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Sports >  WSU football

Nick Rolovich, Kyle Smith taking temporary 5% salary reductions as part of cost containment measure at Washington State

UPDATED: Mon., April 13, 2020

New Washington State University head football coach Nick Rolovich speaks at his introductory press conference at the university on Jan. 16, 2020 in Pullman, Wash. Rolovich coached at University of Hawaii for eight seasons, the last four as head coach, and officially replaced Mike Leach this week. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
New Washington State University head football coach Nick Rolovich speaks at his introductory press conference at the university on Jan. 16, 2020 in Pullman, Wash. Rolovich coached at University of Hawaii for eight seasons, the last four as head coach, and officially replaced Mike Leach this week. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

To help compensate for lost NCAA distribution and added expenditures caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak, Washington State announced multiple “cost containment” measures Monday, including temporary pay reductions for multiple coaches and school administrators.

WSU football coach Nick Rolovich, men’s basketball coach Kyle Smith, Director of Athletics Pat Chun and President Kirk Schulz will all take 5% salary reductions through the end of the 2020-21 academic year, the school announced Monday.

Additionally, all WSU coaches, along with Schulz and Chun, will voluntarily forego all bonuses and/or incentives through the end of the 2020-21 academic year.

When he was hired in January, Rolovich agreed to a five-year contract that pays the coach approximately $3 million per year. Smith is earning nearly $1.6 million annually after accepting a six-year contract with the school last March. Chun makes $650,000 annually as the Cougars’ AD while Schulz earns a base yearly salary of $625,000. Those salary reductions alone will yield more than $283,750 saved in total expenditures.

On April 3, Chun told The Spokesman-Review during a Northwest Passages Virtual Forum live chat the school estimated a 5% percent reduction in Pac-12 revenue distribution as a result of the coronavirus, though an exact dollar figure still hasn’t been determined. Chun, Rolovich and Smith followed Schulz’ lead after the president announced Friday he’d be taking a 5% pay cut in 2020-21 to alleviate some of the financial stress the school is undergoing.

“It’s a moving target on where we need to get to,” Chun said during a conference call Monday. “We just need to know wherever that target lands, we need to be in striking distance to it. So, as we talked about where we needed to start, the good thing was we’ve had plenty of coaches’ meetings, we talked about what Kirk was going to do, I told him I was going to do the same thing.

“It was really a testament to Nick and Kyle and really all of our coaches because as we started talking about making adjustments for next year, everyone was willing to do what they needed to do to contribute to the greater good.”

Other efforts taken by the school to cut expenses include a freeze in season ticket prices for all sports and a freeze in the price of student sports passes for the 2020-21 academic year.

WSU and other schools need to account for a large reduction in NCAA distribution without usually guaranteed payouts from the NCAA Tournament – one of the largest casualties of the coronavirus outbreak. Schools are also expecting added costs in 2020-21 after the NCAA granted an additional year of eligibility to spring student-athletes who lost their season because of the virus.

Chun said Monday “a little less than half” of the school’s senior spring athletes have expressed interest in returning to compete in 2020-21. According to current rosters on WSU’s athletic website, there are 44 total seniors across seven spring sports: baseball (2), men’s golf (3), women’s golf (2), tennis (2), rowing (7), women’s track and field (14) and men’s track and field (14). Scholarship levels vary from athlete to athlete.

“Part of our measures are to budget that in for next year and also there’s so many uncertainties,” Chun said. “In a typical year, we’d probably look at a number like that and say, all right let’s go fundraise for them. But on the off chance that the fundraising environment isn’t conducive to raise money for those types of initiatives, we’ve got to find other ways to source the added expense.”

The school is projecting an additional $300,000 in athletic grant-in-aid costs for the 2021 fiscal year.

WSU’s cost-cutting strategies align with those introduced by other athletic departments across the country in the past week as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa State implemented a one-year pay cut for its coaches that will reduce the department’s payroll by a total of $3 million. ISU announced other actions, including a freeze on season ticket sales, that would cut payroll by another $1 million, bringing the total reductions to $4 million. Louisville imposed similar measures, reducing coaching salaries by 10% while postponing other department-related purchases and suspending capital projects temporarily.

Last Thursday, Eastern Washington football coach Aaron Best announced on Twitter he’d voluntarily take an indefinite 10% pay cut to aid the school and athletic department.

“Trying times for all,” Best posted. “I am taking steps to do my part for our university and department by taking an indefinite 10% pay cut of salary to better the welfare of our university, department, football program, and student-assistants. Moving ahead I urge you all to do your part when you can!”

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