- 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.

The value doesn’t translate into pay; Ehsan is the second-lowest paid men’s or women’s assistant among the ACC’s eight public schools. Only N.C. State women’s assistant Jon Harper - who, as the husband of Wolfpack coach Kellie Harper, does not draw a salary - receives less.

Ehsan’s guaranteed compensation of $66,440 includes a base salary of $60,000, an automobile allowance of $5,000 and a cell phone stipend of $1,440.

He makes 50 percent less than 12 men’s assistants from ACC public schools and earns less than Eric Konkol ($81,120) and Michael Huger ($72,800) - assistants at nearby George Mason, a strong CAA program that nonetheless does not enjoy the same financial resources as Maryland.

Elsewhere on Maryland’s staff, Driesell is guaranteed $129,468, while Booth is assured $99,881. Collectively, Maryland’s three assistants are guaranteed less money this season than Virginia assistant Ritchie McKay ($310,000).

Of the 24 assistants at the eight public ACC schools, Driesell ranks 16th, Booth 23rd and Ehsan 24th in guaranteed compensation.

Maryland’s assistants are not far removed from much larger salaries. Michael Adams (approximately $180,000 total) and Rob Moxley (approximately $160,000) were hired for the 2005-06 season. Moxley returned to Charlotte after a season and was replaced by Driesell.

Adams resigned early in the 2007-08 season and was replaced first by Joe Harrington (approximately $120,000) and then Ehsan. Harrington is earning $81,500 as the men’s basketball director of student-athlete services, a position created for him.

Driesell, Ehsan and Harrington are making a combined $277,408 - still less than the approximately $340,000 paid to Adams and Moxley, whom the trio effectively replaced.

Eaton said whenever assistants are hired for any sport, each head coach makes a recommendation for compensation based on the individual’s level of experience.

Booth, Driesell and Ehsan own a combined 22 seasons of full-time Division I experience. The figure is the lowest in the ACC but not far behind the three assistants at Duke (23), Boston College (24) and Florida State (28).

Bonuses available

Booth and Driesell receive the same car allowance ($5,000) and phone stipend ($1,440) as Ehsan. Both coaches also receive $2,500 for promotions and fundraising activities, while Driesell ($21,000) receives a slightly larger television and tournament revenue allowance than Booth ($19,500). Ehsan does not have the latter two clauses in his contract.

Driesell’s base salary is $99,528, while Booth’s is $71,441.

Driesell, who played for the Terps in the 1980s and is in his fourth season at Maryland, has 20 years of college coaching experience, 14 in Division I. Before his current stint, Driesell coached at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria for two years.

Booth, a third-team All-America selection for the Terps in 1997, is in his sixth season as a college assistant - all at Maryland. Booth was selected in the first round of the 1997 NBA Draft and played two seasons with the Chicago Bulls.

Maryland’s assistants do have larger bonus components than any school included in the study other than Clemson. Booth, Driesell and Ehsan can earn up to a combined $145,000 in bonuses for meeting various criteria under their current deals, while Clemson’s staff can earn up to $242,419 in bonus pay.

Those clauses include rewards for winning the ACC regular-season or tournament title ($8,000 each for Driesell, $5,500 each for Booth and Ehsan), appearances in the NCAA tournament ($3,000 a round for Driesell, $2,750 for Booth and Ehsan) and exemplary graduation rates (up to $10,000 for Driesell, up to $8,000 for Booth and Ehsan).

All three receive a $10,000 “citizenship bonus” in any year members of the men’s basketball program face no violations of the university code of conduct or code of academic integrity, there are no arrests, indictments or convictions for criminal conduct and there is no neglectful or willful violation of NCAA rules.

Eaton declined to comment on specifics of the proposed new bonuses but indicated Maryland would overtake Clemson’s staff for maximum available bonus money available.

“Maryland already offers the second richest bonus structure among ACC public institutions, and the additional bonuses for performance tied to the NCAA Tournament will place our assistant coaches at the top moving forward,” Eaton wrote.

Second on campus

The Maryland men’s assistants trail not only their conference counterparts but also the other basketball team on campus.

The women’s assistants are guaranteed $354,365 - nearly $60,000 more than three men’s assistants. When the salaries for Williams and women’s head coach Brenda Frese are included, the men’s coaches earn more than $1 million than the women’s coaches.

Eaton said each of the women’s assistants was hired into their current positions in 2009 and that the state’s salary freeze does not affect the compensation of new hires. However, those assistants’ current salaries are now frozen, just like existing contracts.

Maryland employs Tina Langley ($134,185), Marlin Chinn ($120,090) and David Adkins ($100,090) as women’s assistants. Langley’s base pay is $105,745, Chinn’s is $91,650 and Adkins’ is $83,650.

The Maryland women’s assistants compare favorably - but are not outliers - to the rest of their ACC peers in guaranteed compensation. Langley ranks seventh among the 24 women’s assistants, while Chinn is ninth and Adkins is 15th.

Langley is in her ninth season as a college coach, Chinn is in his 12th season in the college game and Adkins is in his first season at the level. Langley is in her second year at Maryland and first as Frese’s top assistant; Chinn and Adkins are both in their first season with the Terps.

Among ACC schools, Maryland ranks behind only Virginia ($466,000) and North Carolina ($396,000) in guaranteed women’s basketball assistant compensation - and Terps assistants can earn up to $141,000 in bonuses under a structure similar to the current contracts for Booth, Driesell and Ehsan.

Lagging in the ACC

Booth, Driesell and Ehsan combine to make $295,789 - more than $100,000 less in guaranteed compensation than the staffs at Virginia, North Carolina, N.C. State, Florida State and Clemson.

First-year Virginia coach Tony Bennett used his entire contractually granted allocation of $600,000 to hire assistant coaches in April, and each of his assistants received a one-time payment of $10,000 for moving expenses. The Maryland staff is guaranteed less than half as much as Virginia’s staff this season.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education online database, the Maryland men’s basketball program generated $10,793,864 in revenue in the fiscal year ending June 30 - fourth in the ACC behind North Carolina ($19.8 million), Duke ($11.8 million) and N.C. State ($10.9 million).

At present, the revenues don’t trickle down to assistants as much as they do at North Carolina, N.C. State and elsewhere. How long it remains that way likely will depend on economic conditions beyond the school’s control.

“We are extremely proud of our coaching staff,” Eaton said. “Chuck, Keith and Robert are tireless recruiters and great teachers of our basketball team, and we hope they are part of our program for years to come.”

Whether the financial incentive to stay can become more enticing, however, remains unknown.