While approving a revised contract for Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes on Thursday, the Arizona Board of Regents vowed to consider updating guidelines that could reduce the possibility of disagreements over future revisions.
The regents approved a five-year contract paying Barnes $400,000 next season in June, and on Thursday moved that base figure to $407,500 while increasing the thresholds her players will need to trigger grade-point average bonuses.
In June, UA proposed paying Barnes a $30,000 bonus if the Wildcats achieved a 3.10 GPA or a $15,000 bonus if they finished between 2.70 and 3.09 — even though UA had a 3.19 GPA already in 2017-18.
Regent Lyndel Manson then expressed concern about the jump from Barnes’ previous salary of $235,000 and for an academic bonus structure that would reward Barnes even if her team’s GPA slipped. That sparked a long discussion among the regents.
On Thursday, UA athletic director Dave Heeke came back with a proposal to offer Barnes $45,000 for a 3.69 GPA, $30,000 for a 3.30 GPA or $7,500 for a GPA of 2.80. The lowest threshold was eventually stricken and $7,500 was added to Barnes’ base salary instead.
“A slight adjustment in the base salary reflects the changing culture that has already occurred,” Heeke told the regents. “The growth in the program and the successful academic atmosphere, the GPA that exists today, is acknowledged now within her base salary as we go forward.”
In comments before the contract was voted on, Manson voiced approval.
“Adia has done a spectacular job with her team,” Manson said. “I wanted to acknowledge that and I also wanted to say how much I appreciate the U of A’s willingness to go back and have this discussion, and work through the process to come to something that I think that we are all very, very pleased with.”
In an attempt to speed that process in the future, Manson and regent Jay Heiler will now look at guidelines for coaching contracts.
Regent chair Larry Penley said UA, ASU and NAU have collectively proposed “considerable changes” to contracts in the past year or 18 months, and that he expected more changes in the future.
He said general counsel informed him that the regents had not looked at the guidelines in recent memory, so the board asked Manson and Heiler to do so. Manson has a background in business, while Heiler is a lawyer and political consultant who has coached youth basketball teams.
“I’ve asked Regent Manson and Heiler to really look at these guidelines, consult with our athletic directors and really come back to this board and present some recommendations, if necessary, for any guidelines,” Penley said, “so that we can have a policy that perhaps avoids the situation we’ve had here, where a school is working with a coach and then the board says, ‘well, we’d like a little more on that contract.’
“That’s a very tough situation, because contracts have to be negotiated in a way that sometimes requires speed. It requires a bit of agility and a lot of back and forth.”
Heiler did not attend Thursday’s meeting and was unavailable for comment afterward, but he said at the June meeting that he advised against waiting until August to approve Barnes’ contract because of market forces.
“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.”
The bonus structure for another academic bonus, regarding Academic Progress Ratings, remains unchanged. Barnes will be paid $10,000 if the four-year rolling average score is at least 971, which is below UA’s most recent score of 987, and $15,000 if it is a perfect 1,000.
Barnes’ contract also pays her previously approved retention bonuses starting next summer that will effectively increase her salary by $25,000 annually, to a maximum of $507,500 by the final year of the contract in 2023-24.