WASHINGTON — Louisville Coach Rick Pitino would make $425,000 extra this year — on top of a $5.7 million pay package — by leading his favored Cardinals to the championship of the NCAA Tournament.
Pitino's bonus for the title represents about 70 percent of the $600,000 annual salary that university president James Ramsey is getting this year.
Pitino, 60, isn't the only coach with a big payoff at stake. Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, who has a $1.25 million salary, can make as much as $576,000 in bonuses for a national title, while Michigan's John Beilein, who earned $1.8 million this season, can make as much as $175,000 extra.
"There is no fiscal sanity," said Dave Ridpath, associate professor of sports management at Ohio University in Athens and president-elect of the Drake Group, a network of college professors who advocate for academic integrity in sports. "You are paid to coach and are expected to be competitive. Why are you getting a bonus for doing something that is really expected?"
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Employment contracts were obtained by filing open records requests with the universities. Syracuse, the other Final Four team this year, is a private institution and not required by law to provide employee contracts.
School representatives for Pitino, Beilein and Marshall didn't respond to multiple requests for an interview. Ramsey was traveling and unavailable.
Pitino has put Louisville in a position to win its first NCAA basketball championship since 1986.
Ramsey became university president in 2002. By 2012, the school had more than doubled spending on research to $196.4 million annually, increased its six-year graduation rate to 52 percent from 33 percent and almost doubled its endowment to $724.4 million.
The school has increased the number of endowed chairs and professorships to 150 from 87, and has generated 1,346 patent applications up from 259.
"He starts at 6:30 in the morning, you see him at an alumni event at 10 p.m., and he never forgets a name," Joe Steffen, a biology professor who chairs Louisville's faculty senate, said in an interview. "What he's done to grow this university has been immeasurable. I've witnessed that from behind the scenes."
Pitino, now in his 12th season at Louisville, took over a team that finished 12-19 in 2000-2001 and has led it to three NCAA Tournament semifinals.
The only coach in NCAA history to take three different schools — Providence College, Kentucky and Louisville — to the Final Four, he won a national championship with Kentucky after the 1995-1996 season and lost the title game the following year.
Pitino received $3 million in base pay this year and $2.7 million in deferred compensation that had been building since 2010.
Comparing the effect Pitino and Ramsey have on the school, "Ramsey would win hands down," Steffen said.
However, Pitino runs one of the money-making sports programs at the school and is rewarded for it, he said.
"It sounds outlandish, but he can command that partly because of market forces and partly because football and men's basketball generate the money to pay the bills for our other 20 athletic programs," Steffen said.
Pitino earned bonuses of $50,000 each for winning the Big East Tournament and tying for the Big East regular-season title, and $175,000 more for advancing to the NCAA semifinals. An NCAA championship would add $150,000. He can earn additional bonuses for academic achievement and coach of the year honors.
Ramsey received a base salary of $329,740 from the state for serving as president, and an additional $270,260 in money that was privately raised for running the University of Louisville Foundation, a not-for-profit that raises and invests funds for university research and endowments.
He can earn a bonus of $150,000 toward his retirement if he reaches goals the trustee and foundation boards set for him, and he can earn a retention bonus every two years of $500,000.
Ramsey turned down annual pay raises and bonuses from 2008 to 2010.