CHAMPAIGN — A contract extension for Brad Underwood was always on the table after the 2020-21 season.
A season that saw Illinois men’s basketball rise to the top tier of the Big Ten, win the conference tournament title and claim both the No. 2 spot in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll of the season and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Discussions about an extension following the season and into summer turned into one more year on Underwood’s deal Thursday. The extension will go into effect pending approval by the UI Board of Trustees at its Sept. 23 meeting.
It’s a significant investment for Illinois. The one-year extension will keep Underwood in Champaign through the 2026-27 season following the three-year extension he received in March 2020. Underwood is set to make a base salary of $3.5 million for the upcoming season, with his salary increasing to $3.8 million for the 2022-23 season, $3.9 million for the 2023-24 season, $4 million for the 2024-25 season, $4.1 million for the 2025-26 season and $4.2 for the 2026-27 season.
“It was just four years ago that we brought Coach Underwood here with the vision he and I shared of returning Illinois basketball to national prominence, and he has delivered,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “The ‘Everyday Guys’ culture he has developed defines our locker room and permeates every facet of the program. Coach’s tenants of hard work, accountability, toughness and team-first mindset are just a few of the principles he has instilled in our student-athletes. Coach, his staff and the players have relentlessly maintained their high expectations, and the results have followed.”
Underwood originally signed a six-year contract when he was hired in March 2017. His annual compensation in that initial deal started at $2.75 million in year one and escalated each season before topping out at $3.25 million in year six. The three-year extension Underwood received in March 2020 moved his base salary to $3.408 million this past year with escalators that would grow his salary to $4 million by the 2025-26 season.
The terms of Underwood’s latest extension fully guarantee his compensation through the next four years. Underwood’s buyout — what he would owe the university should he accept other employment — will also increase in line with his salary. His current buyout is $8 million.
Underwood’s revised contract will also include bonus opportunities for reaching milestones like making the NCAA tournament and other mutually agreed upon metrics. His previous contract stipulated any NCAA tournament appearance between 2022 and 2025 would allow for subsequent contract extensions potentially reaching the 2029-30 season.
“It is the honor of a lifetime to be the head coach here at the University of Illinois,” Underwood said in a statement. “The history, the players and the passionate fan base are part of what makes this job so special. But another key that sets us apart is our leadership, and I am so fortunate to work with Josh Whitman. His passion for the University of Illinois and championship vision for our athletic department inspires everyone. His investment in resources to continually push our basketball program forward and his unyielding support makes this feel not like a job, but a partnership. As a relationship-driven person, it has made the process so much more enjoyable and rewarding.
“I’m proud of our players and staff for what we’ve accomplished to date. But to be blunt, that’s over. We are in a hyper-competitive climate where anyone who rests on accomplishments gets left behind. So we have to keep pushing forward. Yet the foundation of our philosophy remains.
“We will work — in the classroom, in the community and in the gym — with relentless effort. That is the process for producing everyday guys who will compete at a championship level. We are excited to work together to accomplish these lofty goals.”