Bonuses based on how student-athletes perform in the classroom vary widely for NCAA coaches
April 2, 2011
When the men's Final Four coaches face off this weekend, more than bragging rights will be at stake. Collectively, the coaches stand to gain up to $1 million in tournament bonuses.
But less visible will be the bonuses the four can get for making sure the athletes meet academic goals, including graduation. Only Kentucky's John Calipari has that kind of bonus: up to $100,000 if 75% of his players graduate. Calipari's academic bonus is among the highest in Division I men's basketball.
But dangling incentives to make sure a coach gets athletes through school is controversial. On the one hand, a significant bonus might keep a coach's focus on academics. On the other, should coaches be paid more for a fundamental part of their job?
Of the 41 public schools in the 2011 tournament that provided USA TODAY a contract, 23 offer such academic bonuses, from $3,000 for Utah State's Stew Morrill to $175,000 for Louisville's Rick Pitino. On average, academic bonuses make up about 11% of a tournament coach's bonus package. It's similar for football coaches at Bowl Subdivision schools; about 13% of their bonus packages are for academics.