WVU basketball: Contract provision back in focus
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The fact that West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has a clause in his contract that generously rewards him for beating Kansas in the regular season isn't new.
It is nevertheless a sidebar to Saturday's game (noon, ESPN), not important enough to supersede eighth-ranked Kansas (23-7, 14-3 Big 12) and its 10 straight years with at least a share of the conference's regular season title and not compelling enough to take attention away from what the Mountaineers (16-14, 8-9) have on the line.
That's not to say the participants are ignoring it.
"I think the world of Bob Huggins and consider him a good friend," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I'm going to do everything I can to keep money out of his pocket, and if I don't, I know who's buying dinner."
The bonus came up quickly in November 2012, when Huggins signed an amended version of his May 2008 contract to cover him as coach and later as an emeritus employee of the athletic department through 2023. Near the end of that revised version, within the sixth of eight points detailing compensation, is the curious clause promising Huggins $25,000 for "any victory over the University of Kansas during the regular season."
It came up again in January 2013, when the Mountaineers played Kansas for the first time since joining the Big 12. Naturally, Huggins was asked about the incentive and why it was included.
"You'll have to ask my attorney," Huggins said, "because I have no idea."
Huggins said he didn't even know about the bonus until he looked the contract over one last time before giving it his signature.
Asked this week about the provision, Huggins restated what he said 14 months ago.
It seems to be the truth, according to the aforementioned attorney, Richard Katz, who has represented Huggins for many years.
"It was honestly an afterthought," Katz told the Charleston Daily Mail this week. "It was not Huggs. It was definitely requested by me in the negotiations. I don't know what else to tell you other than it was done at the end of the negotiations."
Katz worked with WVU athletic director Oliver Luck on the contract, which set Huggins' salary at $3 million for the first season with raises every year up until the number hits $3.75 million for the 2017-18 season. That's supposed to be the last coaching year in the contract before Huggins enters a five-year period in the emeritus position, though Huggins can choose to coach longer or enter the emeritus role earlier in the agreement that ends on June 30, 2023.
"I believe Richard's recollection is pretty accurate," Luck said. "In fact, I know it is. It was his idea."
Luck remembered the negotiations were near the end and he and Katz were going over incentives.
Katz managed to have all but one of the performance incentives from the 2008 contract doubled in the amended version. The exception saw the $50,000 bonus for winning a national title bumped up to $200,000.
"He was looking for some other things, and I said, 'No, I can't do that. No, I don't want to do that,'" Luck said. "The NCAA had started to frown upon bonuses for academic success because they were worried coaches might start to manipulate things."
Katz then suggested paying Huggins for beating the Jayhawks, who played for the national championship just before the Mountaineers entered the league.
"It seemed reasonable," Luck said.
Once public, it seemed peculiar.
"I don't hate Kansas," Katz said of the inspiration for the clause. "Bob's played Kansas two or three times a year (in the Big 12) since he was at Kansas State, and he needs a victory. That's about it. This wasn't a major concession made by West Virginia at all. It wasn't a major deal for me or for Oliver."
Katz said he's never included, or even tried to include, a similar clause in another client's contract. It was a first for Luck, too, and there's nothing like it in any coaching contract at WVU.
"Most coaching contracts have incentives, if not all of them," the Cincinnati-based Katz said. "The most likely incentives in coaching contracts are for winning the league or getting to the (NCAA) tournament, so winning a particular game isn't necessarily all that outlandish as an incentive.
"But I have never seen it before, so do I think it is fairly creative."
It's not the first time Katz has included something original in one of Huggins' contracts with WVU.
The 2008 contract, negotiated two years before Luck arrived, included an annual raise of either $100,000 or an increase to the average Big East salary, if that was a greater amount. It was a low maintenance provision to compensate Huggins fairly as Big East schools gave coaches raises or hired new coaches at salaries greater than the predecessor's. More importantly, it made sure WVU and Katz didn't have to constantly consider changes.
"When you do a coaching contract, you do a number he's going to make," Katz said. "Then all of a sudden, in six months or just a couple of months, he's underpaid and all the coaches are getting significant raises. I didn't want, nor did Bob want, to have to go back every year and say, 'OK, let's renegotiate the contract.'
"I thought it was appropriate to include the average of the Big East coaches as a means for him to receive increases so that he could keep up with the Joneses without having to go back every year and say, 'This guy is here now and he was here last year. We were comparable and now we're not.' He's the third-winningest active coach, so I wanted to keep up without having to go back every year."
Katz believes the Kansas clause is just as innocent and doesn't atypically affect Huggins, who is 0-6 against the Jayhawks as the Kansas State and WVU coach.
"It's not something that gives him an added incentive to win," Katz said. "It's just not. He's making a considerable amount of money. Twenty-five thousand dollars is not an incentive to him personally. It is an incentive, but not one for him to go into the locker room and say, 'Hey, guys, I've got $25,000 riding on this deal.'"
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogscharlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.