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UA salary cuts will affect Arizona's athletic department, especially if Sean Miller, Kevin Sumlin are involved
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Arizona Athletics

UA salary cuts will affect Arizona's athletic department, especially if Sean Miller, Kevin Sumlin are involved

Arizona’s university-wide financial mitigation plan could result in at least $3 million in athletic department salary cuts, and more if the contracts of highly paid coaches such as football’s Kevin Sumlin and basketball’s Sean Miller are included.

Head coaches at Arizona sign employment contracts that do not specifically state what happens when a pandemic or other event forces cancellation of events and/or extreme financial hardship. Multiple attempts to clarify the issue were not successful Friday.

However, before UA president Robert C. Robbins announced the university’s furloughs and pay cuts Friday, Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke told the Star that contracted coaches “need to be considered in different ways” when asked if they could be forced to take a pay cut.

“They are contracted in specific manners, so there are very complex and ongoing conversations that are going on right now about how to do that,” Heeke said. “I think everyone recognizes the significance and the seriousness of where we are, and I would anticipate that people would do things to help support the overall cause of the university and more specifically athletic department.

“But those are very personal and specific conversations with contracted employees.”

Sumlin is scheduled to be Arizona’s highest-paid athletic department staffer in 2020-21 at $3.5 million, and Miller is contracted to receive $1.8 million in base salary and another $700,000 in university-paid peripheral duties compensation. A 20% cut in their those two university-paid amounts would be a total of $1.2 million.

Miller’s contract states his salary is to be paid “consistent with University and state rules and regulations,” and another item notes that “compensation for each succeeding year(s) beyond the current fiscal year is expressly made contingent upon the availability of funds.”

Robbins told the Star that the cuts would be the same for athletic department employees, even though the athletic department is self-funded for the most part, but also said some employees were not required to participate in the furloughs.

Under a plan approved by the Arizona Board of Regents on Friday, UA employees making up to $44,449 annually must take furloughs equaling a 5% pay cut, while those between $44,500 and $75,000 are to take furlough days equaling a 10% cut, and those between $75,001 and $150,000 are to take furlough days equaling a 15% pay cut.

Employees making over $150,001 will receive straight pay cuts: For those between $150,001 and $199,000 the cut is 17%, and those making $200,000 or more get cut 20%.

Heeke said Thursday that salaries make up nearly 40% of the athletic department’s budget. UA reported $85.7 million in expenses in 2018-19, according to the U.S. Department of Education, suggesting a salary budget of about $34 million. A conservative average of a 10% pay cut would therefore be $3.4 million.

Arizona reported $16.2 million in total salaries paid to its coaches in 2018-19, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics database. Of that, Arizona said its men’s coaches were paid a total of $12.5 million — $6.34 million for its head coaches and $6.13 million for assistant coaches. On the women’s side, head coaches earned a collective $2.01 million and assistants $1.71 million.

Sumlin was paid $2 million annually during the 2018 and 2019 seasons from Arizona, with his salary scheduled to increase in 2020. USA Today’s 2019 assistant coach database said his assistants earned another $2.99 million collectively.

Miller earned $2.4 million from UA last season while his assistants earned a combined $900,000. Since all UA basketball assistants make more than $200,000, their combined pay cut would have been $180,000 if assistant coach Justin Gainey had not left earlier this month for Marquette.

The UA implemented a hiring freeze immediately after the coronavirus stopped college sports, Heeke said. As a result, Arizona has moved on-campus recruiter David Miller ($110,000 per year) into a temporary assistant coach’s role.

Heeke told athletic department employees and fans this week that the department was facing a $7.5 million shortfall through June 30. The $7.5 million is offset somewhat by a $1.2 million savings in spring sports operations expenses that never happened, Heeke said, but added the net $6.3 million shortfall included $2.5 million to $3 million in Pac-12/NCAA revenues that were not received and $750,000 in spring sports revenue.

Heeke did not offer specifics about the remainder of that shortfall but said much of it was due to a decline in ticket renewals, which are only at about 35% now.

“People are waiting to see if the seasons are gonna happen,” Heeke said. “We have people who are renewing tickets. We have others who are just waiting.”

The shortfall may plunge Arizona’s athletic department into the red if reductions aren’t made — even if football season is played on time in the fall.

UA reported a surplus of $16.5 million in 2018-19, according to the U.S. Department of Education, a figure that does not include about $11 million Arizona paid in debt service for facilities.

Factoring in the debt service payment, Heeke said, UA actually had only a $4.8 million surplus in 2018-19 and was about on the same course this spring before the pandemic hit. So instead of a similar $4.8 million surplus in 2019-20, UA’s athletic department could have a loss of about $1.5 million.

At least, that is. Heeke said the shortfall won’t be any less than $6.3 million — the $7.5 million offset by the savings of not playing certain spring sports.

“We’re always shooting to balance the budget,” Heeke said. “I want to try to find ways to continue to have surplus so that we can appropriately have a little bit of a flex zone in case there are issues. But now, again, I can’t even add that up anymore. This budget has just been ravaged with lack of revenue.”

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