Regents mull athletics pay status

Faculty salary will undergo review after criticisms of unfair pay levels.

Kevin Beckman

Additional discussions are needed are needed before the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents will make a decision on additional oversight for the athletics department.

Since April, the board has mulled extra oversight of high-paying University salaries, including coaches in the athletics department. At Friday’s meeting, the board decided further discussions are needed before a final decision can be made on salary oversight. 

While regents have expressed concerns that Minnesota taxpayers may expect regents to have control over the University’s highest-paid positions, they also acknowledged more oversight might be unnecessary. 

The discussion stems from an April resolution introduced by Regent Michael Hsu, which did not pass, that called for large coaching contracts to receive regent approval.

Though the resolution didn’t pass, it sparked a larger discussion about high salaries at the University. At meetings in May and June, the Board’s Governance and Policy Committee discussed setting a possible threshold beyond which salaries would require the Board’s approval.

“When the discussions started about the athletics department … it opened up a bigger, broader topic about salaries,” said Regent Thomas Devine.

Devine said conversations have included asserting regent oversight of salaries higher than University President Eric Kaler’s, which currently stands at $625,250.

“The salary thing wasn’t directly driven at just the athletics salaries, but it was salaries in general,” Devine said. “At what point should the Board reassert itself?”

Regents expressed reluctance over unnecessary oversight in May but said they recognized the need for closer scrutiny of high-earning administrators.

“I don’t want to make decisions about how much [coaches] get paid,” said Regent Darrin Rosha. “But I do think that the people of the state do expect us to be indicating and making decisions with the administration on what we should expect from our athletic department.”

With a partnership between Fairview’s hospital system and University of Minnesota Physicians in the works, Devine said the regents have also started discussing compensation for doctors, which he said has complicated matters.

“What is the appropriate level of compensation for a doctor who is working at the U and is also working at Fairview?” he said. “That is a storyline that has not yet unfolded.”

Devine said Regents wanted new athletics director Mark Coyle to provide feedback on what oversight the Board should have over salaries in the athletics department.

“I don’t think anybody is going to move on anything,” Devine said. “They’ll give time for [Coyle] to get in, get settled, look at what he would like to see us do, and then the conversation will open back up probably later into the fall. … It’s still on the table.”