President Hogan complained about coach's contract, bowl game trip
URBANA — Newly released emails  shed further light on strains between University of Illinois President Michael Hogan and Chancellor Phyllis Wise, this time over two athletic issues.
In a Jan. 5 email to the chancellor — the same one in which Hogan accused Wise of a "lack of leadership" on a controversial enrollment management plan — Hogan expressed frustration over the terms of the five-year, $9 million contract for head football coach Tim Beckman. He also complained about the campus' arrangements for him at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl game on Dec. 31.
Hogan's email, and Wise's Jan. 8 reply, were among the documents released last month under a Freedom of Information Act request by The News-Gazette for communications related to enrollment management. The UI had blocked out most of the two emails because those sections were unrelated to enrollment management, so The News-Gazette submitted a separate FOIA request for them. The UI released the emails this week, though it still redacted several sections under exemptions allowed under the law.
The two emails sparked strong reactions among some faculty on campus and were cited in a recent letter signed by 130 top professors criticizing Hogan's leadership style.
Beckman, who was hired Dec. 9, will be paid $1.6 million this year, with guaranteed $100,000 annual raises and another $500,000 bonus if he stays for five years. He earned $400,000 a year at the University of Toledo.
In the email, Hogan referred to a previous "strained discussion" with Wise about Beckman's contract and then, after a portion that is heavily redacted, continued: "To this minute I have not seen a draft of the entire contract! You may recall when we met with Mike (Thomas) and Tim (Beckman) at the house to interview him, Mike gave us a term sheet with several bullet points regarding the terms he was proposing. This was the first I had seen of it, and you said the same. I was surprised then (remaining portion is redacted)."
Later, Hogan continued, "As I said yesterday, I will send the contract to the Board when it finally gets here, but I cannot say at this point if I will ... (redacted)."
The UI Board of Trustees approved the contract Jan. 19 on a 7-2 vote. Trustees Lawrence Oliver and James Montgomery voted no, protesting the UI's failure to hire an African-American head coach in football or men's basketball. Oliver also argued that the board should have had a "meaningful review" of the contract at the time Beckman was hired, not a month after the fact.
Contacted Thursday, Oliver said his quarrel was not with the provisions of the contract, but the process "from a timetable standpoint," he wrote in an email.
Wise, in an email response to Hogan dated Jan. 8, said she had taken Hogan's suggestions into account while negotiating Beckman's final contract.
"I have always considered your advice in the negotiations for Mike Thomas' and Tim Beckman's contracts. Some of your suggestions and some of mine were incorporated into Mike Thomas' contract," she wrote.
The rest of that section was heavily redacted.
UI officials declined to say what upset Hogan about the contract.
University spokesman Tom Hardy said portions of the emails were redacted because they referred to the negotiation or execution of a contract, which are exempted by the Freedom of Information Act.
"I know that the president and chancellor and Thomas were all involved in the selection of the football coach ... and it's common for the president of a university to be involved or consulted or informed at some level on a major position hire like that," Hardy said.
Speaking on behalf of Wise, campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said: "In accordance with our usual practices, the athletic director oversees negotiations of contracts with coaches. The chancellor and the president both provide input during the process, but internal discussions and deliberations about a contract are protected from public release."
Thomas also declined comment through a spokesman.
The emails also address Hogan's "disappointment" with how the bowl trip to San Francisco was managed.
Hogan attended the game and sat with Gov. Patrick Quinn and Oliver, and he was upset that they had been promised transportation, but he ended up walking.
The president was also unhappy that Wise and Thomas went down to the field for the post-game award ceremony without Hogan, Oliver and Quinn.
"I missed a great opportunity to take the Governor and Trustee Oliver to the field and the locker room with me, which they would have loved," Hogan wrote.
The president continued: "Whoever the president is, he or she ... (redacted). I mean no disrespect to you or your office. In fact, I was looking to invite you and Mike to join me on the field, figuring Mike would know how to get us down there."
After another blacked-out paragraph, he added, "I expect you to be an advocate for the campus, of course, but also an advocate for the Board and the president as we push forward with an agenda that you knew about when you accepted the job. I was not happy, as you know, when you sought to roll back the changes we have made in HR and IT, etc., and with your lack of leadership on enrollment management."
Hogan was referring to changes made last year to appoint a university-level chief information officer and director of human resources to coordinate those operations on the three campuses, part of an administrative restructuring that sparked concerns about more centralized university control. The move prompted the resignation of the Urbana campus chief information officer, Sally Jackson, who felt it could harm the campus' status as a world leader in information technology.
In her Jan. 8 email response to Hogan, Wise said she'd been told transportation arrangements had been made for Hogan and the others at the bowl game, including escorts down to the field. She had gone to sit with other UI supporters for the second half but said she would have tried to correct the situation if he had contacted her by text or phone.
Regarding his broader criticisms, Wise said, in part:
"I have talked about the fact an excellent University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign goes hand in hand with a strong University of Illinois as a whole (almost the precise words you used when you recruited me). I have talked about partnering with you and with the other Chancellors in all of these endeavors. I have never criticized you or the Board in terms of centralization of IT, HR or any other initiatives. In sum, I have not said anything that I wouldn't have said if you were standing next to me."
Hardy has characterized the discussions reflected in the emails as "robust" and said a frank debate on issues is healthy.
He said the argument over the bowl game arrangements was "one of those logistical issues — things didn't go as well as they could have or should have."
"It was just an expression of some disappointment about the way events unfolded, particularly as it applied to university guests, including the governor," Hardy said, adding that context is often lost in emails. "If some people interpret a certain tone ... then I guess so be it."
News-Gazette staff writer Christine des Garennes contributed to this report.