation. As I have remarked before, the standard should be profit generation not revenue generation. However, even if we use revenue as a metric (as President Powers apperently does, Brown’s salary still appears excessive.

    I would like to point out that Mack Brown is paid about $5 million dollars a year, while football revenue is estimated to be around $87 million a year. In other words, Mack Brown is receiving (about) $1 for every $18 of revenue from the football program.

    In comparison: Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt receives about $1 in compensation for every $80,000 in revenue. Coke’s CEO Frank Harrison receives about $1 in compensation for every $62,000 in revenue. McDonald’s CEO James Skinner receives about $1 in compensation for every $18,400 in revenue. Goldman Sach’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein (who has been heavily criticized for his large compensation package) receives about $1 in compensation for every $1,300. Morgan Stanley’s John Mack (also criticized for his compensation package) receives about $1 for every $2,000 in revenue. University employee Mack Brown receives $1 in compensation for every $18 in revenue generated by the football program.

    Mack Brown’s compensation is exorbitant even by Wall Street standards!

    Sources: finance.google.com, http://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks

  14. Lynn Cooksey says:

    Dear President Powers, Thank you for the greeting from you and Kim. Living in Austin is wonderful and I will always know how special it is to be “in touwn and in touch” with the President.

  15. Joseph Pujol says:

    Thanks for the blog, it’s a great idea.

    I think the debate over everyone’s salary right now is healthy. It highlights the complicated nature of having a big-time athletics program at a public university. Mack Brown brings in millions, but his brand was born in a constitution and not in a board room. A wholly subservient football market wouldn’t reserve discount seats for students and refuse to sell alcohol, to name just two of the many reasons that comparisons of Mack’s compensation to that of a corporate CEO are silly.

    Too bad it takes an economic downturn to get people asking these questions though. Steven Weinberg, our Nobel laureate, made 230K less than per year than the AD for men’s athletics in 2009 [source: http://tinyurl.com/ybfkl6w%5D. If you really look at salary disparity across campus (which you can do at that link), it puts this issue in some perspective.

  16. Holly Davis White says:

    President Powers,

    Happy Holidays.

    There needs to be a more focused, vocal initiative to facilitate the abolishment of the top 10% rule in the state of Texas. Based upon comments from students that have most recently attended UT, the basic classes have been “dumbed down” to accommodate those individuals who, although at the top 10% of their school, are clearly not academically ready for college. We are not getting the best and brightest at UT any longer. It saddens me to know that the University I love is not the first choice of our states finest students becuase they do not want to go to school with students that are not their intellectual equals. There has to be a more focused agenda to get this ridiculous rule abolished so that our University can once again shine.