The University of Kentucky handed out pay raises and extensions for four of its head coaches in new contracts announced Wednesday with hefty bumps, especially, for softball’s Rachel Lawson and volleyball’s Craig Skinner and big incentives to keep them in the UK fold.
The new deals extended the contracts of Lawson, Skinner, swimming and diving’s Lars Jorgensen and rifle’s Harry Mullins each by a year. Lawson’s, Skinner’s and Jorgensen’s new deals run through 2023 and Mullins’ contract runs through 2022. All of them had just had their contracts redone last year.
“I continue to believe that our group of head coaches is the best in America,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a release announcing the contracts. “Ensuring that Harry, Craig, Rachel and Lars will stay at Kentucky for years to come is vital to the success of both the teams they lead and our department as a whole. I’m excited to continue working with them and all of our outstanding coaches.”
Lawson’s new contract is the most lucrative, lifting her base salary to $300,000 per year, up from a deal that paid her $220,000 last year with incremental bumps that would have paid her $260,000 by 2021.
Lawson is the winningest coach in Kentucky softball history and is coming off her 11th season at the helm. She’s led the Cats to six NCAA super regionals, including this past season. She led Kentucky to its only Women’s College World Series appearance in 2014.
“I love Lexington and this new contract gives me the opportunity to continue to grow Kentucky softball into a national champion,” Lawson said. “This provides stability for the program and sends the message to recruits that we are confident in our ability to win the national championship at Kentucky.”
Her incentive bonuses have been tweaked as well. Lawson will no longer get a bonus just for making it to an NCAA regional, a task she has achieved in 10 of her 11 seasons. That bonus was an extra month’s salary. Other incentives under the old contract also were figured in terms of fractions of her base salary. The new bonuses are dollar figures.
They are $40,000 for an SEC regular season or tournament title, $30,000 for an NCAA super regional berth, $40,000 for a Women’s College World Series berth, $45,000 for a WCWS Championship Series berth and $50,000 for a national championship. The bonuses are not cumulative. Lawson can only earn whichever is greatest in a given season.
Lawson also gets a $50,000 “longevity” bonus for each year she remains with the Cats through 2022. If she remains with Kentucky through the end of the contract in 2023, she gets a $100,000 bonus.
A lesser longevity bonus was also afforded to volleyball’s Skinner at $75,000 this year and $25,000 per year through 2023.
The longevity bonuses come in the wake of Kentucky seeing its heralded track and field coach, Edrick Floreal, leave UK for the University of Texas last month.
Skinner’s base pay jumps to $275,000 per season, up from the $213,500 he was set to earn beginning this year. He also had his inventive bonuses tweaked, removing an incentive for making the NCAA Tournament (one month’s salary), a feat he has achieved each of his 13 seasons at UK.
“I can’t thank Mitch Barnhart, President Capilouto and our administration enough for their belief and trust in me to run this program,” Skinner said. “Megan (his wife) and I have loved our time in Kentucky and look forward to the future. As a program, we will continue to pursue our goal of winning a national championship.”
Skinner led the program to a share of the Southeastern Conference title and a No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament last season, reaching the Elite Eight before falling to eventual national champion Nebraska.
His new deal pays him bonuses of $30,000 for winning the SEC title, $30,000 for reaching the Elite Eight, $40,000 for reaching the Final Four, and $50,000 for a national title. Like Lawson, he can only earn the bonus for the best accomplishment. They are not cumulative.
Mullins, who led the UK rifle team to its second national title in his 31st season this year, sees a bump in his salary from a scale that began at $90,000 to one that pays him $115,000 this year with $5,000 increases each of the remaining years of the contract to a max of $130,000.
Mullins’ incentives will also be converted from fractions of his base salary to straight dollar figures. He will receive $20,000 for a conference title (up from two months’ salary — $15,000), $10,000 for a No. 6-10 finish at the NCAAs, $15,000 for a No. 2-5 finish at the NCAAs and $25,000 for a national title. Mullins’ bonuses, like the others, are not cumulative.
Jorgensen has led UK’s swimming and diving programs since 2012 and has five consecutive top 25 NCAA team finishes and finished 14th in the team category each of the past two years.
His new deal increases his base salary to $125,000, up from $112,500 with incentives for winning the SEC title ($15,000), earning an NCAA top 25 ($10,000), top 10 ($10,000), top five ($17,500) or national title ($25,000).
In announcing the new deals, Kentucky touted its 17th-place finish in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings for the 2017-18 season, its third best mark in the annual measurement of athletics success among Division I schools. UK said other new coaching agreements will be announced as they become official.