The NCAA’s mission statement is clear: “The educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.”
So if that’s part of the core mission of college athletics, should coaches, who are already pocketing the most money from all these sports, have to be given huge financial carrots to push their players to excel in the classroom?
UNM athletic director Paul Krebs doesn’t think so. At least not anymore.
Entering his 10th season running Lobo athletics, Krebs is no longer including incentive pay for coaches whose teams meet various academic benchmarks.
“We’ve pulled APR (academic progress rate) and academic incentives out of almost every coaching contract,” said Krebs. “We’ve got to the point where we expect performance in the classroom. We’re not going to reward you for hitting a baseline average academic performance.”
Men’s basketball coach Craig Neal had academic incentives in his contract as recently as April 2013, but they were removed when he received a pay raise and extension last offseason. The same can be said for women’s coach Yvonne Sanchez’s new contract signed in April.
“Some people may read into it that we don’t value academics,” Krebs said. “I would want people to read into it that we expect academic performance.”
Every school in the Mountain West Conference includes language in coaching contracts that stipulates that any bonus – academic or otherwise – may be forfeited if a program is placed on academic probation. But few are taking the same approach as UNM by not offering extra pay when academic benchmarks are met.
And some of those benchmarks aren’t exactly very ambitious.
Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter can receive bonuses of up to $335,000 – $77,000 more than his base salary – for his team meeting certain academic goals. He can earn a $75,000 bonus for his team achieving an academic progress rate score of 935, just five points above the minimum required to avoid potential probation and the loss of scholarships.
At least three football or men’s basketball coaches in the league get bonus pay for team grade-point averages as low as 2.5.
“We’ve come to the position that we have high expectations for the program,” Krebs said. “You’re going to be paid accordingly, but we’re not going to be as lavish with the incentives because there are certain things we expect out of your program.”