Salaries at the University of Illinois are on the rise, despite cuts in state aid. Each of the top 10 positions on the flagship Urbana campus payroll exceed $500,000 for the first time, led by head football coach Lovie Smith at $3 million per year and head basketball coach Brad Underwood ($2.75 million).

Based on 2017-18 salary data, more than 600 IU employees make $150,000 or more annually, including more than 100 whose salaries exceed $250,000. This is despite a two-year budget impasse and the permanent loss to the university of $463 million in state support.

Turnover played a role in certain salary increases, including that of Smith, whose list-topping salary replaced former football coach Tim Beckman’s $1.8 million.  

“We’re in a marketplace of higher education, and it's a competitive marketplace,” UI executive vice president Barb Wilson, who earns $450,000 a year, told The News-Gazette of Champaign. “If we don’t stay competitive, we lose people.”

About half of the university's payroll is funded by tuition and fees or taxpayer dollars, according to The News-Gazette. Coaches' salaries are funded with athletic income, including some student fees. Professors with endowed chairs get part of their salary from donors. Some faculty members earn income from research grants, and many academic professionals are on "soft money," external funding from grants or foundations, Wilson said.

Paul Steinbach is Senior Editor of Athletic Business.