Millions? Private Jet? Columbia Offers New York

Ann McClure's picture
Friday, December 9, 2011

Early one morning last week, inside Columbia’s subterranean athletic center in Upper Manhattan, M. Dianne Murphy leaned over a conference table and wrapped her fingers around a disposable cup of coffee. There was no time to sleep these days, she said. 

Murphy, the university’s athletic director, was in the midst of a nationwide hunt for a new football coach, a circumstance shared by a high number of top-flight programs this fall. Earlier that week, Ohio State made headlines by hiring Urban Meyer, the former coach at Florida, enticing him with a compensation package that included a base salary of $4 million per year, a country club membership, a $12,000 automobile stipend and the use of a private jet.

As Murphy, bleary-eyed yet cheerful, prepared for another day of telephone interviews, the situation in Columbus seemed a far cry from the situation at Columbia. The quirks of coaching Ivy League football — not to mention finding a coach in the first place — are well known, but the idiosyncrasies feel multiplied at Columbia, a university in the heart of a bustling city with a football program famous for losing 44 straight games in the 1980s. And, of course, Murphy does not have an airplane to use as a bargaining chip.

“Wouldn’t that be nice?” Murphy said with a laugh. “Yeah, that would be nice. But the right person for us is probably sitting in coach somewhere.”

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