Big Ten basketball coaches pay hikes show no signs of slowing

A jump in the Big Ten men’s basketball standings can mean a jump in the head coach’s pay. So it’s not surprising that in the last year, Indiana University coach Tom Crean has leapfrogged his way from No. 4 to No. 2 in salary size. In the process, he’s put some serious distance between him and his biggest in-state rival.

Without taking a pay cut, Purdue Coach Matt Painter has seen his relative status drop from being the third-highest paid Big Ten basketball coach, in terms of base salary, to No. 5 in the last year. Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan also leapfrogged Painter.

Crean and Painter face off tonight at Mackey Arena in a game that has plenty of post-season implications for both teams. Who knows? If Painter can get a victory tonight, keep his team overachieving and make a solid NCAA tournament run, he may find the gap between his pay and Crean’s closes during the off-season.

Although college coaches have multi-year contracts, frequent extensions are common. And when you see the coach get an extension, that’s code for getting a raise.

Earlier this year, IU Athletic Director Fred Glass extended Crean’s contract from 2018 to 2020. In the process, Crean’s annual pay increased from $2.52 million to $3.16 million. That’s not including bonuses built into the contract for the team’s performance.

Recent contracts for college coaches are starkly different from those that governed Bob Knight and Gene Keady when they roamed the sidelines more than a decade ago. Coaches in the 1980s and 1990s either worked on a handshake deal or had a two- or three-page contract. Today, coaches’ contracts are 20-plus pages and require a law degree and a doctorate in sports business to comprehend.

Not even athletic directors like Purdue’s Morgan Burke, a veteran businessman before becoming an AD, and Glass, an experienced attorney, attempt to comprehend them without assistance.

There are a handful of companies in the business of interpreting and calculating coaches’ contracts. One of the most widely used is Winthrop Intelligence Research Services.

It’s important for athletic directors to have a handle on all the nation’s coaching contracts, because agents will often try to use the salaries of competitors as leverage in negotiations.

Case in point: When Marquette University gave its basketball coach, Buzz Williams, a contract extension in 2011, his annual pay jumped about $1 million to $2.82 million. You can bet that Crean’s agent, former NFL player Trace Armstrong, took notice. After all, Marquette — Crean’s former employer — last season paid his replacement $300,000 more a year than he was making at IU.

After the watershed year IU had last season, you can bet Armstrong pointed that out to Glass. Crean’s raise this year means he not only makes about $340,000 more annually than Williams, but that he jumped over Ohio State’s Thad Matta and Painter in annual pay.

The only Big Ten coach now paid more than Crean? Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. If Crean can push the Hoosiers past the Spartans this year, who knows? Crean may have an argument for another extension, err, raise.

Here is the most recent ranking of Big Ten basketball coaches’ annual salaries, with the year the contract expires in brackets. Winthrop compiled all the data below with the exception of Penn State, which is an estimate based on several sources. Penn State has a unique status and is not required to divulge financial information like other state-run educational institutions.

1.      Tom Izzo, Michigan State $3.72 million (2017)

2.      Tom Crean, Indiana $3.16 million (2020)

3.      Bo Ryan, Wisconsin $3 million (2017)

4.      Thad Matta, Ohio State $2.75 million (2017)

5.      Matt Painter, Purdue $2.33 million (2019)

6.      Tubby Smith, Minnesota $2.22 million (2017)

7.      John Beilein, Michigan $1.87 million (2016)

8.      Tim Miles, Nebraska $1.77 million (2019)

9.      Fran McCaffery, Iowa $1.61 million (2019)

10.    John Groce, Illinois $1.4 million (2017)

11.     Bill Carmody, Northwestern $950,000 (n/a)

12.     Patrick Chambers, Penn State $900,000 (2016)


Izzo is the sixth highest-paid college basketball coach in the nation, according to Winthrop, behind Kentucky’s John Calipari ($5.1 million), Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski ($4.68 million), Louisville’s Rick Pitino ($4.26 million), North Carolina’s Roy Williams ($4 million) and Kansas’ Bill Self ($3.86 million).

IU’s Crean is the ninth highest, with Florida’s Billy Donovan ($3.61 million) and Texas’ Rick Barnes ($3.33 million) also ahead of him, according to Winthrop. Wisconsin’s Ryan is No. 10.

While the Big Ten hoops race is still up for grabs, there’s little doubt who’s up for the biggest off-season raise. I promise you, one year from today, Beilein, who has Michigan currently rated No. 1 in the nation headed into Saturday’s match-up against IU, won’t be the seventh highest-paid Big Ten basketball coach.

And the merry-go-round will be re-set all over again.

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