Ten of top-20 highest-paid state employees work in BSU's athletic department
The State of the State broadcasted live to anyone with a television set. But the pay of the state reached the public through less obvious channels: a report from the state controller’s office. Video by IdahoOnYourSide.comvideo
The State of the State broadcasted live to anyone with a television set. But the pay of the state reached the public through less obvious channels: a report from the state controller’s office.
Those documents identified Idaho’s highest-paid employee.
“Well,” Boise woman Betty Runkle said when we approached her picking up her mail outside the post office, “I would assume that it’s the governor.”
Actually, 262 state workers out-earn the governor. The state’s top dog spends less time on red carpets than he does blue ones and is actually more of a horse.
“Well,” a man at Eighth and Bannock St. guessed, “Coach Petersen?”
Yup. Coach Pete made more than a million dollars last year. And many would argue: He earned it.
But the second-highest-paid state employee bleeds just as much blue, but has done markedly less to earn all that green: Boise State Men’s Basketball Coach Leon Rice.
“Not so great,” Runkle said.
Rice’s more than $20,000 per win in 2011 made Runkle cringe. But before we label the Gonzaga transfer some sort of state villain, we asked people to look at a more complete list.
“All of the highest paid employees are with the university,” a woman at the Grove observed. "Alll of them. Every single one.”
And that’s not unusual. Higher-education salaries frequently eat up the bulk of a state’s payroll. But Runkle and others still didn’t like that 10 of the top-20 highest-paid state employees worked in Boise State’s athletic department.
“We can live without sports,” she said, “but one would not believe that in Boise.”
But sports aren’t always a bad investment. One can make a case the money we sink into Coach Pete buoys the entire state. It’s impossible to quantify the return on that venture, but we know it’s good enough that our state governor seeks out our football coach for advice.
“We asked the coach,” Gov. Otter said in his State of the State address, “how he’s been able to keep upgrading the Broncos’ success on the field. We asked how he’s been able to build a national reputation for excellence with what’s considered limited resources by today’s college football standards.”
Coach Pete’s answer: focus.
But at a time when most Idahoans are so focused on their own limited resources, the rationale for some of these higher-ed salaries seemed - to some - a little blurry.