Contract of Gophers men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson approved by Minnesota regents
Johnson’s annual salary ranks 13th in the 14-program Big Ten Conference
The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents unanimously approved the contract of new Gophers men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson on Wednesday. The regents voted 11-0 with one absence; it came after a 36-minute period of presentation, discussion, questions and comments.
Gophers Athletics Director Mark Coyle hired Johnson to his first head-coaching job on March 22, with a five-year, $9.75 million deal pending board approval.
Coyle pointed out that Johnson’s annual salary ranks 13th in the 14-program Big Ten Conference.
While some coaches’ contracts at the University spell out specific raises, Coyle told the board other coaches have potential raises left to the AD’s discretion, and Johnson’s will fall into that category. This change comes as the athletic department continues to navigate budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last fall, Minnesota said its revenue shortfall could be $40 million to $60 million on a roughly $120 million budget.
“The reason why we added this to this agreement was because our finances — we are not sure what the long-term impact of COVID-19 will continue to be, so our goal was to protect the institution as much as possible,” Coyle told the regents. “Instead of having guaranteed salary increases in there without knowing what our revenue will look like this upcoming year or future years, given the pandemic, we felt like it gave us more flexibility.”
Regent Steve Sviggum said Johnson’s buyout is “skillfully negotiated” and there would be no buyout paid out if coach Johnson were to find a “comparable” position, including head-coaching or assistant job in NCAA.
Given the language in previous coach Richard Pitino’s contract, Minnesota paid none of Pitino’s $1.75 million buyout because of a similar clause. Pitino was hired to be head coach at New Mexico the day after he was let go from Minnesota last month.