Want to Keep Your NCAA Coach? Get Good Grades

Eccles School research finds coach’s retention and promotion is tied to
the team’s academic performance

SALT LAKE CITY–(BUSINESS WIRE)–March Madness is coming to its always-riveting and often surprising end,
and the impacts of the nation’s best college basketball teams on society
are apparent.

While it’s easy to cheer on the athletic prowess of NCAA basketball and
football players, it’s easy to forget that they’re students, too. A new
paper co-authored by Eccles School Associate Professor and David Eccles
Faculty Fellow Brian Cadman looks at the correlation between coach
retention and promotion and the academic performance of their players.

The paper, “Academics vs. Athletics: Career Concerns for NCAA Division I
Coaches” found that coaches whose teams have a lower academic
performance are more likely to get fired than those coaches whose teams
have a higher academic performance. However, coaches won’t get
promotions based on excellent academic performance of their

“NCAA coaches play an important role at many universities. They are
often the most highly paid state employee,” Cadman said. “College
athletics is an important component of the fiscal health for many
institutions. At the same time, NCAA coaches play an integral role to
the academic lives of the student-athletes on their teams. Understanding
the labor market for NCAA coaches, and the role of academic progress in
that labor market is an important insight.”

The study of NCAA coaches and their players is similar to the
relationship between the C-Suite and their companies’ stakeholders.

“Coaching, and in particular college athletics, is an excellent setting
for gaining important insights into questions about performance
measurement and incentives because, like CEOs of large corporations,
college coaches must meet the demands of several types of constituents,
including athletes, university presidents, athletic directors and
alumni,” Cadman said. “At the same time, the measures of performance are
very transparent in some cases — like win-loss records, tournament
placings, etc., while in other cases they are very difficult to measure,
such as academic and personal growth of the student athletes.”

The research paper, co-authored by Christopher Avery of the Harvard
Kennedy School of Government and Gavin Cassar of INSEAD, builds on
Cadman’s previous work, where he looked at the implicit incentives of
NCAA football coaches. In that study, he found that coach salaries
increased much more after a strong on-field performance rather than
explicit clauses in their contracts.

In 2002, the NCAA introduced the Academic Progress Rate (APR) and
subsequently imposed a system of escalating penalties to be imposed upon
colleges (or specific teams) failing to meet minimum standard APR scores.

“I think the key takeaway from our study is that academic progress rates
play an important role in NCAA football and men’s basketball coaches’
career concerns. However, upon meeting a certain threshold, there’s not
a strong incentive to increase APRs,” Cadman said. “This might be a good
thing, as it’s likely to avoid unintended consequences that might go
along with a stronger relation between APRs and coaching pay, such as
managing APR.”

A full copy of the paper can be found at http://eccles.link/coach-pay.

About the David Eccles School of Business

Founded in 1917 and educating more than 4,500 students annually, the
David Eccles School of Business at The University of Utah offers eight
undergraduate majors, four MBAs, five other graduate programs, a Ph.D.
in seven areas and executive education curricula. The Eccles School is
also home to eight institutes and centers that deliver academic research
and support an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation. The
University of Utah is consistently one of the top schools in the nation
for startup businesses based on university research. Experiential
learning is central to the Eccles experience. For more information,
visit Eccles.Utah.edu or call


David Eccles School of Business
Pete Codella, 801-587-8365
Spencer Parkinson, 801-461-9767