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On Bennett’s raise

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 5, 2008

So, there seems to be quite a bit of consternation that despite Tony Bennett receiving a sizable raise from the university, the buyout clause in his contract is still “only” $500,000 or so. Even though that’s a number that’s uncharted territory for any WSU coach, it doesn’t appear to be giving people a lot of comfort right now.

I know this is part of the angst built into our Cougar DNA, but let me provide a little perspective.

The sense I get is that everyone is reading a little too much into this raise. My understanding, from everything I’ve read, is that this isn’t a total restructuring of his contract, as it was last year — it’s just a raise.

Now, a $200,000 raise naturally raises the eyebrows of you and me who need four-to-six years to make that kind of jack — the sheer number makes us think that’s a huge raise, especially when the total amount the school is handing out has now topped seven figures. But it’s not even close to the kind of raise he received last year. Think of it this way: This is the equivalent of going from $40,000 a year to $50,000 a year — a nice raise to be sure, but not earth-shattering stuff.

The thing to keep in mind is that this was a one-sided affair, coming from the school’s side. Although Tony did ask for some things at the conclusion of the season, such as raises for his assistants and charter flights for the team, Tony didn’t ask for a raise for himself. Had he asked for it, I think it’s fairly obvious they all might have entered into the kinds of negotiations that would also protect the school with a larger buyout. But that wasn’t the case. Restructuring a contract is a complicated legal process that, quite frankly, I’m pretty sure neither side had any interest in undertaking.

Dale Carnegie would tell you that one of the three fundamental techniques in handling people is to “give honest and sincere appreciation.” I think this is precisely that. This is the school saying, “We know you didn’t ask for this, but hey, you’ve done an awesome job, and we want to let you know how much we value you by rewarding you.”

In an ideal world, we’d absolutely love to have a larger buyout. But that’s going to require ripping up the current agreement and going back to the drawing board, and that wasn’t going to happen this year. So the school did what it could do to protect its investment: Try to keep its best employee happy — not because he asked for it, but because it was the best thing to do.

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5 Responses to “On Bennett’s raise”

  1. Longball said

    That makes sense, but i still think a restructuring is in order. This guy gets pursued by much higher profile, higher paying jobs every year and i think its in the school’s best interest to ensure we get as much as possible when he inevitably leaves.

  2. Longball said

    Its like marrying in Hollywood without a pre-nup!

  3. Nuss said

    Just keep in mind how arduous a restructuring is. It’s a full-on negotiation, one where each side demands some give and take. I don’t think the administration wanted that to be the spirit of this move. If this continues into next year, it’s worth the time. Right now, I just don’t think it is — not that much has changed between last year and this.

  4. Ptowncoug said

    Longball:
    I agree a large buyout would help us land our next coach, but come on, you say to TB we want to bump your buyout $1mil. He responds, “hey you are only paying me $1mil now and I turned down a job that was going to pay me $2.5mil!”
    We should be trying to sell him on facilities and air travel. Those are capital expenditures that TB doesn’t get to keep when he leaves.
    Also, Longball how goes the job search? I am trying to move Housh off my GCL team and looking for draft picks, interested?

  5. Grady said

    Refreshing take on the buyout situation. Everything I have heard so far has been complaining about the lack of a change in the buyout when we really don’t know the true reasoning behind it. This makes sense to me. Sterk has done an excellent job running the athletic department so far, and I doubt he would intentionally neglect the buyout unless there was a reason.

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