UI trustees may extend Groce's contract
URBANA — Basketball coach John Groce was rewarded with a $200,000 raise, and a $25,000 bonus, after his first Illini team made the NCAA tournament in 2013.
This year's team failed to reach the tournament, with the Illini losing in the second round of the NIT.
But University of Illinois trustees are again considering an amendment to Groce's contract, with a possible extension of his five-year agreement. He currently earns $1.6 million annually, plus incentives.
Officials won't provide any details, but the UI Board of Trustees' Governance, Personnel and Ethics Committee will meet Thursday and review an agenda item reading: "amend multiyear contract with head varsity men's basketball coach."
Committee Chair Pamela Strobel said Monday she couldn't discuss the details of the proposed amendment until the committee reviews it on Thursday. The committee does not usually take formal votes on agenda items; the full board would vote at its regular meeting July 24 in Chicago.
Athletic officials did not return calls or would not comment on Groce's contract details.
UI spokesman Tom Hardy said the items on the committee's agenda are still drafts, and could be changed or even pulled before the meetings.
"We want to hold our public comments about it until then," he said.
Trustee Karen Hasara said Monday she hadn't seen the agenda item. But she added, "Unless it's totally out of line, the trustees usually trust the athletic director to do what's right."
"Before I could judge, I would have to get more detail. I know he's very popular," she said.
Athletic directors typically extend contracts and award raises to show confidence in their coaches and ward off negative recruiting by other schools.
Groce's original contract called for a base salary of $400,000 annually, plus $1 million in additional compensation for media and marketing activities. He also gets incentive payments of $25,000 to $250,000 each year for meeting specific goals, such as a Big Ten tournament title or NCAA tournament appearance.
Last year, he received a one-year extension through the 2017-18 season and a bump of $200,000, bringing his annual compensation $1.6 million.
In January, when trustees agreed to boost Athletic Director Mike Thomas' total compensation to nearly $1 million, Trustee James Montgomery called for a future discussion about big salaries in collegiate athletics.
The UI isn't alone, he said at the time, "but that's a lot of money."
Hasara and Hardy said they haven't heard much discussion since that meeting. Montgomery did not return a call to The News-Gazette.
While defending Thomas' raise, Chancellor Phyllis Wise also expressed concern in a January interview with The News-Gazette.
"I believe that the athletic salaries are on a different scale than academic salaries, but we have to keep them connected," she said at the time, adding, "the success of the university, in part, is seen through the eyes of athletics, and vice versa." "I think it's a national problem and not one that the university can fix, or even one that the Big Ten can fix," Wise said.
John Groce's current compensation package
Contract: Runs through April 30, 2018. Original five-year contract was extended by one year in April 2013.
Annual base pay: $400,000, from athletic department income.
Additional pay: $1.2 million a year for media and marketing appearances, shoe/apparel sponsorships, etc., paid with income from those contracts. (Increased from $1 million in April 2013.)
Athletic incentives: $25,000 to $250,000 each year for meeting various goals.
Academic incentives: Up to $50,000 a year if players meet certain standards.
Deferred compensation: $100,000 a year, or $500,000 total, for staying five years. Other perks: Country club membership and two automobiles (for him and his wife) with insurance paid.
Bonuses in John Groce's current UI basketball contract:
Big Ten title: $125,000
Big Ten tournament title: $50,000
NCAA tournament: $25,000
Sweet 16: $50,000
Elite Eight: $75,000
Final Four: $100,000
National title: $250,000
National Coach of the Year: $50,000