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Marketing insanity reaches new depths

Dec 9, 2003 8:49 AM

The dumbing down of America continues, with the boob tube leading the way.

The role model for American kids is becoming a handsome guy (or ugly one) or beautiful blonde (or brunette) pointing a gun at someone. Violence is our creed.

The virus of stupidity has infected advertising copywriters as well. Inanity as well as insanity now rules the airwaves.

Two of the dumbest TV commercials of the year come from two of the biggest sponsors: Miller beer and Chevrolet. Both should sponsor a contest, giving the first person who can explain either commercial a year’s supply of Miller Lite and a Malibu.

The Miller gig is the domino effect fall-down commercial, in which hundreds, or is it thousands, of people fall into one another and knock everyone down because one person stumbles. The guy or gal who thought up this brain dead idea should be sent to Mosul to stand guard duty 24 hours a day.

The Chevy commercial is just as bad. Countless people stand at intervals on an isolated road in the middle of nowhere, doing nothing. A driver gets in a Chevy and drives to the next person, then gets out, whereupon the next driver gets in and drives down the road to the next person, and on and on.

Where does the person who gets out go next? Does he or she just stand there on the empty highway, waiting for a ride? Do they disappear? Do they walk to the nearest bar and order a Miller Lite?

While considering the downward spiral of American thinking this week, we got a glimpse at what value American universities place on academics as opposed to athletics.

The University of Arizona, with more than 30,000 students, has been suffering a brain drain, losing academic talent because of budgetary problems. Cutbacks have been ordered in some departments, and teaching talent has been drifting off to other schools paying more.

Arizona has a hapless football team. Not unexpectedly, the coach, John Mackovic, was fired. Given that, what do you think John was making?

The answer is $900,000. It could have been more, because he had a clause offering $50,000 if he got the Wildcats to a major bowl game (or the moon, just as likely).

So John was canned, and the university brought in Mike Stoops, defensive coordinator at the nation’s number one team, Oklahoma.

He will make more in base salary than Mackovic, $350,000 rather than $200,000, and another $300,000 in what is termed "public relations duties." Like Mackovic, he will get $100,000 from Nike, assuring him $750,000. He could get another $150,000 if he performs magic and gets the Wildcats to a major bowl game. And to show you where education ranks, Stoops will get $25,000 if the team earns a 3.4 grade average or 84% of his players graduate in six years. That compares to $90,000 if more than 45,000 season tickets are sold, and another $60,000 if regular attendance at games exceeds 50,000.

Altogether, he can make $1,225,000, and salaries for nine assistant coaches could exceed $1 million.

Lute Olson, who coaches Arizona’s highly ranked basketball team, makes only $64,000 in base salary, but gets $463,000 for "public relations duties," which guarantees him $627,000 a year. He also has a contract with Nike for $350,000, receives $42,500 for doing TV and radio commercials, gets another $20,000 for loaning his name to a dry cleaning firm, picks up another $83,700 for two basketball camps, and had $346 in miscellaneous income, for a total of $1,146,546.

The president of the University of Arizona, Peter Likens, makes $468,394 a year.

The university has an $8.4 million five-year contract with Nike that provides more than $1 million a year in uniforms and other apparel for student athletes. The school calls it "a terrific deal."

Some are concerned over this. The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics is calling for athletic reform, despairing over the disparity between higher education ideals and big time college sports.

It should be. When athletic supporters from Nike take priority over academic performance, the country is in a bad way.