Bonamego deal reflects growing salaries in NCAA


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Football Coach John Bonamego stands in front of a picture his old coach, Herb Deromedi, on Feb. 18, 2015 in McGuirk Arena. Deromedi was added to the College Football Playoff Committee Jan. 21, 2016.

Central Michigan University’s Head Football Coach John Bonamego will earn $475,000 a year for five seasons, which puts his salary in the upper half of Mid-American Conference coaches and a higher base salary than President George Ross.

Bonamego’s base pay is $350,000 per year, with $125,000 guaranteed for media and promotional appearances. Former Head Coach Dan Enos’ $360,000 salary was among the lowest in the conference last year.

“We need to be competitive, otherwise you won’t attract the type of candidate you want for the positions you have,” said Director of Athletics Dave Heeke.

Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services Barrie Wilkes said competition among teams in the same conference drives up the cost of coaches salaries.

“My opinion is we get pushed on the expenditure side,” Wilkes said. “Say we’re spending $400,000 on our coach, and Western goes out and pays theirs $800,000. Now the market is $800,000.”

Second-year Western Michigan University football coach P.J. Fleck became the highest-paid coach in the conference December, with a guaranteed annual salary of $800,000 per year. Of Fleck’s base salary, $225,000 comes from university funds, while the other $575,000 guaranteed annual pay comes from private donors. He also has bonus incentives.

According to data compiled by USA Today, the highest-paid coach in the MAC was Ohio University’s Frank Solich, who was guaranteed $554,500 per year in his 16th year at the school. The next closest was fifth-year Ball State Head Coach Pete Lembo, who makes $500,000 per year.

Decisions about bonuses and guaranteed salary in Bonamego’s contract were made to make CMU more competitive with MAC schools, Heeke said. Decisions about compensation package amounts were not compared to Enos’ contract.

Bonamego’s contract includes yearly retention payments, a feature also added to President George Ross’ salary adjustment during winter break. Heeke said the retention payment was added as a way to provide an incentive to build the program up consistently year by year and keep his salary competitive as the market changes.

“Those salary levels will continue to rise through the years,” Heeke said. “We want our football program to be successful. We want people to understand that we invest in the program to be successful. We don’t have a choice. Those are the costs of doing business.”

Bonamego will make an additional $25,000 if coaching through Feb. 15, 2016, $30,000 if coaching through Feb. 15, 2017 and $50,000 if coaching through Feb. 15, 2018.

Voluntary termination by Bonamego or CMU will bring about buy-out damages. If the buy-out occurs before the last regular season game of 2016, it is $1 million. For 2017, it is $575,000, 2018 is $400,000 and 2019 is $200,000.

“We’re not saying if we don’t have more we can never beat someone in our league,” Heeke said. “We know who we are. We’re not throwing money down a hole here, we’re investing and we are doing it very strategically.”

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Editor-in-Chief Malachi Barrett is Battle Creek senior majoring in journalism with a minor in ...

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