COLUMBIA— Mike Anderson’s new contract with Missouri, which is for seven years and will reportedly increase his guaranteed salary to $1.55 million a year, was met with mixed reactions from MU employees.
The announcement of the new contract comes after the University of Missouri System installed a system-wide hiring and wage freeze in November. In February, the UM System Board of Curators also granted UM System President Gary Forsee the power to put some staff on unpaid furloughs if necessary to reduce costs.
“I’m not happy about (Anderson’s raise). But I would have felt worse about losing him,” said Stuart Palonsky, a professor and the director of MU’s Honors College.
In his third season, Anderson led the Tigers to a Big 12 Conference tournament championship and the program’s third Elite Eight appearance since 1985 and has led a well-respected career as head coach.
A few questioned if Anderson’s new guaranteed salary is too much.
“It should take more than money to motivate a coach,” said Maryann Williamson, executive staff assistant at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders. “It should be a matter of pride with the team, not a matter of pay.”
With the hiring and wage freeze, academic departments at MU are facing a tenuous and uncertain financial period. Positions can’t be filled if vacant, and written documentation is required to track departments’ savings.
“Even our purchases for toner or paper have to get written approval,” Williamson said. “In a way it’s frustrating to see us sacrificing and athletics not.
“But I’m glad we found someone with morals and values, and he is instilling them in kids for the rest of their lives and encouraging them to get a college education.”
Anderson’s winning season and respected coaching career have placed him in the competitive pay sphere for college coaches. If his new contract is approved by the Board of Curators, who meet Thursday and Friday, it would make Anderson the third-highest paid basketball coach in the Big 12 Conference.
In that context, Palonsky said the size of Anderson’s contract makes sense.
“It (his salary) is not out of line,” Palonsky said. “It’s a matter of market. Is anyone worth that much money?”
Executive Director of MU’s Alumni Association Todd McCubbin agreed. “There is a market out there,” McCubbin said. “It’s the way you have to play the game.”
A winning basketball season tends to elicit a positive response from alumni. But McCubbin said the way Anderson runs his program is an added bonus for members.
“What I hear the most from our alumni is how he and the team represented the university so positively,” he said. “We are happy to see him back.”
Despite the positive ending for the Tigers, other MU employees said that athletic success should not be the sole tool used for attracting students to Columbia.
“It’s a good thing we kept him, but it’s not fair,” Kurt Wells, a print operator at Ellis copy Center said of Anderson’s raise. “Our school has been focusing too much on student recruitment by the athletic department doing really well. Instead we should be drawing new students with cutting edge academics.”
Williamson said it is hard for people to remember that the athletic department’s budget is separate from that of the university’s as a whole, and that Anderson’s salary is not drawn from the resources used to pay faculty and staff salaries.
“It’s ridiculous what coaches get paid, but it’s the norm now,” Williamson said. “It’s just the way it is, and I take it with a grain of salt.”
Other employees said there isn’t a major problem because the revenue generated by the team and the winning season the Tigers just completed justify the salary.
“The athletic department is a revenue gathering branch of the university,” Palonsky said.
Catherine Deatherage, a print operator and graduate of MU, said that a sports team’s success is good for people’s morale during a recession.
“It’s a tangible victory that they can experience,” she said.
Many MU employees agree that Anderson is the right man for the job.
“He is concerned with academics and with players’ well-being,” Palonsky said. “He is all the things a college coach should be.”
McCubbin agrees, “We are happy to see him back.”
In regards to Anderson’s new contract with MU, Palonsky also injected a little humor.
“I’m personally envious,” Palonsky joked. “I hope he takes me out to dinner.”