Hansen's Sunday Notebook: ASU's dramatic athletics fee for students pushes it ahead in money game

April 06, 2014 12:05 am

In this week's edition, Star sports columnist Greg Hansen breaks down ASU's game-changing moneymaker, what the big two freshman basketball Cats need to pay attention to come NBA time, Kevin Cordes making his mark on UA swimming and Rich Rodriguez's "hard edge" approach being exactly that.

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  • New Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson has such a sweetheart contract that he gets two week’s pay (about $25,000) every time a Sun Devils minor-sports team, such as baseball, softball or women’s golf, qualifies for the NCAA tournament.

    That’s in addition to his $600,000 base salary, his $200,000 annual retention bonus, a $200,000 signing bonus and 19 bonus clauses in his contract, including one that pays him roughly $12,000 every time a Sun Devil coach is selected Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

    Perhaps that’s why, after two months on the job, Anderson last week fired Tucson native Shawn Charles, a Santa Rita High School grad, who was ASU’s head wrestling coach. An under-performing wrestling coach now takes money out of the AD’s pocket.

    That’s new to the culture of big money college sports.

    But none of the items in Anderson’s contract compares to the deal ASU president Michael Crow brokered for the long-beleaguered and cash-strapped Sun Devils athletic program.

    Crow last week successfully persuaded the Arizona Board of Regents to agree that every ASU student will henceforth pay a $150 fee for Sun Devils athletics.

    That’s about $10 million a year.

    That’s a game-changer among game-changers in Pac-12 sports.

    After decades of financial ineptness under myriad ADs, often running as much as $5 million to $6 million in the red, Crow and the Board of Regents in one master stroke put ASU’s athletic department in the black.

    It was at the same Board of Regents meeting that the state’s education leadership panel officially recognized Arizona AD Greg Byrne for a “fantastic achievement,” in raising about $30 million for McKale Center renovations in what seemed like 30 seconds.

    A little irony, perhaps?

    Arizona’s athletic budget in 2012-13 was $66 million; ASU’s was $63 million. The difference is that the UA has not run a deficit. Nor does it plan to follow ASU’s get-rich-quick model and ask students for a mandatory fee.

    “We’ve chosen as an institution not to do it,” Byrne said Friday. “Obviously, we would need to have campus support, and discuss it with the students, if we ever moved in that direction.”

    ASU did not have a campus referendum, but rather chose to get approval from a few student political leaders.

    UA and ASU both get 315 tuition waivers each year from the Board of Regents. Arizona pays an annual $1.3 million administrative service fee to the campus; in exchange, its utilities are paid under the school’s umbrella.

    After that, Arizona’s athletic department has paid its own way since entering the Pac-10 in 1978. Its financial responsibility under ADs Cedric DempseyJim Livengood and Byrne has been exemplary.

    The UA has never put its financial burden on the students.

    But now ASU has changed the money game. It won’t have to worry that it pays above market price ($384,000) for women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne, or that it owes basketball coach Herb Sendek a $600,000 bonus on June 30.

    The Sun Devils didn’t get to the Rose Bowl or even the Sweet 16 this year, but they won the Money Game in a landslide.

  • Many of the top UA football players of last 20 years will be coaching in Tucson on Saturday morning before the school’s spring football game. Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears will be joined by ex-Wildcat NFL players Dennis NorthcuttBobby WadeBrandon ManumaleunaAntonio Pierce and Trung Canidate , among others, in a youth clinic, ages 8-18, at Tucson High School. The clinic will run from 7 a.m. to noon. Registration: eventbrite.com 

  • Stat you may have missed: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson led all Arizona players this year with 40 blocked shots. Who would have guessed that? In a best-case scenario, Rondae someday could be an NBA player like Gerald Wallace, who left Alabama after one season, 2001, where he averaged 9.8 points. Wallace was called “Crash’’ for his energetic style, much like Rondae, and, at 6 feet 8 inches and 220 pounds, finished second in the 2002 Slam Dunk competition. Wallace averaged just 3.4, 4.7 and 2.0 in his first three NBA seasons. But he stuck with it, learned how to shoot better, played for five teams and has been paid more than $82 million.

  • One thing Aaron Gordon is sure to learn once he declares for the NBA draft and becomes a pro is that he won’t have 24/7 to work on his jumper after all. He’ll play 82 games over 170 days, 41 road games, flying from city to city in a mindless blur, often arriving at 4 a.m., and discovering that NBA teams don’t practice as much as they just have a 60-minute shoot-around to save strength.

  • UA grad Brenda Frese has coached Maryland to her second Final Four; she won the national title as the Terps’ coach in 2006. Any hope of Frese, who is only 44, ever returning to Tucson and coaching her alma mater are remote. Maryland pays her $984,000 per year. Not bad for a former Pima College assistant coach.

  • The UA’s career home run leader, Shelley Duncan, is apparently out of baseball, although I wouldn’t say retired yet. At 34, Duncan was released by the D-backs last week and is not on a minor-league roster. The Canyon del Oro grad — he established the city high school home run record as a Dorado — hit just 43 major-league homers for the Yankees, Rays and Indians. 

  • Also out of baseball on opening day in the minor leagues was CDO and UA power hitter C.J. Ziegler, who went to training camp with the Minnesota Twins after becoming the 2013 Independent Leagues Player of the Year. 

  • Former Sunnyside catcher Carlos Ramirez, an All-Pac-10 player at Arizona State, will miss the first 100 games of the minor-league season after failing a MLB drug test. Ramirez had reached Class AA in the Los Angeles Angels system. He will be eligible to return after the Salt Lake Bees have played 100 games. Also released last week: former Catalina Foothills pitcher Preston Jamison by the Detroit Tigers. 

  • Cienega High grad Seth Mejias-Brean, who was voted the Cincinnati Reds’ Minor League Player of the year in 2013, was not promoted to Class AA to open the season, and instead is with the Class A Bakersfield Blaze of the California League. 

  • The UA’s 2012 Pac-12 Player of the Year, shortstop Alex Mejia, opened his third pro season by going 4 for 4 Thursday for the Class A Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League.

  • Six-time American breast stroke record-holder Kevin Cordes is the second Arizona Wildcat men’s swimmer to become back-to-back Pac-12 Swimmer of the Year. Arizona’s Ryk Neethling was a four-time Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year (1997-2000), matched only by UCLA’s Bill Barrett. Arizona’s other SOY winners in the league were Simon BurnettGeorge DiCarloSeth Pepper and Chad Carvin. Neethling, who lives in his native South Africa, now has his own line of wines.

  • OB Sports has operated Tucson’s five municipal golf courses for two months and already the positive changes are apparent. OB Sports has improved chipping areas around greens by simply prohibiting carts from driving near the greens. Under previous management, it wasn’t unusual to see a golfer drive his cart to within a foot of the green, mushing up grassy areas within 100 yards of putting surfaces. OB Sports last week took over management of the once-grand Arizona National Golf Course, near Sabino Canyon. The former home of UA Wildcat men’s and women’s golf teams was one of the IRI Golf properties, such as Forty-Niner Country Club, that had fallen into disrepair.

  • Former UA and Sabino High defensive end Brooks Reed showed up at the Houston Texas’ training facility last week wearing Wisconsin gear, and a T-shirt that read “Badger Pride.” Reed lost an Elite Eight bet with Texans teammate J.J. Watt, a Wisconsin grad. Part of the bet was for the loser (Reed) to pose for a photo in the other team’s gear that was then posted on Twitter. 

  • Tucson basketball referees Bob Scofield and Chris Rastatter both reached the Sweet 16 this season, officiating assignments based on merit. Scofield called the Penn State-Stanford Sweet 16 women’s game; Rastatter worked the Kentucky-Louisville Sweet 16 men’s game.

  • CDO junior Chris Meyers won the Junior Golf Association of Arizona Desert Spring Championship last week at Encanto Golf Club in Phoenix, shooting rounds of 65-64, or 11-under par. He won by 12 strokes. That puts Meyers high on the college golf recruiting radar; he finished second in the JGAA Thunderbird Invitational in early March. 

  • Early last week, Santa Rita grad Terrell Stoglin punched up this twitter message: “A troubled young man. Learning to put his trust in Christ. My life been a rollercoaster. Tryna live right. Pray for me yall.’’ Two days later, Stoglin left his EuroLeague team in Poland to sign with Cimberio of Italy’s top pro league. It is the fourth team the 2009 state championship guard has played for this season, following short stints in Ukraine and France. 

  • A memorial service for Tucson High School’s 1962 and 1969 state championship basketball coach Tony Morales will be Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m., at the Tucson High Hall of Champions in the Badgers’ gymnasium. 

  • Former Flowing Wells, Salpointe and Pima College assistant baseball coach Rocke Musgraves won his 600th game as a head baseball coach Thursday in Lacey, Wash. Musgraves coached 588 of those victories at LSU-Shreveport and has 12 in his first year as head coach of Northwest Nazarene in Nampa, Idaho. His 600th victory had a considerable connection to Tucson: The winning pitcher was Aaron Vaughn, a former standout at Pusch Ridge High School. Vaughan is having a terrific senior season at NNU. He is 7-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 53 innings. Vaughn and Musgraves beat Saint Marin College to get win No. 600. 

  • I had to laugh when I read an ESPN report by football draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay last week that didn’t project Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. Kiper didn’t rank Carey among his top 10 running backs; McShay ranked him 10th. “Ultimately,’’ the report said, “Carey lacks the core size to run over NFL linebackers and push the pile.’’ Hello? Have they ever watched him play?

  • UA football coach Rich Rodriguez is self-labeled as a “hard edge’’ coach, one whose intensity and uncompromising approach somehow produced 16 victories with limited manpower in his first two Arizona seasons.

    If you want an example of what “hard edge’’ means, it’s that RichRod scuttled a Friday evening practice in Phoenix because he feared his team wouldn’t get a proper workout in limited space at Phoenix College. He said condensing even one of the 15 spring practices was more than he was willing to do. So RichRod canceled the Phoenix appearance, stayed on campus and put a new twist on bearing down.

    The calendar says April 6. To RichRod it might as well be Aug. 6.

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