Would Michael Young Need a $500,000 Raise to Take the University of Washington's Top Job?

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The Utah press is reporting that University of Utah president Michael Young is a possible candidate to take over the helm of the University of Washington. Sports boosters might applaud Young's signature accomplishment: bringing his school into the Pac-10.Other observers might notice something else: If Young is picked, there should be no reason to replicate former UW president Mark Emmert's outlandish salary.

Emmert earned more than $900,000 at the UW. Young, in contrast, pulled in $415,000 a year at last report, according to the Deseret News.

How big a raise would Young need to lure him to a more prestigious school in, arguably, a more desirable location? One hundred thousand dollars? Two hundred thousand? Surely not $500,000.

There's a self-perpetuating notion in the recruiting business that you have to keep escalating salaries in order to attract good talent (but only at the very top of the organizational ladder; any job below that, apparently, is easy to fill with stagnant salaries and reduced benefits).

You could see that story line at work as soon as Emmert announced his departure. Wrote the Puget Sound Business Journal:

The UW is likely to face stiff competition in replacing Emmert as the number of university president retirements is expected to spike. And despite criticism of Emmert's compensation package--one of the highest in the nation at more than $900,000 a year--the UW will likely have to pay close to that much to hire his replacement, even at a time when the university is facing major financial struggles.

Well, maybe there are 10 other universities lining up to interview Young. But unless the schools allow themselves to get whipped into a frenzy by headhunters perpetuating a myth that makes their jobs seem important, surely the universities can keep salaries in line with their increasingly anemic, taxpayer-supported budgets.

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