AUSTIN, Texas — Several Texas senators on Thursday criticized the recent $200,000 raise for Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes, calling it "nuts" and "tone deaf" during a state budget crisis that threatens deep cuts to higher education.
The state is facing a budget shortfall that some estimates put as high as $27 billion. Current spending proposals would cut money for universities and tuition programs for poor students.
Barnes' raise was approved by university regents on Wednesday.
"I think it's nuts," said state Sen. Steve Ogden, chairman of the Senate's budget writing committee.
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"It's not appropriate, not at a time when we're scraping for money for education," said Sen. Jeff Wentworth, a member of the Senate higher education committee.
Ogden and Wentworth are Republicans with connections to Texas' chief rival, Texas A&M University. But Democrats with connections to Texas also chimed in.
Sen. Kirk Watson, whose district includes the Texas campus, said the raise suggests regents are "tone deaf" to the budget crisis boiling at the Capitol less than a mile away.
"I'm a big fan of UT basketball and Coach Barnes," Watson said. "But at a time when everyone up here is fighting to come up with money to pay for education, it was disappointing."
The Texas athletic budget is separate from the academic budget and Barnes' raise does not include tax money. Texas officials note that the university's new $300 million contract with ESPN will send millions of dollars toward academics.
Deal for Kruger approved
NORMAN, Okla. — The University of Oklahoma's Board of Regents voted Thursday to approve a seven-year, $16.6 million contract for new men's basketball coach Lon Kruger.
Kruger will receive a base salary of $250,000, a $1.45 million annual payment for personal services and fund-raising and a $300,000 bonus each May for staying another full season with the Sooners. The contract includes an automatic $100,000 raise each year and a $500,000 bonus if Kruger completes five seasons and is still at Oklahoma at the end of June 2016.
Kruger still must sign the contract. He was hired April 1 to replace the fired Jeff Capel.
Kent State sues ex-coach
RAVENNA, Ohio — Kent State is suing former men's basketball coach Geno Ford for more than $1.2 million in damages over his recent departure for Bradley University. The lawsuit alleges Ford had no permission to terminate his Kent State contract, which was scheduled to expire March 31, 2015, and that he breached his contract and his duty to Kent State.
"Kent State honors its agreements, and it expects others to do the same," Rodd Sanders, an attorney representing the Ohio school, said Thursday.
The lawsuit also seeks more than $25,000 in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages from Bradley, alleging the Peoria, Ill., school interfered with the Kent State contract and "intentionally induced Ford to breach the agreement."
Ford said in a statement that "it is unfortunate this has turned into a legal matter." He said, "During the process, everything was handled professionally and appropriately."
Huskers hire ex-UK staffer
LINCOLN, Neb. — South Florida assistant coach Jeremy Cox has taken a job on Doc Sadler's staff at Nebraska. Cox worked two years at South Florida after spending three seasons on Billy Gillispie's staffs at Texas A&M and Kentucky. Sadler says Cox is a "tireless recruiter and also a very, very good basketball coach."
UConn to meet Obama
WASHINGTON — The Huskies are coming to the White House. President Barack Obama will have the welcome mat out Monday for the Connecticut men's basketball team that won the NCAA championship.