Mason signs seven-year, $7 million contract

Patrick Hayes

In a sign of relief and excitement, University President Mark Yudof and football coach Glen Mason joked, smiled and shook hands at a Morrill Hall press conference Friday to unveil Mason’s new University contract.
Mason, 50, signed a seven-year contract through 2006, worth approximately $7 million plus incentives over the next seven years.
“Needless to say, I’m ecstatic,” Mason said. “This is a good agreement.”
Mason’s contract makes him the third highest-paid coach in the Big Ten, behind Penn State University’s Joe Paterno and Ohio State University’s John Cooper.
Mason’s contract comes on the heels of the 1999 season, his third at Minnesota, in which he further added to his reputation as a rebuilder of stagnant football programs.
In Mason’s previous stints as head coach, he has taken two teams with losing records — Kent University and University of Kansas — and converted them into winning teams.
After a 3-9 debut with the Gophers in 1997, Mason led his team to an 8-4 finish last season. Along the way, Mason earned Big Ten coach of the year honors and the Football News national coach of the year award.
With its best record since 1967 accomplished, Minnesota ended its season with an appearance in the Sun Bowl, the program’s first bowl game in 13 years.
In the weeks leading up to the Sun Bowl late last fall, Mason courted coaching offers from Louisiana State and Michigan State, which prompted a renegotiation of his contract with Minnesota.
Speculation arose about Mason’s commitment to the Gophers when the coach openly admitted a willingness to “pick up the phone” should other schools call with offers.
When asked Friday of his plans to listen to coaching offers, Mason joked, “I don’t even have a phone; I got rid off it.”
“That’s one of the clauses in the contract,” Yudof added.
The contract is also full of incentives to encourage Mason to stay the length of the deal, an essential part of the contract, said interim men’s athletics director Tom Moe.
“For 30 years we’ve had a series of start-up programs,” Moe said. “The one thing that we’ve had to correct is this revolving-door situation.”
Mason’s salary will jump to more than $1 million during the second year of the contract. And in the final year of the contract, he will earn more than $1.2 million dollars.
In addition, Mason receives a $1 million deferred compensation package that will grow to nearly $2 million by the end of the contract.
But if Mason were to leave the University before Dec. 31, 2003, he would forfeit the full amount. After that date Mason will receive a percentage of the compensation package, which will increase on a sliding scale each year.
As for the University’s side, the clause also makes it possible for the University to fire Mason without further liability, a protection the University sought in the wake of the $1.5 million Clem Haskins buyout last year.
Yudof described the contract as fair and balanced for both the University and the football program.
“We wanted stability in this program,” Yudof said. “We wanted a long-term arrangement to ensure that stability and make Glen feel good about being here.”
For Mason, the contract was worth its seven month wait.
“Sure it took a long time, and it took a long time because it had to be right,” he said.
And as for performance incentives, Mason’s contract guarantees him $50,000 for each Bowl Championship Series appearance, $40,000 for each non-BCS appearance on New Year’s Day, and $25,000 for any other bowl appearance.
In addition, Mason can receive between $5,000 and $50,000 based on his team’s finish in the Big Ten conference standings, and between $10,000 and $100,000 based on final national ranking.
As for the academic side, Mason will receive between $20,000 and $60,000 for exceeding the University’s graduation rate.
With the negotiations over, Mason is able to focus on bringing in players who may have been leery about Mason’s future with the program.
It appears Mason will need his phone after all.
“Hopefully the players that we’re interested in right now, that are interested in us, will see this,” Mason said. “Maybe they will pick up the phone and call me.”
As for current players, wide receiver Ron Johnson summed up the collective sentiments of his team, saying he was “definitely” glad the process is over.
“It gives (Mason) more time to coach without all the hassle,” Johnson said. “I think he deserves it. I’m glad he got what he wanted.”
Patrick Hayes welcomes comments at [email protected] David La Vaque welcomes comments at [email protected]