To an extent, the three military academies deserve anonymity. They shouldn’t have to discuss their profits or budgets because after all, they are made up of players who are willing to potentially go into a war zone and sacrifice themselves for our freedom.

In a deep investigative report by USA Today, the process by which the three military academies operate their athletic budgets is unveiled as much as possible. But at the end of the day, the story itself shows off how secretive the three schools are with their athletic programs because no numbers are really given.

“Army athletics has refused to reveal the contract terms of football coach Jeff Monken, including his pay or even the length of his new deal announced in September.

“Air Force athletics declined a request for the contracts of its football and basketball coaches, saying such information wasn’t subject to public records laws.

“Likewise, Navy athletics has rejected requests for detailed information about its revenue and expenses, including how much it spends on administrative pay and team travel. Navy athletics said its policy is ‘to not release confidential data of this matter.'”

On one hand, that’s completely understandable. The three military academies operate off budgets that are aided by the United States Government. But on the other hand, there are plenty of hypocritical aspects as to why the academies believe they shouldn’t have to disclose their coach salaries and budgets.

Right off the bat, the authors of the piece Brett Schrotenboer and Steve Berkowitz outline how much the U.S. Secretary of Defense is paid and how big his department’s budget is. These numbers are available simply because they are required by law because those budgets and salaries are paid for by taxpayers.

With the three military schools being “branches” of that department, that puts them under the umbrella of being funded by taxpayers as well. So that’s just one hypocritical example of why the three schools should be a little more open with their books.

What makes this whole situation controversial is that Air Force, Army and Navy are being secretive in their financial records for their athletics. The way that the trio of schools stay so quiet on finances can be traced back to Congress. The branch of government authorized the three schools to run their athletic departments as private non-profit organizations. This allows all three to stay quiet.

This is simply backwards because plenty of other schools are non-profits or are funded by taxpayers (all of the state schools) and have to disclose their finances. This was pointed out in the piece:

“All three U.S. service academy sports programs are part of treasured federal institutions that are funded by taxpayer dollars. Yet unlike other public universities directly funded by taxpayer support, Navy, Air Force and Army say they don’t have to disclose coaches’ employment contracts and other financial records that even private schools must provide.”

The United States government is allowing the three schools to shield themselves from financial requests and disclosures, and that’s not okay. If every school in the NCAA has to do it except the three of them, that doesn’t create a level playing field.

To this statement, the three schools respond by saying they already aren’t on an even playing field due to their inability to offer athletic scholarships to athletes. My response to that? They aren’t the only schools like that. No Ivy League schools are allowed to offer athletic scholarships either.

But really what makes this all backwards is simply the lack of transparency. I can tell you within a minute how much Nick Saban makes this year ($11,132,000). After another minute, I can even tell you how much the strength coach at Alabama, Scott Cochran, makes ($525,000).

While these numbers are readily available for big public state schools like Alabama, they are also easily accessible for private schools as well such as Texas Christian University and Duke.

That’s right, private and public schools throughout the NCAA disclose their finances and coaches salaries, but the three military academies do not.

The thing is though the reason isn’t because they are ashamed or simply don’t want to, instead it’s something that lies at the core of the United States government.

“The reason that each of the academies did it really lies in the fact that the cost of athletics is going up at a much faster rate than the government could support,” Air Force athletics director Jim Knowlton told USA TODAY Sports.

Well that’s not good and it opens a whole other issue.

If that’s really the truth, then something is wrong. If the three schools are spending more than the government may have, that’s something the United States government needs to figure out. It’s also something that could bring some unnecessary attention to the NCAA simply because if the schools are spending more than the government may have, where is that extra money coming from.

“It’s a bad idea,” said Kathleen Clark, a law professor and expert on government ethics and national security law at Washington University in St. Louis told USA Today. “Congress knew to be concerned about this sort of thing, and I think it’s inconsistent with (the law).”

Clark makes a good point. The secrecy as a whole is bad and potentially could be violating the government’s own law when it comes to budget transparency. To me though, it’s just a bad idea because it puts them on a different level as everyone else.

If Alabama or Duke or North Carolina or Kentucky have to disclose their spending with the public and/or NCAA, the three military academies should as well. I’m not saying show us how much you spend on every little water cup, but a little more than nothing should be required.

This leads to one flaw that the USA Today piece never really discusses and that’s what the NCAA’s stance on this is. Not the school’s within the NCAA, but what the people in Indianapolis at the organization’s headquarters think. One would assume that all NCAA members have to disclose certain finances to everyone to be a member. So if that’s the case, then the NCAA knows what the public may want to know about Army, Navy, and Air Force.

If the NCAA doesn’t know anything about spending at the military schools, well that’s a whole different issue.

[USA Today]

About David Lauterbach

David is a writer for The Comeback. He enjoyed two Men's Basketball Final Four trips for Syracuse before graduating in 2016. If The Office or Game of Thrones is on TV, David will be watching.