Leave it to Berry Tramel to get the goods in this Brad Underwood story. For those already putting OSU athletic director Mike Holder out to pasture, there is news. Bad news for you.
Tramel wrote about how this all went down for The Oklahoman. Here is the crux of the story.
Last Monday, the day after the Cowboys were assigned to Indianapolis for a first-round NCAA Tournament game against Michigan, Holder and Underwood met. The OSU source said Holder offered $2.2 million per year and would get Underwood to $3 million after five seasons.
The Big 12 average is $2.9 million for a head coach. But Underwood said he wanted $2.9 million now and would prefer $3 million. [NewsOK]
Things are starting to look a little different now for all those just torching Holder, aren’t they?
The “Big 12 average” number is a little disingenuous given that Bill Self makes around $5 million a year.
I believe $3 million would be around third in terms of salaries in the Big 12 right now. Bob Huggins of West Virginia makes a little bit more. This is around what Shaka Smart, Lon Kruger and Jamie Dixon make.
Is Underwood in that class? He just went 20-13 and 9-9 in league play. Those three coaches have all been to Elite Eights. Smart and Kruger have been to Final Fours.
Hilariously (I guess), the Travis Ford contract once again came back to bite Holder as Tramel reported that Underwood’s leverage was that the baseline for OSU coaches should be the $2.4 million Ford was making when he was fired.
So that’s not great. Tramel also said that Underwood skipped out on a meeting on Thursday in Indianapolis with Holder.
#Illini Underwood timetable:
+ Whitman was in Indianapolis yesterday
+ ✈️ to Stillwater after OSU game
+ Spent night in OK
+ ✈️ to IL today
— Gordon Voit (@GordonVoit) March 19, 2017
“I thought I had a good enough relationship with him that we were going to work it out and ultimately he would be the basketball coach here for a long time,” Holder told The Oklahoman. “I was surprised. Perhaps I didn’t have as good a relationship with him as I thought.”
I do think it’s pretty funny that Holder has been eviscerated today for pretty much not doing the very thing he did with Travis Ford: Paying him too much money and giving him a terrible contract. I do understand the argument that as long as it’s not 10 years, you’re in better shape.
But business decisions were made. Underwood wanted $3 million. Holder said, “We good.” And you move on. That’s just … how things work. That doesn’t necessarily make Underwood a villain just like it doesn’t necessarily make Holder incompetent.
The gaffe, if there was one, is that Holder didn’t seal the deal earlier in the season. But then again … when? In the middle of that six-game losing streak to start Big 12 play? Twenty-four games into his career at OSU?
Holder has already made that mistake before, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to make it again. Was there a better way to go about this? Maybe, but if you don’t think a coach is worth $3 million a year then you don’t think a coach is worth $3 million a year. That’s fair. The only thing you could have done differently is set the buyout higher (it was at $3 million).
The interesting thing here is how this will affect Holder’s next hire. Will he try to lowball another mid-major coach again and pray it works out differently? Or … will he get a guy who will be fine making less money because he’s a lifer?
What are the economics of college basketball in Stillwater, Oklahoma? What is the ceiling for what a coach can make? I have no doubt Holder was spooked by the fallout from the Ford deal. Who wouldn’t be?
Last year, the OSU athletic department generated $93.67 million in revenue. Its expenses were $92.93 million. If you look at men’s basketball only, it generated $11 million in revenue and had expenses totaling $7.48 million. And that was in Travis Ford’s last year. Ticket sales totaled $1.87 million while contributions were $3.72 million.
We won’t know how much that got bumped in 2017 because Underwood’s team sold out GIA multiple times but my guess is that ticket sales were at least double that. OSU averaged 5,857 fans last year. It was close to 8,500 per game this year. A 44 percent increase. In theory, that’s another $800,000 to play around with although I think ticket prices decreased a bit this year so it’s likely less.
Anyway, you can see where both men are coming from. Underwood generated a lot of dough for the program. Holder has an athletic department budget to balance. GIA still needs to be paid off. That budget difference last year was less than $1 million. There is not a ton of money to spare. Underwood thought what could be spared should go to him.
Holder, clearly, did not.