- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

Maryland has reached the NCAA men’s basketball tournament two of the past three seasons. It plays in a gleaming on-campus facility and has ranked in the top 10 nationally in attendance since Comcast Center opened in 2002.

The program generated nearly $10.8 million last year, the fourth-largest figure among ACC basketball teams. The Terrapins appeared in the Associated Press’ Top 25 earlier this year and were a preseason pick to finish fifth in the competitive ACC.

The benefits of the lucrative sport, however, do not spill over to coach Gary Williams’ staff nearly as much as they do elsewhere in the conference. The men’s basketball assistants at Maryland are collectively the lowest paid among the ACC’s eight public schools, according to contracts secured from each institution.

Keith Booth and Robert Ehsan are the only men’s assistants in the ACC who have guaranteed annual compensation of less than $100,000. The men’s assistants combine to make less than the women’s assistants at Maryland - the only public school in the conference for which that is true.

Salary data was obtained through state Freedom of Information Act requests. Boston College, Duke, Miami and Wake Forest are private schools and not subject to open records laws, and thus they were not included in the study.

Chuck Driesell, the Terps’ top assistant, Booth and Ehsan declined to comment about their salaries and how they compare to their peers.

Randy Eaton, a Maryland senior associate athletic director and the athletic department’s chief financial officer, said state-mandated salary freezes enacted about a year ago prevent the school from increasing guaranteed compensation. The school also has dealt with salary reduction through furloughs.

Eaton said Williams twice “recently” requested compensation increases, but the salary freezes prevented any change. Williams said he has requested more money for his assistants each of the past two years.

“In lieu of increases to guaranteed compensation, Maryland Athletics will be proposing enhancements to the bonus structures for each assistant coach, including ACC regular season finish, ACC Tournament finish and NCAA Tournament inclusion and advancement,” Eaton said in an e-mailed statement.

Eaton said the “enhancements” are expected to be officially proposed by the end of the year. While pay for assistants pales in comparison to the salaries thrown at head coaches (Williams earns slightly more than $2 million annually), they are important figures for a team. Assistants often play a crucial role in recruiting, and there is value in staff continuity - from maintaining relationships with those inside and outside the program to preserving day-to-day teaching methods.

“I appreciate any effort to increase the compensation package for my assistant coaches,” Williams said. “It’s very important that we’re competitive in all areas of our program. Hopefully, this issue can be readdressed at the end of the men’s basketball season.”

Based on the current numbers, Maryland is far from competitive.

At the bottom

At age 27, Robert Ehsan secured an ACC assistant basketball coach gig far sooner than usual. The second-youngest assistant coach in the conference is 31-year-old Darryl LaBarrie of Georgia Tech. Ehsan is one of three ACC assistants who have less than three years’ experience as a full-time Division I assistant, along with Duke’s Nate James and Wake Forest’s Rusty LaRue.

Ehsan, who came to Maryland as a graduate assistant in 2005 and worked his way up the staff before becoming a full-time assistant last season, is trusted in several facets of the program. He was instrumental in securing a commitment from Arizona high school guard Terrell Stoglin, who signed a letter-of-intent in November and is expected to contend for playing time next year with Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez set to graduate.

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