Crean has become the man IU can't afford to lose

November 14, 2012
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Indiana University Athletic Director Fred Glass didn’t hire men’s basketball coach Tom Crean. But he’s sure bent on keeping Crean in Bloomington for a long time.

Last week, Glass announced that Crean’s contract is being extended two years—through 2020. An extension always amounts to a pay raise.

The contract hasn’t been released publicly because it hasn’t yet been finalized. This much we know: Crean’s salary increased about $600,000 annually to $3.16 million.

Crean, who formerly coached at Marquette, was already among the top-10 paid college coaches nationally. Now he’s No. 4 behind Kentucky’s John Callipari ($4 million), Michigan State’s Tom Izzo ($3.5 million) and Florida’s Billy Donovan ($3.5 million).

Crean now makes $600,000-plus more a year than Ohio State’s Thad Matta and more than $700,000 above Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.

So why would Glass give Crean such a raise?

There are some obvious arguments. One is that he deserves it. Crean has taken the Hoosiers from a six-win dumpster fire season to a No. 1 national ranking in four years.

He’s also a recruiting machine and has a good chance of keeping the successful run going. Today, the building blocks of another stellar recruiting class are expected to commit to IU.

You could certainly argue that a high-flying men’s basketball program is good marketing for the university. Though with enrollment as high as it is, I’m not sure what you have to gain there. Maybe you could argue that a higher profile helps recruit top professors. It certainly helps with alumni donations. More on that in a moment.

And yes, putting a higher price tag and exit clauses in your coach’s contract wards off suitors. Though I’m not sure the market for a $2.5 million-a-year coach is much bigger than that for a $3.16 million-a-year coach. And if a school is willing to spend $3 million a year for a coach, it probably isn’t going to have much problem coming up with whatever buyout clause you put in its way. With NBA coaches salaries going south, not north, there’s less chance a professional team will steal IU’s coach.

The biggest reason to retain Crean probably has as much to do with coaxing more money out of donors as piling up victories on the court.

As good a coach as Crean is, he might be even better at alumni and public relations. He’s a front man like IU has never had before. He has the appeal of Bob Knight without the baggage. He’s even doing Subway sandwich shop commercials, and that might be just the beginning of the big-time endorsements for the affable Crean. Some would argue that type of exposure sure couldn’t hurt IU.

He’s turned into the guy that Glass and IU simply can’t afford to lose. Especially now.

Remember this: IU last year generated nearly $20 million in hoops revenue, about one-third of the athletic department’s total. Of hundreds of Division I programs, fewer than 10 rely as heavily on men’s basketball for income.

And there’s the 41-year-old Assembly Hall. Despite Glass’ trepidation on embarking on such a capital campaign, he knows it’s going to have to be done sooner rather than later.

The capital campaign to replace Assembly Hall is going to need to start by the end of Crean’s current contract.

Glass told IBJ last year that replacing Assembly Hall “would be the mother of all capital projects.” Sports business experts said it will take about $200 million to replace the 17,400-seat facility, one of the worst in the nation in which to watch a college basketball game.

A new venue would likely add at least 3,000 in capacity along with alumni-friendly club seating and sponsor-appeasing luxury suites.

Down would come Assembly Hall, which has neither the modern amenities of facilities like the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville nor the charm of Cameron Indoor Stadium or Hinkle Fieldhouse. And up would go the basketball team’s revenue-generating power by an easy 10 percent.

Crean has already lifted a program crippled by NCAA sanctions out of the ashes and into a stratosphere no one thought he’d manage this soon.

Glass now has to hope Crean can do the same for the athletic department’s next capital campaign. He’s doing everything he can—and maybe more than he needs to—financially to make sure Crean will be in Bloomington long enough to get it done.

  • Crean
    Yep on the score. See Matt Painter is doing the same thing at PU.
  • info
    why can't they name the new bb hall something to honor Bob Knight
    • re: info
      Because Bob Knight refuses to have anything to do with IU, despite their many attempts to bring him back and a complete staff turnover.
    • admissions help
      The admissions help comes not in the form of additional students enrolled, but rather in the greater number of applications which allows for a more selective admissions process and higher caliber students.
    • Not so fast my friend...
      IU should think long and hard before attempting to replace Assembly Hall. They must seriously consider the economic cost/benefit analysis along with losing all the tradition of Assembly Hall. I don't think the economics of it make sense short of a situation where they can get a major donation paying for more than half of it from Mark Cuban, the Cook family, etc. Spending in excess of $200 million to only increase your basketball revenues by $2 million makes no sense using your ten percent increase assumption. It would take in excess of 100 years for this to even pay any financial dividends. The problem with a capital campaign that doesn't snare a massive donation from a Mark Cuban is it tends to take money that would have gone to the university anyway in many cases. So, you've either got to find a way to pay for this with donations that don't detract from normal money donated to the university (like a Mark Cuban paying for more than half of it) or you've got to see substantially more than a ten percent increase in revenue for it to make sense. The really tough thing about building a $200 million plus arena in a place like Bloomington, IN is that it's only going to be used for revenue generating events about 20 days a year unlike the new KFC Center in Louisville that can book 200 or more revenue generating events a year like the Fieldhouse does here. The problem is a small town like Bloomington just won't use the arena for much beyond the 20 or so IU bball games a year and then some non-revenue events like women's basketball, etc. The concerts, ice shows, etc. are still going to almost entirely go to the much larger Indy market at Banker's Life Fieldhouse. Bloomington is too small of a market and too close to Indy to book many non IU events in a new arena. Assembly Hall has averaged maybe one concert a year for the last twenty five or so years and Mackey at Purdue never hosts any. Building a new arena would have little impact on changing that. The million dollar question (no pun intended) that would determine where this is even remotely viable is how much additional revenue could be raised through suites and club suites for 20 basketball games a year? And would IU be willing to displace many long time season ticket holders with good seats for those that are willing to pay for personal seat licenses, substantialy more expensive tickets than now, etc? Also, would IU be willing to allow alcohol sales perhaps restricted just to suites, club seat, areas, etc? That could substantially increase their "per person" spent in the arena on food and drink. You've also got to ask what IU would be giving up by moving on from Assembly Hall. I don't agree with the assessment of it that you have offered. For better or worse, it is absolutely one of the most iconic college sporting venues in the US and is instantly recognizable on tv due to it's unusual design. The image of the championship banners swaying in front of a small area of bleachers similar to a high school gym is one of the more instantly recognizable in college basketball. I've been in many of the new arenas and have found them to often be very generic and not very memorable. If you're going to replace Assembly Hall you absolutely have to design a unique building that is going to become as identified with IU as Assembly Hall is. And lets end one myth right here. The view from at least 75 percent of the seats right now is just as good as it would be in a new arena. Yes, the view is not good from about rows 42-46 on the main level and the balcony is not great either but if you build a 20k seat arena you're going to have seats with bad views too. There is no way around that. Personally, I've been attending games at Assembly Hall for over 25 years and I've been to arenas in at least 25 states around the country. I'd be ok if we are still playing in Assembly Hall 25 years from now. Renovate the concession stand areas. Get the IU merchandise store out of the basement and move it into the lobby or expand the lobby out into the parking lot a little. There are plenty of small renovations like this that could easily be done for a relatively low cost. I'm not totally opposed to change if IU could get a major donor to foot half the bill for a new arena and knew for sure that the revenue would rise dramatically along with having a venue that would still be unique but I fear we would just end up with something generic and boring like the new arena at Ohio State, Wisconsin, etc. You've got a building that you can use for free that is still perfectly functional and doesn't seem to hold the team back from winning and has tremendous history and tradition. Be careful what you wish for...
      • Assembly Hall
        With the end zone complete with offices and classrooms, and the Cook practice facility, all that is needed is a bigger Butler Fieldhouse, a huge pole barn with a Jumbotron. We don't need a facility that can double as an Opera Hall.
      • !
      • Assembly Hall
        Mostly, this article was spot on. Tom Crean is an outstanding Coach and a wonderful ambassador for Indiana University. With that said, Assembly Hall is a terrific place to watch basketball and it provides an unmatched home court advantage. I was at the UK/IU game last year and I cannot imagine a tougher place to play in all of college basketball. We don't need a NBA type arena that takes all the character away from Assembly Hall. It's loud, it's comfy, it's crowded, and it's not like any other arena. Update Assembly Hall, yes. Make it like Value City Arena (OSU), the Kohl Center (Wisconsin), or the Yum Center (UL)...NO!!!
      • solid framework
        No, my title does not refer to Assembly Hall but the foundation for more reporting and stories on the future of IU basketball and sports. If the attitude "what we have is good enough and memorable" then IU would not have replaced the barn in the '60s that seated around 9,000 and was basically an oversized high school gym. Frankly, in this day $200 million is not an unreasonable amount to build a new basketball home. And the idea that it would host only 20 events a year just wouldn't be valid. I live in one of the largest metro areas in the U.S. and you frequently have to travel 30, 40 miles for entertainment, fight through heavy city traffic and pay ridiculous parking fees. Driving 50 miles from Naptown or elsewhere in the area is no big deal ... it also would bring business opportunities to the area. In this day and age, you need to think big. Look what Jerry Jones did for the Cowboys. There are iconic arenas and stadiums like Fenway, Wrigley, Allen Fieldhouse ... Assembly Hall is not one of them. And IU needs to get rid of the name AH ... we need to honor Branch and Bobby. They (and Doc Counsilman) are the most iconic coaches in IU history. I'm thinking Crean has a shot t that status as well. Speaking of Crean's first few seasons, check out how John Wooden fared in his early years at UCLA.
      • A couple more
        extensions with raises and he will be pulling in Chuck Ferentz money.
      • Overstatements
        "one of the worst in the nation in which to watch a college basketball game." or "nor the charm of Cameron Indoor Stadium or Hinkle Fieldhouse" These statements tell me that you've never been to a big-time game at AH. No place better. I hope they never tear it down.
      • Horrible venue for fans
        Guess you have never sat more than 20 rows from the floor. Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are traditional gems worth keeping. Old Comisky Park was a dump that needed to be replaced and sadly Assembly hall is in the same boat
      • Could you please say whole speech again in Spanish?
        Could you please say whole speech again in Spanish?
      • Tom Crean
        I wonder what Mr. Glass thinks of this decision now. Personally, I think Crean is the most overpaid and over rated coach in the country. I think his record shoes that.

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