Richard Pitino declared to his players after Wednesday night’s victory, “There is no more talk about the NCAA tournament. We’re talking about seeds in the NCAA tournament.”
The Gophers all-but secured their spot on the March Madness dance floor after upsetting No. 24 Maryland 89-75 in College Park, Md. Pitino’s team moved into the top four in the Big Ten standings and in position for a double bye in the conference tournament.
Wednesday night’s victory also all-but guaranteed Pitino a $50,000 bonus. His contract stipulates a $50,000 payment each year the Gophers make the NCAA tournament.
The incentives don’t stop there.
If the Gophers finish with a winning record in the Big Ten regular season, Pitino gets another $50,000. The Gophers are 9-6 with three games to play -- meaning one more victory locks up that check (conference tournament games don’t count against the Big Ten record).
The $50,000 Big Ten regular-season champion bonus would require a lot of help from the rest of the league, but a co-championship scenario is still possible. If the Gophers win the Big Ten tournament, add $25,000 to Pitino’s account.
Some observers are starting to buzz about Big Ten Coach of the Year honors for Pitino. That would come with a $25,000 bonus. National Coach of the Year, perhaps unlikely unless the Gophers make a deep run in the NCAAs, would run up another $50,000.
Wait, there’s more.
Pitino gets $50,000 if the Gophers advance to the Sweet 16, and – we’re getting too far ahead, but hey, it is written in his contract – another $50,000 if they make the Final Four. A national championship? That’s a $100,000 bonus.
Add it all up and Pitino is line for at least a $100,000 bump, and that could double, or more, if the Gophers stay hot.
And Pitino likely won’t be the only coach on campus cashing bonus checks.
Men’s hockey coach Don Lucia has his team on top of the Big Ten standings and ranked No. 4 in the nation.
Winning the Big Ten regular-season championship would activate a $30,000 bonus for Lucia. His teams have won five consecutive conference championships and on pace for six in a row. If the Gophers win the Big Ten tournament, his bonus will increase another $15,000.
Like Pitino’s Gophers, Lucia’s team has moved beyond consideration for the NCAA tournament and is focused on seeding – a No. 1 seed could be in the team’s future -- so Lucia can bank on his $15,000 tournament bonus.
If the Gophers advance to the regional final, Lucia earns another $30,000. A berth in the Frozen Four is worth $50,000, and winning the national championship worth another $75,000 bonus.
Lucia’s bonus for coaching honors is limited to National Coach of the Year and worth $10,000. Though he’s likely not a favorite for this honor, he has restored excitement around the program one year after the team finished just above .500 and missed the NCAA tournament.
Add up all of Lucia’s incentives and his bonus check could be worth $215,000.
The two coaches combined could earn around a half-million dollars in bonuses this spring. Many would argue they’ve earned it – especially if NCAA tournament runs are involved.