College basketball officials are still navigating the ramifications of a canceled NCAA Tournament.
According to The Mercury News, schools in the Pac-12 Conference are trying to determine whether or not to pay coaches bonuses for reaching the season-ending tournament that was canceled on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University of Oregon, which went 24-7 and was ranked 13th in the final Associated Press poll, has said it’s paying men’s basketball coach Dana Altman the $25,000 performance bonus in his contract. Oregon is also honoring the $25,000 bonus for women’s coach Kelly Graves, whose team was 31-2 and ranked second in the final AP poll.
According to The Oregonian, Oregon’s three men’s assistant coaches will each receive $10,000 bonuses, while the women’s assistants will get $5,000 bonuses.
“It’s a no-brainer there because you have dual success for the men’s and women’s team and because Oregon looks at those relationships long-term,” said Josh Gordon, a senior instructor of Sports Business at Oregon. “But I don’t think (Oregon) would have been under legal obligation to do it.”
No other Pac-12 men’s basketball teams were ranked in the final AP poll, making it harder for the rest of the schools to determine whether or not those coaches earned their postseason bonus. On the women’s side, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon State and Arizona State were all ended the season ranked by the AP.
“It’s interesting, because if you look at it through the legal lens, you could argue (the bonuses) aren’t binding,” Gordon said. “But from a relationship lens, it’s a short-term investment in a long-term relationship, and that could be smart.”
The other Pac-12 men’s basketball coaches with a chance of making the tournament were Arizona’s Sean Miller, whose contract has escalating payments for each round of the tournament; Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley, who would receive $75,000 for making the final 32 teams; Colorado’s Tad Boyle, who’s due a $105,000 bonus for reaching the tournament; UCLA’s Mick Cronin, who gets a $25,000 bonus for reaching the tournament; and USC’s Andy Enfield and Stanford’s Jerod Haase, whose contracts are not known because they coach at private schools.
“I would imagine that most of these would not get paid out, especially given the large economic impact (of coronavirus),” said Gordon, who expects most of the contracts have wording that frees the schools from paying bonuses due to an unexpected event. “The head coaches could dig in their heels, but they would lose that PR battle.
“People have tremendous empathy for the student athletes who couldn’t finish their seasons. But head coaches have longer lifespans, and I don’t think the public would have a lot of tolerance for a coach who pushed for a bonus.”
The NCAA has acted to support athletes who lost a season, giving all spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility. According to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein, it’s unlikely that men’s and women’s basketball players will receive that same benefit. Rothstein reports that the policy would expand to all winter athletes, many of whom had finished or were nearly finished with their seasons.