Las Vegas Sun

July 18, 2019

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Bad contracts costing Rebels

Ron Kantowski on how foolhardy five-year deals are putting UNLV in dire straits

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Beyond the Sun

Sometime today or Friday, after university system Chancellor Jim Rogers checks the coffee can buried in his back yard for $96 million that it won’t be getting from the governor’s office, UNLV is going to offer Kathy Olivier, its new women’s basketball coach, a lucrative five-year contract.

That’s right, another five-year contract. Like the one Mike “6-29” Sanford got to coach football. Like the one Regina Miller is still being paid for, even though she’s no longer the women’s basketball coach.

Yeah, I know five-year contracts are the “industry standard.” But this isn’t Florida or Michigan or The Ohio State University. Those are industry schools. They don’t have to look in coffee cans for money. They just have their football programs print as much as they need.

At UNLV it’s not about programs printing money. It’s about finding money to print programs.

I’m no Bob Cratchit when it comes to crunching numbers, but how can UNLV justify guaranteeing coaches with 0-0 records a fat paycheck for five years, especially with funding evaporating like a mirage in Death Valley?

And just wait until the regents see how Olivier’s contract is structured.

It will pay her $73,620 for each of her first three years but then $180,000 in her fourth year and a whopping $210,000 in her fifth. That’s an average of $122,000 a year.

But burros in the Himalayas aren’t that backloaded.

Apparently UCLA, Olivier’s former school, also needs to brush up on the evils of long-term contracts. Her buyout there must have been a dandy. Why else would she agree to coach for “peanuts” for three years?

But if she stays for the length of her proposed contract, she is guaranteed an almost 300 percent raise. That’s a pretty nice bump for somebody who has never won a game at UNLV (at least not as a coach, because she used to be a pretty good player here) and essentially was fired by her former employer.

This sort of sounds like the scenario under which the Cubs got Jim Edmonds from the Padres a couple of weeks ago. Chicago got Edmonds for a song because San Diego is still paying his contract.

Too bad you can’t trade underachieving football coaches for cash and a graduate assistant to be named later.

Money for nothing, checks for free. There’s a lot of that going around the UNLV athletic department these days.

Regina Miller’s salary was — and still is, thanks to her buyout — $173,000. So I guess you could argue that the way Olivier’s contract has been structured, she’s a bargain for the next three years — especially if she’s as good a coach as everybody says.

But what if she isn’t? What if after three years she’s Mike Sanford? Then it’s still gonna take more cash to buy her out than it did Miller. It’s gonna cost a minimum of $400,000.

And what if she turns out to be Pat Summitt? Then to keep her, it’s gonna cost another ton of cash, because by the fifth year of her contract she will be making $210,000, and I have yet to see a contract extension that doesn’t come with a raise.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot about the incentives. In addition to her hefty salary, if she’s still employed by UNLV in 2012 (that’s Year Four) she’ll receive $50,000 for media appearances and an additional $159,570 just for showing up, I guess. If she’s still employed in 2013, she’ll get $129,570 on top of that.

To quote my good friend Mike Tyson, that’s ludicrous. Given the current state of the budget, it’s also insane, preposterous and unconscionable. Or to use Regent Steve Sisolak’s word, “ridiculous.”

“I have a ton of questions,” he said before heading to Reno for a meeting that promises to be interesting if not downright contentious. “Multiple pages.”

UNLV doesn’t have the money to fund an English department, yet it’s going to park a Brinks truck in the driveway of a coach who has never won a game here, for a program that has never turned a profit.

Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Don’t blame Kathy Olivier. More power to her, if she’s able to extract that much blood from this turnip.

But shame on the regents if they put the rubber stamp to this one.

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