UI trustees consider finalizing extension, raise for Thomas

CHICAGO — University of Illinois trustees are expected to boost the athletic director's salary and extend his contract today.

If approved, Mike Thomas could potentially earn almost 27 percent more than when he arrived on campus in the fall of 2011.

As UI athletic director, Thomas oversees an annual budget of $77 million. In his first year, he earned a base salary of $475,000. That amount has gone up to $504,000, and according to the proposal before the board, his base salary would increase to $554,321.

UI officials also want to reward Thomas by increasing the amount he could earn annually in bonuses. In addition to the base pay, Thomas could be paid up to $300,000 (up from $200,000 per the current contract) for meeting certain fundraising goals, athletic achievements (such as teams advancing to championships) and meeting academic benchmarks.

In forwarding the compensation proposal, UI officials cited Thomas' fundraising success (namely the $60 million naming rights contract with State Farm) and emphasis on student academic achievement and team successes. Those teams advancing to championships in recent years include men's golf, women's indoor track and field, men's tennis and women's soccer.

Grade-point averages for athletes have ticked higher, from 3.05 in the 2011-12 academic year to 3.12 in 2012-13. Several teams earned perfect 1,000 NCAA Academic Progress Rates, according to the university.

The UI's "student-athlete graduation success rate" also inched higher from 89 percent in 2012 to 90 percent in 2013. The "graduation success rate," as defined by the NCAA, is a six-year rate that takes into account incoming transfers who graduate from a different college or university and student athletes who transfer, in good standing, to another institution, according to the UI's athletic department.

(The six-year graduation rate, according to federal education standards for UI student-athletes, was 80 percent for the 2006-07 cohort, up from 74 percent for those who started in 2005-2006.)

The total value of Thomas' total direct compensation is currently $838,330, and the proposal would increase that number to $988,723. The average base salary for an athletic director in the Big Ten is $603,967, according to the university. Including other bonuses, the average total direct compensation for an athletic director in the Big Ten is $989,673.

Thomas' contract is set to expire Aug. 28, 2016, and is proposed to be extended another two years. If Thomas stays for five years, he's also eligible to receive $100,000 a year for a total of $500,000.

Capital projects

Trustees are expected to sign off on financing for the $165 million State Farm Center renovation and the next phase in the redevelopment of the residence and dining hall complex commonly called the "Six Pack" in Champaign.

Trustees have been asked to authorize a revenue bond sale planned for this spring.

The estimated loan amount is $240 million; however, the board is being asked to approve a plan for the amount not to exceed $270 million. The UI will issue a combination of tax-exempt and taxable 30-year bonds.

The State Farm Center project kicked off last month with some preliminary earth work and utility site work. It will be done in phases to accommodate the basketball seasons, with the center to be completely finished by the start of the 2016-17 basketball season.

Also being financed from the bond sale is the continued development of the Ikenberry Commons residence and dining hall complex between Gregory and Peabody drives in Champaign. A planned $76.7 million residential hall with 500 beds will be the third new hall to be built there. The project includes demolition of the old Taft-Van Doren residence halls at 1213-1215 S. Fourth St., C.

Football assistants

Among the many other appointments and raises up for approval today is a salary bump for offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.

The UI has proposed to extend the assistant coach's contract to Jan. 31, 2016, and increase his salary by $100,000 for a total annual salary of $500,000, as previously reported.

Cubit's base salary is $250,000, and his annual increment for television, radio, education, public relations and other promotional activities is currently $150,000. The university proposes to increase that amount to $250,000.

In addition, the UI is expected to extend by one year the contract of assistant football coach Aleksey Golesh to Jan. 31, 2016. Golesh, tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, earns an annual salary of $200,000.

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