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Coach has 2 million reasons to smile

Citizen Staff Writer
UA Wildcat Basketball



A “handshake deal” for $2 million a year makes the University of Arizona’s new head basketball coach the institution’s highest paid employee.

Sean Miller’s annual salary is $1.6 million from UA athletic department funds and $400,000 from Nike and IMG, a Moby Dick-sized sports, entertainment and marketing company.

Former coach Lute Olson’s annual salary totaled $1.1 million.

The terms of Miller’s five-year contract were made public at a UA news conference Tuesday and include the intention to seek an extension after two years.

Arizona Board of Regents policy precludes contracts longer than five years, and head coaching contracts have to be approved by the board.

“All these things in a sense are a handshake deal until (regents) approval,” said Athletic Director Jim Livengood.

Miller’s contract includes a $1 million signing bonus, a one-time retention incentive of $2.1 million if he stays for seven years, and up to $985,000 a year in incentives that depend on Miller’s ability to meet certain athletic and academic goals.

UA also is on the hook for the buyout of Miller’s contract with Xavier University in Cincinnati for an amount “not to exceed $400,000.” Miller was head coach at Xavier the past five years.

The 40-year-old coach’s compensation package also includes the use of two courtesy cars, season tickets to men’s basketball and football, season passes to UA softball, baseball and volleyball, a country club membership and 30 hours of private jet time per year.

UA representatives said they did not know the cost of the non-monetary portions of Miller’s contract.

If the coach were to leave for any reason before the fifth season, he would have to pay the university $500,000 to buy out the remainder of his contract.

Livengood fielded a number of questions about the appropriateness of Miller’s salary during an economic downturn.

“It is important to make sure everyone knows we’re not talking about tuition dollars or state dollars,” Livengood said.

He said the poor economic climate nationally and state budget cutbacks at UA makes it “the worst possible time” to offer a multimillion dollar contract in sports, “but we didn’t pick the time.”

UA’s athletic department is self-supporting through numerous avenues, Livengood said, including gate receipts, TV contracts, fundraising and private donations.

The university has suffered $77 million in budget cutbacks since July, resulting in the loss of 200 jobs, and departmental mergers, with expectations that it will only get worse next year, when the state is facing an estimated $3 billion revenue shortfall.

Approval of head coaching contracts takes two Board of Regents meetings, according to Regent Robert Bulla, which means Miller’s contract won’t be officially approved until June unless the regents call a special meeting.

Sans a special meeting, the first time the contract will be discussed will be at the regents April 30-May 1 meeting in Tucson, during closed session.

Final approval would be June 18 or 19 at Northern Arizona University.

Miller’s UA contract includes $2.1M retention incentive


(5 years, with extension after 2 years)

Base annual salary $1.6 million

Outside annual salary* $400,000

Signing bonus $1 million

Total over 5 years $11 million

Possible yearly incentives $985,000

* Contracted/paid by NIKE, IMG


The University of Arizona’s top two academic leaders do not make it into the top 10 list of salaries currently paid at UA*:

• Sean Miller, head men’s basketball coach: $2 million

• Michael Stoops, head football coach: $685,288

• William M. Crist, vice president of Health Affairs: $650,000

• Rainer Gruessner, University Medical Center surgery department head: $590,000

• Jack Copeland, UMC surgery professor: $574,999

• Steven Goldschmid, College of Medicine dean: $510,600

• Gulshank Sethi, professor of surgery: $499,000

• David S. Alberts, Regents professor, College of Medicine: $465,454

• Tim B. Hunter, department head, radiology: $462,000

• Keith Joiner, professor, College of Medicine: $440,000

• UA President Robert N. Shelton earns $420,000 annually and Provost Meredith Hay earns $350,000.

* All salaries are current as of this academic year, based on UA salary data.

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