As general sales manager of Capital Cadillac, it is Gil Hofheimer's job to move luxury automobiles as quickly as possible through the showroom in Greenbelt into the hands of paying motorists, and one of the key stratagems he has chosen this winter is to let it be known on television that Lefty Driesell, Maryland basketball coach, drives Cadillacs from Capital.
"We think it's a good endorsement of the product," said Hofheimer, who supplies Driesell with a brand new, complimentary $22,000 Cadillac Seville, complete with such extras as an AM-FM radio and headlights that turn on automatically, in exchange for Driesell's endorsement of the automobile.
"Once the car reaches 6,000 miles, we replace it and put him in another car," said Hofheimer. The Cadillac is one of two complimentary automobiles Driesell has at his disposal.
Last summer, only months after John Thompson, Georgetown University basketball coach, turned down an offer to take over the University of Oklahoma basketball program, a salary and perquisites package worth $120,000 a year, to remain at Georgetown in a less lucrative position, an anonymous group of Georgetown alumni quietly purchased a house at 4881 Colorado Ave. NW, a posh and elegant neighborhood, for the coach and his family to live in.
Complete with a $35,000 swimming pool with a tile mosaic of Marilyn Monroe on the bottom which is detailed down to her black beauty mark, the $350,000 house was previously the property of Charles Stinson and Roi Bernard, owners of Charles the First, a hairdressing parlor on Connecticut Avenue. Known as Charleroi, the house was the site of numerous parties and soirees that were written up in the society columns in Washington's newspapers. For as long as he remains basketball coach at Georgetown, Thompson and his family will be permitted to live there.
The purchase, said William R. Scott, Georgetown's vice president and dean of student affairs, "is evidence of the esteem in which Coach Thompson is held." He did not add that it is also another perquisite for a coach who has lifted Georgetown's basketball program from obscurity to national prominence and who can anticipate the likelihood of increasingly attractive offers from other colleges over the coming years.
Driesell's Cadillac and Thompson's house are only two examples of the myriad of perquisites and fringe benefits that have come to accompany major college coaching assignments over the years. Increasingly, as the big money in televised sports, bowl bids and postseason tournaments has pushed the stakes in college athletics higher and higher, so have the coaching perquisites escalated.
It has become standard at the big name football and basketball colleges for coaches drawing $40,000 to $50,000 base pay to parlay those salaries into the equivalent of six-figure incomes with product endorsements, consulting assignments with the manufacturers of sports equipment, radio and television shows, free memberships in country clubs, complimentary cars, bonuses from alumni, speaking engagements and liberal expense accounts and travel allowances.
Athletic directors defend the practi ce with the argument that campus politics make it difficult to pay the football coach three times as much as the highest-paid member of the faculty, so other means of compensation have to be found. Without the perquisites, it is argued, it would be simply impossible to retain winning coaches.
"I don't think there is a major basketball or football coach in the country who doesn't get a free car," says Eddie Sutton, basketball coach at the University of Arkansas.
Says Terry Donahue, head football coach at UCLA, "I think all football coaches assume that a car, country club memberships, expense and travel allowances are all part of the job. Televison shows -- that's part of it too. A football coach puts in way too many long hours, and you can't pay him what the colleges are limited to paying, so you have to have those perquisites."
It is currently a matter of some controversy, however, just how much a part of the job the various coaching perquisites really are. In a closely watched and potentially significant lawsuit pending before the Georgia state courts, Pepper Rodgers, a former Georgia Tech football coach, is suing the Georgia Tech Athletic Association for $496,980.24, claiming that as the value of the perquisites he lost when Georgia Tech fired him in December 1979 with two years remaining on a three-year contract.
Although he continues to draw his $40,000 annual salary and such routine benefits as retirement and health insurance, Rodgers is seeking compensation for such perquisites as four season tickets to the Atlanta Falcons home football games, membership dues and monthly expenses in four private clubs, television and radio show contracts, a housing allowance and meals at the training table.
"That was all part of the job. It's part of every coaching job," said Rodgers, who was fired after six years at Georgia Tech, where his record was 34-30-2. Within days of his discharge, Rodgers noted, the Cadillac dealer that had supplied him with a complimentary new automobile every six months since he had been hired, came to repossess the car. Vince Dooley, head football coach at the University of Georgia, took over his television show's time slot.
The lawsuit, says Georgia Tech President Joseph M. Pettit, is a novel idea. "What Pepper is suing for is anticipated income, but it doesn't come from Georgia Tech or the Georgia Tech Athletic Association. What he is suing for is some separate arrangements for which he is the entrepreneur. It's true, he was on television because he was Georgia Tech's football coach, but he was also on television because he is a very colorful guy.
"The case is very murky, and it does have some national significance. We've been working with the NCAA on this because we don't want to mess things up for ourselves or for the other schools either."
While it is true that the football or basketball coach at any of the athletic superpowers is easily the highest-paid figure on campus, the coaches also contend it is a fact that they, unlike faculty members, do not enjoy the job security of tenure.
"Our job is probably the most insecure profession in America. Anything we get is not enough," says George Raveling, basketball coach at Washington State University.
"I know guys who have personal expense accounts, clothing allowances, housing allowances, television shows, the use of a car or two cars, summer basketball camps. It's pretty much standard operating procedure.
"But there is no other profession that is placed under such scrutiny as the coaching profession. When a doctor does an operation, he doesn't have 18,000 people watching and critiquing his work."
Georgetown's Thompson, also noting the risk factor in coaching, argues that the perquisites in coaching are simply the legitimate fruits of success.
"In any profession, a man who is successful can capitalize on it," says Thompson. "I don't feel I should limit the financial opportunities that have come my way because of my successes at Georgetown."
But like most coaches, Thompson is reluctant to discuss details of the perquisites associated with his position. "It's a private and personal thing," he says.
But in addition to the house the alumni provided for his family, he also runs a summer basketball camp, and he is one of about 30 college basketball coaches drawing stipends of approximately $10,000 a year from the Nike Shoe Company in exchange for his endorsement of their product.
Under this arrangement, Georgetown gets about between $7,000 and $10,000 worth of shoes for its athletes from Nike, while the shoe company gets the benefit of speaking engagements and clinics from Thompson. Thompson says he has appeared on Nike's behalf at clinics as far afield as Canada.
Additionally, the shoe company has filmed a short sequence of Thompson discussing the value of an education with a group of inner-city youths. The film will be shown at halftime during NBC-TV's Jan. 28 telecast of the Georgetown-University of Nevada-Las Vegas game.
For the most part, such arrangements are routinely accepted as part of the game on the athletic scene. Occasionally, however, their propriety has been questioned.
Mary Harshman, basketball coach at the University of Washington and the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, thinks coaches who enter into such arrangements are setting a poor example for their players.
"I may be a little old-fashioned," said Harshman, "but it seems to me that if a coach accepts money from a shoe company, the money should go to the athletic association. To our way of thinking, why shouldn't a player feel, 'Hey, if a coach can make money off a game, why shouldn't I. We demand complete puritanism from our players, but we think there is nothing wrong with the coach having his hand out."
At the University of Maryland, where Driesell also participates in the Nike endorsements, College Park Chancellor Robert Gluckstern is on record as calling the arrangement "another example of the commercialization of college athletics." Nevertheless, Gluckstern said, Driesell is free to make whatever arrangements he can as far as commercial endorsements are concerned.
Driesell, who also has a television show and a summer basketball camp, declined to discuss specifics of the perquisites he has arranged for himself.
"That's my personal business. It's between me and my Cpa," he said. "But I wouldn't have been in coaching this long if I had to do it just for my salary. With the number of hours I put in, there is no way I would do it just for my salary."