What do Ernie Passailaigue, Mike Anderson and Bobby Patrino have in common? They are all "dream peddlers." Each takes advantage of our national penchant for gambling and our perennial dreams of fame and fortune.
What do Ernie Passailaigue, Mike Anderson and Bobby Patrino have in common? They are all “dream peddlers.” Each takes advantage of our national penchant for gambling and our perennial dreams of fame and fortune.
For Passailaigue, the gambling angle is obvious. We hired him to set up games of chance that would convince thousands of Arkansans to do what all gamblers do — spend their money on the lottery while hoping that others’ losses will be their gain. So much for brotherly/sisterly love on the road to “big money.”
Passailaigue convinced us to trust him and his staff from South Carolina to do a good job of quickly setting up a lottery that would result in millions of dollars of college scholarships for Arkansas citizens. Given our state’s less-than-adequate record of college completion, we took him up on that gamble.
For the two UA coaches, Anderson and Patrino, the gambling angle is a little less obvious. Yet, taking their cues from the American dream of winning big, both are part of the growing “money game” within college athletics. Here, too, the bet is on a windfall and one that is thought to benefit individual gamblers and the state as whole. As with the lottery, there are winners and losers.
Anderson and Patrino (and Pelphrey and Nutt before them) also ask us Arkansans to take a gamble. They promise to bring us the pride of having a national collegiate champion come from our state. Even in the absence of a championship, they promise to bring to Arkansas more of the media/big business-supplied dollars that now flow increasingly into big-time college basketball and football programs nationwide.
Talented basketball and football players and we the taxpaying public are the gamblers. Many of the athletes come from the same lower-income communities where the most avid lottery players are found. Starting in middle or junior high school, they are identified and groomed for the nation’s big-time college programs. Among them, the dream of “big money” takes the form of hoping to do well enough in college to get a ticket into the professional game. Like lottery players, their enthusiasm for the game is not diminished by this reality. And though their eager performance is key to their coaches’ successful wager, only a fraction of big-time college players make the pros, and far too many of those left behind also fail to graduate.
Since these three miracle workers hardly work for free, some have questioned the size of the collective contribution we Arkansans must make. To date that questioning has been directed largely at the lottery. Passailaigue was paid a seeming princely salary of $324,000 to direct the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. Even after his departure, resentment toward him remains and questions remain as towhether the new director should be paid at that level.
The Fayetteville-based parts of our state’s gambling trio are paid even more to attempt to deliver their “big pride and money” dream to the state. On Jan. 19, a Commercial story revealed that two of Patrino’s assistant football coaches at UA receive salaries greater than that paid to the former lottery director. Paul Haynes and Paul Patrino, brother of the head coach, each receive $475,000, of which only $50,000 comes from non-state funded sources. The total annual salary figure for coach Patrino’s nine assistant coaches totals $2,603,220. Patrino himself earns well over $500,000 though I do not have the exact figure at this writing.
Anderson has a staff of eight coaches and support workers for whom I do not have current salary figures. Recently hired, his own salary is likely in the $400,000-$500,0000 range.
It is clear that we Arkansans are paying our own “big money” to the three directors(and their staffs) of our multi-pronged ,state-supported gambling addictions. Yet, only in the case of the lottery staff do we seem inclined to question what we are getting for our money.
Which is the better “bet”—college sports or the lottery? My bet is on the lottery. To date, it has funded more than 60,000 college scholarships. The lottery’s website reports that since its start in September of 2009 to January of this year, the lottery has provided nearly $223,000,000 toward the funding of those scholarships. True to form, Arkansans stand to profit from lottery losses in other states.
Further, even if Anderson and Patrino win their bets to bring athletic championships and media dollars, the net economic benefit to our state as a whole will be much less than that achieved by a purportedly overpaid Passailaigue and his support staff. Here in Jefferson County, we must do more to assure our students get their fair of those scholarship dollars; and statewide we must do all we can to assure that recipients (and athletes) go on to graduate. Our success in doing that will require more than a penchant for gambling.