The Arizona Board of Regents voted Thursday to approve a 70 percent raise to $400,0000 for Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes, but took out two academic bonus incentives for further review after a long discussion about whether the floor was too low.
During their meeting at NAU on Thursday, the Regents also approved a two-year extension through 2023-24 for ASU men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley, while holding another closed-door session for “legal advice and discussion regarding UA men’s basketball.”
Barnes led the UA women’s basketball team to the WNIT championship in her third year last season while making $235,000, the lowest salary among Pac-12 head women’s basketball coaches. She will now earn $400,000 annually, plus retention bonuses of an extra $25,000 each year starting in 2020-21, bringing her to $500,000 in salary and retention bonuses for the final year of her contract in 2023-24.
“She’s put together a very nice foundation in a short period of time,” Arizona AD Dave Heeke told the Regents. “There was great excitement this year.”
However, while Regent Lyndel Manson said of Barnes that there was “no question she achieved greatness this year,” Manson expressed concern about the “significant” leap from $235,000 to $400,000 as well as the bonus structure for team grade-point average and Academic Progress Ratings.
The UA women’s team posted a team GPA of 3.19 in 2017-18, yet UA proposed that Barnes receive a $15,000 bonus for a GPA of 2.70 to 3.09 or a $30,000 bonus if the GPA exceeded 3.10.
In addition, UA proposed Barnes receive $10,000 if her team achieved a four-year Academic Progress Rate of 971 or better — although UA’s last reported multi-year APR (from 2014-15 through 2017-18) was 987. Barnes was scheduled to receive $15,000 if UA posted a perfect 1,000 score in the APR, which is a measure of retention and eligibility.
“I am someone who is loath to pay bonuses for being below the status quo,” Manson said. A drop in the APR from “987 to 971 seems like a significant enough gap (to still pay a bonus)… The GPA gap is significant. That seems like a significant enough gap that I’m going to pay a bonus for something that’s currently in effect. … I’m uncomfortable with both of those.”
Manson’s comments sparked a 20-minute discussion in which the Regents considered bringing the issue back Friday then ultimately voted to remove the academic incentives entirely, giving Heeke a chance to rework them for possible proposal at the next Regent meeting in August.
The Regents also discussed what a suitable floor would be. Manson said she wasn’t suggesting it needed to be 3.25, but that paying someone for a drop from 3.19 to 2.75 “is a problem for me.”
Regents chair Ron Shoopman said he didn’t think the current GPA could be used as a benchmark even if it looked like UA was setting a low bar.
“You have to use a long-term goal for the University of Arizona,” Shoopman said.
Heeke said the contract proposal considered market forces within the Pac-12 and nationally, and that Barnes was “significantly underfunded coming in.” He also said the academic bonuses were thresholds with “stretch goals.”
Regent Jay Heiler and Bill Ridenour expressed interest in approving the contract as proposed, and Heiler said waiting until August to approve the contract as a whole would be risky for what he called an outstanding coach such as Barnes.
“In many of these circumstances we’ve got coaches who we’ve got to get squared away,” Heiler said. “Otherwise somebody else might hire them.”
Heiler then moved to amend the proposal to take out the academic bonuses, so that Barnes’ contract would otherwise be approved.
Two Regents, Ridenour and Ram Krishna, voted against amending the contract to remove the academic bonuses. But once the measure passed with all others voting for it, a subsequent motion to pass the contract as amended passed unanimously.
Barnes’ performance bonuses, worth up to $240,000 annually, created no such discussion. She can get $10,000 if the Wildcats reach the NCAA Tournament, and $20,000 if they win their first-round game, with escalating postseason bonuses topping out at $50,000 for winning the NCAA title.
While UA men’s basketball coach Sean Miller is working on a contract through 2021-22, Hurley’s contract was extended for two years through 2023-24. Hurley will earn $2.2 million plus bonuses at ASU next season, with annual salary escalators taking him to $2.7 million in 2023-24.
Instead of receiving performance bonuses, Hurley can also increase his salary permanently if the Sun Devils hit certain achievements, such as $50,000 for winning the Pac-12 regular-season title or $75,000 for making the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Hurley was already contracted to receive an extra $1 million retention bonus if he stayed on the job by Jan. 1, 2022, and he’ll now earn an extra $500,000 if at ASU on Jan. 1, 2024.
However, Hurley must pay a buyout of $1 million if he leaves ASU in 2019-20, and $500,000 if Ray Anderson is no longer athletic director if he leaves during the same fiscal period.
Hurley’s buyout decreases each season, as does the newly proposed contract for Barnes, who would have to pay $1 million if she leaves UA before June 30, 2020. Her buyout drops to $500,000 if she leaves during the 2020-21 school year, $200,000 in 2021-22 and just $50,000 in 2022-23.