Updated: Trustees support contract extension for Thomas

Updated: Trustees support contract extension for Thomas

URBANA — University of Illinois trustees on Thursday expressed support for a plan to boost the athletic director's total compensation to nearly $1 million.

At the same time, one trustee called for a future discussion about big salaries in collegiate athletics.

The proposal, which goes to the full UI Board of Trustees for approval later this month, calls for increasing Mike Thomas' base salary to $554,321 and extending the contract by two years. Thomas' current salary is nearly $504,000 and the contract is set to expire Aug. 28, 2016. According to the proposal, it will be extended another two years.

In addition, he will eligible to receive up to $300,000 extra each year he meets certain goals related to the performance of the UI's sports teams, raising money for the programs and achieving benchmarks related to academic achievement of athletes.

If he stays for five years, he's also eligible to receive $100,000 a year for a total of $500,000.

Those numbers are "pretty big," said UI trustee James Montgomery.

"I understand there is an athletic enterprise that produces the revenue. Nonetheless, from a public perception point of view we sometimes pay more for athletics than academics. I thought that's a dialogue that at some time we have to talk about," Montgomery said. "And I know it's not just us, it is the entire collegiate football and athletic business. But that's a lot of money."

The average base salary for an athletic director in the Big Ten is $603,967, according to a university document. Taking in other bonuses, the average total direct compensation for an athletic director in the Big Ten is $989,673.

The total value of Thomas' total direct compensation is currently $838,330. According the proposal, that number would increase to $988,723.

"We are not out of line at all compared with our peers," UI Provost Ilesanmi Adesida said.

Ask columnist Tom Kacich about AD's contract here

Thomas was hired in 2011 from the University of Cincinnati. As AD, he has fired several coaches, most notably Bruce Weber, Ron Zook and Jolette Law, and he has hired John Groce, Tim Beckman and Matt Bollant.

At Thursday's meeting, none of the trustees mentioned the football team, which finished the season 4-8. But they did praise Thomas for securing State Farm's $60 million commitment for the renovation of State Farm Center and for his focus on academics.

Thomas, Adesida said, has demonstrated leadership in developing successful student-athletes in "the field and in the classroom."

"When you look at what Mike has done, the successes of our students, in bringing in gift funds but also looking at all the Olympic sports, in total he's done very well here," he said.

"There's room to improve always," Adesida added.

"I definitely support the recommendation," Trustee Pam Strobel said. "I'm not about to judge how he's picked coaches or anything like that. From what I can see, we have a good athletic director and I'm happy to see the contract extended."

When Thomas started at the UI, his base salary was $475,000. His current contract also had made him eligible to receive annual bonuses worth up to $200,000 for meeting specific goals.


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STM wrote on January 09, 2014 at 8:01 am

I vote no.

Dump him.

cretis16 wrote on January 09, 2014 at 9:01 am

Gotta  be Beckmans godfather.....whew....what  a poor hire. Oh well, it's only tax dollars and only $500,000....go ahead and spend.

billbtri5 wrote on January 09, 2014 at 10:01 am

give it a little more time...

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 09, 2014 at 12:01 pm

What does the Busey Bank Board think about the deal?  Losing seasons do not make a difference to the Cubs revenue.  Why should it matter with the U of I?  They can always keep giving away tickets for the stands to the university staff.  It looks better than having empty seats, or having mannequins in them.  Maybe; he can pick up some more money advertising Wonder Bread, or State Farm Insurance?

It will be the athletic association donors who make the decision anyway.  If he is willing to wear a war bonnet, and paint his face; he will get a raise.

Jam wrote on January 09, 2014 at 12:01 pm

He has done a good job.  I appreciate the effort to get the UI effort out to the whole state including Chicago.  This is the image that needs to grow.  The UI cannot be the East Central Illinois Universtiy in Champaign-Urbana.  Granted winning teams will make this easier.  The effort is good.  Will Beckman be able to stay around.  That is a wait and see matter.  From previous comments from Thomas I think that he expects better results this year and into the future.  Extending his contract is a good move.

Local Yocal wrote on January 09, 2014 at 3:01 pm
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1) Reduce Thomas' salary to no more than what it's really worth: $150,000. Coaches too: no more than $200,000 a year. 

2) Pay the Basketball and Football players according to their value, no more than $25,000-a-semester. Pay whatever athletes from the other sports you deem worthy. Salary cap is $25,000 a semester.

3) Offer lifetime scholarships to the athletes. You play 4 years at Illinois, you can earn as many degrees as you need for the rest of your life.

4) Accept banishment from post-season play by the NCAA for "paying the players." Lead the nation in a conversation about how student-athletes are being used as meat to advance the greedy interests of the sports-industrial complex. Realize that within 5 years, the rest of the country will catch up to the compassionate vision first established at the University of Illinois.

5) Enjoy the incredible blue-chip recruits who will flock to the program, and watch them be the best teams not allowed to play post-season for a little while.

It's probably too hard to do the right thing under the current ethical atmosphere at the U of I, but in the long run, it would be worth it. Sports would be re-prioritized back into the backseat and instead, young people's education and development would be first and foremost. (Go ahead and steal this for later, N-G editorial staff) 

bluegrass wrote on January 10, 2014 at 6:01 am

1) Reduce Thomas' salary to no more than what it's really worth: $150,000. Coaches too: no more than $200,000 a year.

That's fine for a number that you pull out of thin air, but the market bears a different price. 

With regard to paying players, you have an interesting idea to just pay and accept the penalty.  I have been an advocate of paying players for a long time.  Billions are made every year off of these athletes, and they get the equivalent of a few thousand bucks in college tuition.  It's ridiculous.  I also have been an advocate of banning coaches who have a history of cheating.  The biggest joke in the NCAA is to have someonelike John Calipari at one of the top basketball schools in the country.  Maybe if a couple of the top football schools in the SEC did it, or maybe Duke or Louisville in basketball, but IL is not competetive enough to make a difference.  Blue Chip players want to play in the post season and win championships.  They're thinking about making millions in the pros, not $25 grand.  Blue chips are playing 1 or 2 years and they're gone.  Besides, why cap it at $25,000?  Why is a coach worth $200k, and a player only worth $25k?  However, that's the negative.  The positive is that it could draw attention to the situation, and it would be all over ESPN 24 hours a day, and I might just be a debbie downer about a great idea. 


Sid Saltfork wrote on January 10, 2014 at 7:01 am

Local; I understand your concern regarding college athletics, but who would they play?  The sentence meted out by the NCAA would be much greater than post season play banishment.  They hang people in Texas for saying what you propose.  A major industry, the NCAA, which brings revenue to the universities, media, apparel manufacturers, and local businesses would be enraged along with the fans.  Your plan would bring attention to the subject; but the cost would be high esspecially for the student athlete who is only a pawn in the matter.        

STM wrote on January 10, 2014 at 7:01 am

No it's not a "good move," Thomas is overpaid for a turnkey job of keeping our athletic programs mediocre.  Don't get me wrong, I've been here a long time.  I'm okay with mediocre in athletics.  Just don't overpay the guy.  There are a lot of people out there who could do his job.

Might be a good time for new faces on the Board of Trustees.  Don't get me started on Wise....sheesh!  What is Busey thinking?  I'm wandering off the subject.  Back to work...

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 10, 2014 at 8:01 am

A graphic of the highest paid public employees in the US based on job title.


Just saying...

Local Yocal wrote on January 10, 2014 at 11:01 am
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Bluegrass may be right that blue chippers want to play in post-season and would not be attracted to what is essentially lunch money to the 7-figure contracts they can garner professionally. The idea is that the rules barring payment to athletes would eventually be overthrown and Illinois could lead the way while the rest of the nation debates and catches up.

The $25,000 cap would set the national standard to prevent the bigger schools from buying all the talent. No need to perpetuate the Yankees.

A lifetime scholarship seems like a no-brainer however. The money made off these athletes is so great and their time to concentrate on the rigors of real college is unrealistic. Sure, every now and then a genius like Nick Smith and Jay Lehman come along and can play varsity and finish in three years, but the vast majority of players struggle to get their little communication and recreational degrees.
That's not a put-down, I could barely keep up having a part-time job. The university could show a little gratitude toward these players, in fact all athletes and say, you wear the colors, you generate the ticket sales and television contracts, you get to go to school here for as long as you need.

We can all agree that regardless of the market, the pay for entertainers to "teach" games, has gone off the rails as a priority and is obsene. The only faculty worth a Groce-like salary is an alternative fuel professor, if only there were such a thing.