ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine announced Tuesday that women’s ice hockey head coach Maria Lewis is being investigated for possible violations of NCAA rules.
Lewis on Monday was placed on paid administrative leave as the university looks into potential personnel and compliance issues. Those include whether NCAA bylaws restricting the number of hours student-athletes spend in activities directed or supervised by coaching staff were violated.
The announcement has elicited discussion about Lewis’ salary, which is $45,000 per year. Some UMaine fans were surprised how little money she earns.
That dynamic is magnified by the salaries of the Black Bears’ upper-echelon coaches.
Red Gendron, who in May was hired to replace deposed men’s ice hockey coach Tim Whitehead, received a four-year contract that will pay him $205,000 per year.
Three other UMaine coaches earn at least $100,000. According to figures for fiscal year 2012 provided by the university, football coach Jack Cosgrove took home $175,000 per year, while women’s basketball coach Richard Barron made $113,000 and men’s basketball coach Ted Woodward was at $100,000.
UMaine athletics director Steve Abbott, who will step down this fall to work for Sen. Susan Collins, said salaries are based on factors such as the team’s place in the hierarchy of all the sports, its performance, the market for coaches salaries at comparable schools, and the experience of the coaches.
“It’s based on the market for your particular sport and how your sport’s doing at your school,” Abbott said.
The big salaries are tied to the revenue-producing sports, although Abbott cautioned that UMaine athletics, as a whole, operates at a net loss.
“[Men’s] hockey is No. 1, football is No. 2 and then women’s basketball and men’s basketball,” Abbott said. “Once you get past those four, there’s a significant drop when you get to the next group of salaries.”
Among the remaining seven head coaches, baseball’s Steve Trimper brings down $80,000, plus $7,000 annually in “additional compensation,” which replaced pre-existing allowances for an automobile and a membership at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono.
The men’s hockey, football and basketball coaches also are afforded that additional discretionary money as part of their contracts.
Next on the list of salaries is women’s soccer coach Scott Atherley, who was at $66,840 for fiscal year 2012. Atherley spent seven seasons as the Black Bear men’s soccer coach and has directed the women’s program since 1999, when he coached both teams.
“The other thing that comes into play is the tenure of the coach,” Abbott said. “You may be in a low-profile sport, but you’ve been here for a while so the salary increases over time.”
Mark Lech, the head coach for men’s and women’s track and field and cross country, had a salary of $52,687 in 2012. He was followed by field hockey coach Josette Babineau ($50,769), softball coach Lynn Coutts ($50,000), Lewis ($45,000) and men’s and women’s swimming head coach Susan Lizzotte ($44,957).
Last year, Abbott also said UMaine’s head coaches’ paychecks are modest compared to their counterparts in America East, Hockey East and the Colonial Athletic Association.
“Our coaches are very well-paid for the region that we’re in, but when you consider nationally what other coaches make, our salaries are low,” Abbott said. “We have to pay enough competitively to attract the high-caliber people that we want representing our institution and educating our students.”
During 2011-12, all employees of the University of Maine System received a UMaine benefits package that represented another 49.5 percent on top of their wages. It includes items such as medical and dental coverage and contributions to retirement health and savings accounts.