Pay for Maine coaches below peers

Posted June 04, 2010, at 11:57 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 19, 2010, at 11:19 a.m.

    Tim Whitehead recently agreed to a three-year contract extension that maintains his status as the top-paid coach at the University of Maine.

Even though the Black Bears’ ninth-year men’s hockey coach will earn $175,000 during 2009-10, his salary is below the Hockey East average.

That is true even when compared to figures from 2007-08, when HE head coaches made $181,084.

Some critics of the UMaine athletic department may balk at the fact four head coaches take home at least $100,000 per year. The reality is, Black Bear coaches earn less across the board than the conference averages in their respective sports, according to figures from the Division 1A Athletic Directors Association provided by UMaine Director of Athletics Blake James.

“I think sometimes people lose perspective on what our coaches are getting paid when, comparatively and competitively, we’re usually at the bottom of the list,” James said.

“The reality is, we’re paying [coaches] less than everyone else,” he added.

Football coach Jack Cosgrove is No. 2 on the UMaine coaching payroll at $160,000. Even so, the 17th-year coach earns $50,500 less per year than the average Colonial Athletic Association head coach was making during 2008-09.

Cindy Blodgett, the women’s basketball coach, takes home $109,772, while men’s basketball coach Ted Woodward is at $99,999. Both of those salaries are well below America East averages for 2007-08.

America East men’s coaches were then making $186,602 ($86,603 more than Woodward), while Blodgett is nearly $25,000 below her conference coaching peers ($134,621).

Baseball coach Steve Trimper ($77,500) and women’s soccer coach Scott Atherley ($66,840) round out the list of Black Bear coaches who signed multiyear contracts. They are the only two UMaine head coaches of 11 whose pay is above the conference average for their sports.

When comparing their present salaries to the league’s 2007-08 averages, Trimper is $7,117 higher and Atherley earns $1,150 more.

The other five head coaching positions at UMaine — track and field, field hockey, softball, women’s hockey, and swimming and diving — are filled using annual contracts.

Cross country and track coach Mark Lech earns $58,086, followed by field hockey coach Josette Babineau ($50,769), softball coach Deb Smith ($46,588), outgoing women’s hockey coach Dan Lichterman ($45,445) and interim swim coach Susan Lizzotte ($37,684).

James said the annual contracts are used in sports where the coaches are not usually aggressively recruited.

“If you have an annual deal, you’re not going to have a buyout,” James said. “It gives you more flexibility if that next big job is going to come.”

The coaches who have long-term contracts lead sports (men’s hockey, football, women’s basketball, men’s basketball, baseball and women’s soccer) in which there can be considerable turnover and competition in national searches.

James said the long-term deals provided stability and security for both the university and the coach. The coaches have to pay if they want to break their contract early.

He explained most UMaine buyouts would cost a coach either three or six months’ salary to take another job.

“It’s traditionally done more in sports where we tend to have our coaches be recruited,” James said. “Our hockey coach, we have a national-caliber program and there’s probably a realistic expectation that someone’s going to come after him.”

Atherley, who previously had an annual contract, went to James two years ago and asked for a multiyear deal. The AD agreed it would be appropriate, based on Atherley’s tenure at UMaine, the competitiveness of his program and other factors.

“To me, he’s earned that and we want to keep him,” James said.

Black Bear coaches have successfully negotiated contract extensions in recent years. While Blodgett is heading into the fourth year of her original contract, Woodward has two years left (through June 2012) on a four-year deal.

Cosgrove, Trimper and Atherley are completing the first year of four-year extensions that run through June 2013). James has routinely negotiated four-year deals.

Wins and losses is only one factor that is considered.

“We look at how their kids are doing academically and the importance of academics in their program,” James said. “We’re looking at how they’re operating within our budgets, how their kids are representing us in the community. We’re looking at how they’re [the coaches] representing the program.”

James, who in November signed a two-year extension, earns $144,266 — less than Whitehead and Cosgrove. His America East peers were earning $168,637 in 2007-08.

UMaine head coaches have few ways to augment their income. There is no financial gain from sneaker or apparel contracts, as is the case at some high-profile Division I schools.

Nor is the men’s hockey coach getting $10 for every season ticket sold, as is the case with Don Cahoon at the University of Massachusetts.

“We don’t have any of those [incentives],” James said.

A UMaine coach whose team advances to the NCAA tournament is awarded approximately one week’s salary with funds from the University of Maine Foundation.

Most coaches also conduct summer camps for youngsters. James said after all expenses for room and board, facilities, coaches and staff are paid, head coaches can pocket the profit.

The bottom line is, most UMaine head coaches are well compensated compared to the average Maine worker, but they generally earn less than coaches at other schools in their respective leagues.

“We’re not funded as competitively as some of the other institutions we’re going to be compared to and that’s a challenge. I think our coaches do a great job, given that challenge,” James said.

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