The University of Minnesota approved over a half-million dollars in annual raises to head coaches Tuesday, only days removed from the resignation of former athletic director Norwood Teague following sexual harassment complaints.
Board of Regents Chair Dean Johnson said Tuesday that despite the timing of the raises, they are a signal Gophers athletics is not stepping back from its commitment to success.
“Some may say, ‘Well, these raises are not appropriate because of what’s going on in the athletics department.’ ” Johnson said. “Well, these coaches are essentially innocent of what’s going on in the department. We have to continue to operate in a competitive way and to pay our coaches competitive salaries.”
Men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino was one of six coaches to receive raises or contract extensions. Pitino’s annual raise of $400,000 was reported in the Star Tribune earlier this summer but made official with Tuesday’s announcement. The contract extension added two more seasons, through April 2021, to Pitino’s deal.
Women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings received an annual raise of $75,000, and softball coach Jessica Allister will get an annual average raise of about $36,000 the next two seasons. Three others were extended without raises: Wrestling coach J Robinson (extended through April 2019), men’s track and field/cross-country coach Steve Plasencia (June 2018) and women’s rowing coach Wendy Davis (June 2017).
The university declined to make the coaches or interim athletic director Beth Goetz available for comment Tuesday after announcing the deals.
“We’re excited to announce new contract agreements for Richard, Marlene and Jess,” Goetz said in a news release. “All three are leading programs on the rise and developing their student-athletes both academically and athletically. We are proud to have them represent Gopher Athletics and the University of Minnesota and look forward to having them in maroon and gold for many years to come.”
This announcement, and football coach Jerry Kill’s raise earlier this month, come on the heels of Teague’s resignation Aug. 6 following sexual harassment complaints within the university. Since Teague’s resignation, more complaints against him have surfaced. An investigation into Teague’s behavior is underway and expected to take months.
The athletics department also has been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education since December for possible violations of Title IX, the federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in public education.
On Aug. 14, Kill received an annual $300,000 raise, combined with a $300,000 annual pay increase for various coaches and football staff.
“We’ve had a lot of different situations that we’re going through right now,” Kill said then, “but I have complete confidence in our president.”
Including Kill’s raise, the university has positioned itself this August to spend over $2.2 million more in salary for four head coaches and football staff over the next two years.
Pitino’s amended contract also includes fulfillment bonus increases totaling $100,000. The first $450,000 bonus (up from $400,000) would be paid in April 2016. The second matching bonus would be fulfilled in April 2019. The university also adjusted his buyout terms. Pitino will pay $1.5 million if he leaves before April 2016, $1 million between May 2016 to April 2017, $750,000 between May 2017 to April 2018 and $500,000 between May 2018 through April 2021.
Pitino has a 43-28 record through two seasons and led the Gophers to an NIT championship during his first season in 2013-2014. They finished 18-15 last season with a disappointing 6-12 record in the Big Ten, tied for 10th place. The Gophers have yet to make the NCAA tournament under his leadership.
“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity given to me by President [Eric] Kaler, Beth Goetz and the University of Minnesota,” Pitino said in the news release. “Being the basketball coach at this tremendous university is something I cherish every day. My family and I love living in the Twin Cities, and we look forward to continuing to build this basketball program the right way.”
In her first season, Stollings led the Gophers to its first NCAA tournament appearance in six years. The team’s 23 victories were its most in 10 seasons.
Stollings’ statement in part read: “[University leaders’] belief in me and our staff demonstrates the commitment shared in elevating this program to unprecedented heights of national relevance.”