Groce's Akron job will save UI some dough

Groce's Akron job will save UI some dough

CHAMPAIGN — Basketball coach John Groce could earn twice as much money next year from the school that fired him than from his new employer.

Groce will be paid $350,000 annually for his first two years at the University of Akron, which hired him last week to head the men's basketball program, according to documents provided to The News-Gazette by the school.

But the University of Illinois, which fired Groce on March 11, still owes him the balance of between that money and his $1.7 million buyout, according to his contract.

Groce's contract called for the UI to pay him twice his $400,000 annual base salary (or $800,000) for each of the two years remaining on his contract, on a per monthly basis. That totals $1.6 million, plus about $133,000 for the seven weeks that remained on this year's contract, which ends April 30.

But the contract also said that his buyout would be offset by the salary from subsequent jobs and that Groce would make "every effort possible to land employment in a related field as soon as possible."

To the UI's good fortune, that took less than a month, and apparently saved about $700,000.

UI officials declined to comment, saying it was premature to provide specific numbers.

The UI also saved money by firing Groce before April 30, when he would have received a $500,000 five-year retention bonus. Athletic department spokesman Kent Brown said that had nothing to do with the timing of Groce's departure.

Groce's six-year contract with Akron is backloaded, paying him a $350,000 base salary for the first two seasons, when he will still be getting money from the UI.

Starting July 1, 2019, he will receive $400,000 in base salary, plus $250,000 a year ($62,500 per quarter) in "supplemental compensation," for a total of $650,000, according to the memorandum of understanding provided by Akron.

Groce also will be eligible for performance incentives of up to 40 percent of his base pay, or $140,000, the first two years. They include 5 percent for a regular-season or conference tournament championship, 8 percent for an NCAA postseason bid and 3 percent for a NCAA tournament win.

Groce's payout is far less than what his predecessor, Bruce Weber, was paid not to coach at Illinois: $3.9 million. Weber's buyout was not affected by his new job at Kansas State.

Former UI Athletic Director Mike Thomas received a $2.5 million lump-sum payment after he was fired in November 2015. He was hired in February as athletic director at Cleveland State University, but that didn't affect his payout. As with Weber, his contract did not include any offset for a new job.

At Cleveland State, Thomas has an annual base salary of $250,000, plus $80,000 in potential bonuses for academic, athletic and fundraising performance, according to Crain's.

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illinifaningeorgia wrote on April 15, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Glad to see that someone finally had the brains to put that provision in Groce's contract.

Hopefully, that will be standard procedure in all future contracts.