The University of Minnesota Board of Regents will have the chance to retake the power to approve major coaching contracts Friday, following a unanimous vote at Thursday’s governance and policy committee meeting.
The anticipated measure, presented to the committee by university President Eric Kaler, wraps up a three-month discussion about whether such approval should be returned to the board, which had that authority until 1996. Pending a formal vote from the full board Friday, university contracts worth at least as much as Kaler makes in base salary per year — $610,000 — will go to the regents before they are finalized.
“We have a new policy,” committee chair Linda Cohen pronounced after all five regents voiced their assent before thanking the president and vice president Kathryn Brown for their work on the matter.
The addition in Section IV of the regents’ policy says the provision excludes faculty positions, meaning that most of the contracts in question will involve the university’s revenue sports coaches. Currently, the only coaches who would fit into the category are football head coach Tracy Claeys and men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino. A small group of university leadership positions also could be subject to approval moving forward. Regents already had the power to approve athletic director contracts, as they did with new AD Mark Coyle’s last month.
The change came swiftly and without drama or much discussion apart from regent Darrin Rosha’s suggested amendment that the base figure include potential incentives.
The subject was less clear cut in early talks.
This spring, several regents said the conversation was inspired by Pitino’s current contract and hefty buyout. Last August, Pitino signed a two-year extension that gave him a $400,000 raise and increased his buyout to $7.1 million.
Regent Michael Hsu, who is not on the governance and policy committee, originally brought forth the resolution in the March meeting, but some — including board chairman Dean Johnson, who voted in favor of the amendment Thursday — initially wavered on the subject.
Johnson questioned then whether any further board involvement regarding contracts would be unattractive to potential AD candidates during the then-ongoing search.
Rosha, meanwhile, has backed the amendment, which has gained favor throughout the board, from the start.
“We’ll see if the other members of the board are wanting to be accountable to the people and the state,” he said, “or if we’re going to be caught inside the university bubble where logic doesn’t quite look the same as it does for the rest of us.”