Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins was paid $4.4 million in 2009, according to a report in the Kansas City Star.
Perkins' pay is the equivalent of $85,000 a week, and the athletic director made no apology for his compensation.
"It is what it is," he said. "It was all based on when I got hired, negotiated from day one. ... It was all part of the deal of me leaving Connecticut to come here."
Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in Massachusetts, said of Perkins' compensation: "It's utterly outrageous. I can't believe he's worth that kind of compensation in the marketplace. It strikes me as a hideous compensation level."
Perkins was paid $648,281 in 2007 and $900,000 in 2008. Perkins' 2009 salary reflects a retention bonus, and his pay will revert to the paltry $900,000 this year.
Kansas defended Perkins' salary by saying that most of it came from general athletics revenue, including supporters' donations, conference revenue, student fees and other sources.
Salaries of athletic directors have been skyrocketing in recent years, with Florida's Jeremy Foley topping the 2008 compensation list at $965,000. Then came Perkins ($900,000) and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez ($750,000).
Then there is the case of Oregon's Mike Bellotti, who left after only nine months on the job but was given a $2.3 million payout. Bellotti's deal is being investigated by the Oregon University System and state attorney general John Kroger.
While athletic directors and football and basketball coaches continue to get rich, the departments they work for are often money-losing operations. To make up for the shortfall, universities are getting a larger percentage of revenue from student fees. USA Today reported Friday that more than half of athletic departments at Division I-A public schools were subsidized by at least 26% last year, up from 20% in 2005.
Last week, University of California chancellor Robert Birgeneau asked a panel to address the long-simmering problem of university support for its money-losing athletics programs. The athletics department has an annual budget of $65 million and 27 teams. Twenty-four of those lose money. Only football and basketball take in more than they spend. Men's golf breaks even.