University of Maine officials were quick to point out that the $113,800 cost of buying out the contract of the dismissed men’s basketball coach came from privately raised funds in President Paul Ferguson’s discretionary account. At a time when the university is trying to find ways to cover a $38 million budget shortfall, that explanation seems weak indeed.

It wasn’t long ago when $109,722 was taken from that same account to buy out the unexpired contract of the women’s basketball coach.

If that fund is truly discretionary, then we had nearly a quarter of a million dollars that might have been used to support the institution’s central teaching mission, or perhaps for scholarships for deserving minority students in the general student body so that we might begin to match the diversity of some of its athletic teams.

It is time for our fine university to stop offering coaches long-term initial contracts and treat them as they do most faculty members by insisting they prove their worth before granting tenure of any kind.

Earl Smith, UMO ’62Belgrade Lakes

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