Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Coaches buyouts prompt criticism

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        RICHMOND, Ky. — Members of the agency that oversees public higher education in Kentucky had some harsh words Monday for the buyouts of coaching contracts at the state's two leading institutions.

        Walter Baker, chairman of the finance committee of the Council on Postsecondary Education, said the practice was “blatantly obscene.”

        Mr. Baker said paying millions of dollars to remove coaches says, “It pays to fail and the bigger you fail, the more it pays.”

        Mr. Baker's comments about the buyouts offered to University of Louisville basketball coach Denny Crum and University of Kentucky football coach Hal Mumme came at the end of his committee's meeting. But the remarks prompted his colleagues to agree.

        “It shows the focus is on athletics and not academics, which will not move this state forward,” said council member Ron Greenberg of Louisville.

        Council member Merl Hackbart, an administrator at UK, said the money would be better used elsewhere on campuses. Member Steve Barger, a union labor official, said the full council should take a position, even though it has no legal control over athletics. Mr. Baker said UK should not pay Mr. Mumme $1 million over the next four years while some faculty members are getting raises of 4 percent and less.

        The UK athletics board negotiated a “severance package” with Mr. Mumme, whose contract was to run through 2005. Mr. Crum will be paid a $2 million lump sum payment, part of a contract provision, and $5 million during the next 15 years to act as a university consultant.


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- Coaches buyouts prompt criticism