The NCAA men’s basketball tournament field has been reduced to the Sweet 16; those teams begin play March 22 and 23 at four sites around the country. By Sunday night the field for the Final 4 will be set. There is, however, another competition going on just under the radar. That is the competition among coaches to collect bonuses based on incentive clauses in their lucrative coaching contracts.
The big winner so far appears to be Ohio State coach Thad Matta, who has racked up nearly $2.55 million, including the guaranteed value of a one-year contract extension. If the Buckeyes keep winning, that amount will keep growing — up to $140,000 more if they win the title, according to a USA TODAY review of the round-of-16 coaches’ contracts.
Kentucky’s John Calipari has the most to gain from a championship run. He’d add $600,000 to the $150,000 he has secured from the Wildcats’ Southeastern Conference regular-season title and advancement to the NCAA round of 16.
These incentives come atop annual compensation packages that make coaches in major college sports among the highest-paid employees on their campuses, if not all of higher education or public service.
Matta’s deal is based upon his base salary for the 2016-17 season, the last year of his current contract. That contract is already due for a one year extension based on the performance of the Buckeyes in last season’s tournament.
Mark Gottfried of North Carolina State is on a similar ride. Forced out as coach at Alabama after the 2009 season, Gottfried spent two seasons as a TV analyst. He was no better than the third choice at North Carolina State, who fired Sidney Lowe after last season’s losing record. Gottfried’s first team was squarely on the NCAA bubble to even get into the tournament before an unlikely run to the ACC postseason tournament championship game earned the team a bid. Now that the Wolfpack, an 11 seed, has won its way into the Sweet 16, Gottfried can continue to earn bonuses over the value of his contract, which was automatically extended for two years when the school made the tournament field. He has already earned a bonus of $62,500 (one month of his base $760,000 annual salary) and can earn another $457,500 in bonuses if the Wolfpack were to win the NCAA title.
Among the 12 remaining public school coaches, only North Carolina’s Roy Williams does not have a bonus in his contract for winning the championship. He gets one month of his $333,938 base salary ($27,828) for an NCAA tournament bid, another month for making the round of eight and another for reaching the Final Four.
Performance bonuses are all the rage among top tier college football and basketball contracts for coaches. In many instances, particularly in football, assistant coaches also receive these bonuses when the school’s team is successful on the playing field. If college presidents had similar incentives written into their contracts (a bonus equal to one month’s pay for a certain level of enrollment increase might be an example) one imagines that there would be a hue and cry as civic and government leaders stepped forward to criticize such contracts.
One might ask, “Isn’t it a coach’s job to win games and compete for championships”? If so, why should coaches then be paid bonuses for doing their jobs? Are conflicts of interest between winning and other ideals such as making sure that student-athletes get a good education built into these types of incentive-laden contracts?
Coaches certainly can’t be blamed for taking the money being thrown at them. They in many cases are members of a small class of higher education employees not affected by the financial crisis facing public spending at all levels since the onset of the recession that began in 2007. Even in larger high schools it is not unusual in many parts of the country to find that the head football coach is the highest paid faculty member on campus.
The United States ranks between 15th and 20th among the world’s developed nations on most lists that purport to measure educational achievement. My father used to tell me to watch how people spend their money if you really want to understand what is important to them. There are many people in this country who believe that athletic success has become a more desired goal in society than educational success.
Perhaps we should think about that the next time we feel like criticizing out government leaders for not creating more high paying jobs for our local economies.
Issues such as these are dealt with in the curriculum at the United States Sports Academy. For more information on these courses, go to http://ussa.edu.