Oklahoma regents approve Kruger deal
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.
The regents met in executive session for over a half hour before resuming their meeting and voting unanimously to approve the deal, which will pay Kruger $2 million over the course of the next year.
Kruger will receive a base salary of $250,000, a $1.45 million annual payment for personal services and fundraising 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.
''To hire someone with his pedigree is something we're real excited about doing,'' athletic director Joe Castiglione said. ''I think now that we've got through the business of this, we can get to the things that help our basketball program grow and become more successful.''
Kruger was hired April 1 to replace Jeff Capel, who was fired after the Sooners' first consecutive losing seasons since 1967. He was set to make about $1.4 million over the next year if he'd stayed for an eighth season at UNLV, including a bonus of $325,000 if he remained the coach at the end of March.
Regents also agreed to pay a $500,000 buyout that got Kruger out of his contract at UNLV. Castiglione said the buyout amount on Kruger's new contract wasn't finalized yet.
At a time when the state is facing a significant budget problem and cutting funds to universities and many state agencies, Castiglione said the money for Kruger's contract will come only from the athletic department, which is self-sustaining and doesn't use state tax money, student fees or other funding from the university. The athletic department even contributes millions of dollars to the university's academic budget each year.
Castiglione said the funding for the contract is supplemented by deals with vendors such as Nike in addition to licensing agreements and lucrative television packages.
''We don't make our decisions in a vacuum,'' Castiglione said. ''We're very cognizant of the difficult economic times, which not only affect the university, but the people that support our programs — our fans.''
Castiglione said the package is based on research for similarly qualified coaches at schools similar to Oklahoma, in the Big 12 and beyond. Just a day earlier, Texas bumped Rick Barnes' salary up to $2.4 million per year, about the same as the $2.37 million Kruger would make annually over the course of his contract.
''You have, to the best possible way, an apples to apples comparison,'' Castiglione said. ''It's not perfect, but it's close enough.''
Castiglione praised Kruger for his activities over the past six weeks, reaching out to students, supporters and former players to try and make a connection and, in turn, boost sagging attendance at the Lloyd Noble Center.
Kruger is 479-304 in 25 seasons as a college coach, rebuilding the programs at Kansas State, Illinois, Florida and UNLV, taking each to the NCAA tournament. His teams have competed in the NCAAs 13 times, reaching the round of 16 or beyond three times and the Final Four once.
''He may be the consummate turnaround specialist in college basketball history,'' Castiglione said. ''Hard to argue with a record of achievement in every place he's been and served as a head coach in college basketball.''
University president David Boren said Kruger's salary fits appropriately into the ''national marketplace.'' It's about $470,000 more annually than Capel was making under his last deal.
''Salary by itself is not the only indicator of commitment. ... Even though we're doing different things, it doesn't mean we weren't trying to be successful before or we weren't providing resources before,'' Castiglione said.
''Anybody that says that our commitment was less than full is really not paying attention to what we've done. We may have been more successful at times than others, but we've never waned in being fully committed to having fully successful sport programs.''