The Whispers Blog

Arkansas' breaking business news blog, with news and commentary from the Arkansas Business staff.
Send us tips.

Performance, Not Academics, Drive Incentives for SEC Football Coaches

When's the last time you heard of a college football coach getting fired for his players' bad grades?

Sure, you've heard of the ones where an academic scandal has hit the fan, and the university is forced to clean house, but you usually don't hear of coaches being let go because their starting quarterback can't make the grades.

It's because college football is an industry driven by on-the-field results. Those results are the driver that results in millions upon millions pouring into the universities.

Just look at the Southeastern Conference, the proclaimed king of the college football world, where the top teams and top-paid coaches reside. The majority of the coaches have base salaries north of $2 million. Bret Bielema, head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, has a base salary of $2.95 million.

Forbes recently broke down salaries of 11 of 14 SEC coaches — that was all that was immediately available — to research each coach's incentives for on-the-field results and in-the-classroom results.

The results are not surprising.

On average, if the coaches evaluated in the Forbes study met all of the on-the-field incentives in their contract, they would receive $966,363. 

Gus Malzahn, an Arkansas native who is now head coach for Auburn University, had the largest amount of incentives tied to on-the-field results, which maxes out at $1.8 million. Others had max incentives above six figures: Mark Stoops of the University of Kentucky is at $1.5 million; Gary Pinkel at University of Missouri is at $1.4 million; and Steve Spurrier of the University of South Carolina is at $1.1 million.

Bielema came in at $800,000 in max incentives tied to on-the-field results.

On the flip side, the 11 SEC coaches evaluated by Forbes had an average max academic incentive of $113,636.

Also interesting: two coaches — Will Muschamp of the University of Florida and Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M University — have no academic incentives in their multi-million dollar contracts. In turn, Muschamp has $450,000 in performance incentives and Sumlin has $625,000.

According to Forbes, Pinkel had the largest max academic incentive at $250,000. Bielema and Les Miles of Louisiana State University followed at $200,000. 

Forbes offered this after its findings:

"This isn't an indictment of either college football broadly or the SEC specifically. Football coaches are obviously paid to coach football, not teach math or science. But when hours spent in the classroom and on the practice field are often viewed as pulling in two opposite directions, football coach bonus structure offer an indication about where schools would prefer student-athletes spend their time."

Currently, the SEC has four of the top five teams in the country, five of the top 10, and six of the top 25. 

A review of the latest academic progress ratings for the 2012-13 year, listed here by SB Nation, shows only two SEC schools in the top 25 — South Carolina and Missouri. 

Arkansas was rated No. 195 out of 245 schools, with an APR of 935.

Crye-Leike Adopts New Safety Rules After Beverly Carter Death

The death of real estate agent Beverly Carter has prompted her former employer, Crye-Leike Realtors, to adopt new safety standards for the company's agents.

THV 11 News' Marlisa Goldsmith talks to Crye-Leike's David Goldstein about the new guidelines and training the firm has in store for its agents. It starts with a simple policy change:

Goldstein said, "We will no longer meet people we don't know at properties. We're going to ask that they come to the office."

Crye-Leike will also be offering a Beverly Carter Safety Course that all agents will be required to take before graduating from Crye-Leike College. Some of the topics included in the course will be: car parking with an escape route, surveying vacant property for suspicious activity before entering a home, and leaving office staff with details on your whereabouts.

"We need to make a change at our code of ethics level so that all realtors across the country will abide by these guidelines," Goldstein added.

You can watch Goldstein's complete report here.

Wal-Mart Cheered, Jeered for Solar Power Efforts

Wal-Mart is catching the highs and lows of the solar power debate.

No matter the situation the world's largest retailer involves itself in, rest assured, it will be analyzed, critiqued and questioned to excruciating levels. The latest issue is solar power.

Slate has a story on the Solar Energy Industries Association report on the top 25 corporations in terms of megawatts of solar capacity. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville leads the competition — with 105 megawatts installed — and the race isn't even close. Kohl's is second on the listing with 50 megawatts installed.

"Here's another comparison that puts Walmart's efforts into perspective: According to SEIA spokesman Ken Johnson, the company now has more solar capacity than 35 states and the District of Colombia. It lags behind California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. That's it. (Last year, using a different data source, Bloomberg reported that Walmart had more capacity than 38 states)."

And the Arkansas-based company has announced plans to double its solar installations on its store rooftops by 2020. According to Wal-Mart, the move could save it as much as $1 billion a year in energy costs.

Ironically, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis, Minnesota, that promotes local solutions and sustainable community development, released a report Oct. 9 that claims the Walton family is doing all it can to undermine renewable energy policies.

"Since 2010, the Waltons have donated $4.5 million to more than 20 organizations, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity, and the American Enterprise Institute, which are leading the state campaigns against clean energy."

In an email to Arkansas Business, Daphne Davis Moore, communications director for the Walton Family Foundation, refuted the ILSR claim, stating the organization was "incorrect regarding ALEC. The (Walton) foundation has not provided any funding to ALEC."

Moore also provided the following Oct. 10 statement from the Walton Family Foundation on the ILSR report:

The Walton Family Foundation is proud of our decades-long track record investing in real solutions to tough environmental challenges. Over the last five years alone, we’ve invested $351 million in efforts to support real, lasting ecological restoration in the Gulf of Mexico, to tackle the water policy challenges in the Colorado River Basin, to conserve some of the most ecologically rich seascapes around the globe and to push for sustainable fisheries management that benefits fishing communities and families. Our grantees include many of the nation’s leading environmental groups, as well as local organizations working on behalf of the communities that depend directly on healthy rivers, oceans and wildlife.

This report ignores significant investments by the Walton Family Foundation with leading environmental groups. Instead, the author chooses to focus on a handful of grants, none of which were designated for renewable energy-related issues.

As a leading funder working to find lasting solutions to some of today’s most challenging societal issues – such as improving K-12 education and conserving critical marine and freshwater areas – the Walton Family Foundation works with many partners across a broad spectrum of beliefs. We are proud of this work and the impact of our many grantee partners on the lives of individuals and communities.

Another report released last year by ILSR found Wal-Mart's greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 14 percent since its 2005 pledge to go green.

Stacy Mitchell, a senior research at ILSR and author of the newest report, said "The Waltons claim to have a deep commitment to sustainability, but their support for anti-solar initiatives tells a different story."

State of the South Report Cites Innovation Hub as Key to Arkansas Growth

Warwick Sabin, director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, which was featured in the 2014 State of the South report from MDC.

The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock and its efforts to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and access to the "knowledge" economy were lauded in the just-released 2014 State of the South report from MDC.

MDC is a nonprofit organization based in Durham, N.C. Founded as Manpower Development Corporation in 1967, MDC annually publishes the report focusing on educational and vocational challenges facing the South. Don Munro, CEO of Munro & Co. in Hot Springs, sits on the MDC board of directors.

The 2014 report — available here (PDF) — says Arkansas must continue growing access to knowledge-based jobs in the state. It cites the Innovation Hub and the growing number of resources made available in recent years as helping grow the innovation economy and making it available to more people.

"Arkansas is making progress in building a stronger pipeline and placing 'new steps of change' that support everyone," writes author Shun Robertson. "To move forward, the state must continue to build strategies that develop, retain, and recruit youth and young adults of all races and socioeconomic statuses."

From the report:

In North Little Rock, the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub is trying to create prosperity by building innovative approaches to help low-income students move from schools into the labor market via entrepreneurship opportunities. Creators of this public-private partnership are developing "a collaborative ecosystem of innovation that drives economic development" ...

... John Gaudin, a member of the Innovation Hub’s Board of Directors, says people all over the state, including the governor, are assessing whether this incubation model is replicable in other areas of Arkansas. "This is an opportunity for students to access the latest and greatest in manufacturing—access they would not have otherwise."

While many Southern states focus on recruiting big businesses, Arkansas is recruiting from within. "Everybody wants to cut a ribbon on a big manufacturing plant," says State Representative and Innovation Hub Executive Director Warwick Sabin. "It’s less sexy to focus on small business. Most of our businesses are small business. They are more sustainable. We’ll always be outbid for large industrial projects because other states will always have more money. It's a losing and outdated strategy."

To cultivate startup business development, Arkansas must provide more youth and young adults with opportunities to foster their entrepreneurial skills—opportunities like the Innovation Hub.

THV 11 News: Vilonia Business Reopens After Tornado

Tommy Bates of Vilonia Therapy Services talks to THV 11 News about reopening his business after the April tornado.

Our Mark Friedman recently wrote about rebuilding efforts in Vilonia following the tornado that destroyed homes and businesses there in April. Part his report noted efforts by local business owners, city officials and residents to work carefully when rebuilding.

That included business owners talking with architects and other committee members "to do things in a fashion where we won’t look back later and say, 'Man, we had a clean slate, and why didn't we do it this way or that way?'"

Now, THV 11 News reports how one business, Vilonia Therapy Services, has reopened its doors on Main Street.

"I think everybody's encouraged to see things are going and hey, we're not down and out, we're not struck out, we're still coming back," said [Tommy Bates, who owns the business with his wife]. "I've only been here two years and there are some people that have spent their whole lives here and they are really excited and encouraged because they're going 'hey, my town is coming back'."

You can watch Phil Buck's complete report here.