Education board approves contracts for top college coaches


A government watchdog group says Idaho's public pension retirement system needs $3.5 billion to fully cover obligations.

The Idaho State Board of Education approved new six-figure contracts for the Boise State University (BSU) basketball coach and the University of Idaho’s football coach during a board meeting Thursday.

BSU’s Leon Rice will make a base salary of $400,000 for the next five years, plus incentives that could add up to an additional $70,000 a year if the team wins the NCAA basketball championship and players’ academic progress ranks highly.  Rice came to Boise after serving as an assistant basketball coach for Gonzaga University in Spokane.  He replaced Don Graham, who had a 142-112 win-loss record during eight seasons as head coach.

The U of I’s Robb Akey will earn an average of more than $375,000 during the next five football seasons, with incentives that could add up to another $158,000 a year for various achievements including winning seven games in a season, being named national coach of the year, or finishing in the Top 25 ESPN/USA Today poll.

“I want to congratulate coach Akey publicly for the work he’s doing, not only with performance on the field, but for the committment to academics he’s shown,” board member Rod Lewis of Boise said during the meeting, according to the Department of Education’s Mark Browning.

No board members voted against either coach’s contract.

Akey, who had a $165,000 salary this year according to the state controller, was hired to coach the Vandals in December 2006.  The football team won the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise in December, which garnered recognition from the Idaho Legislature and Gov. Butch Otter this year.

Rice and Akey will be among the state’s highest paid public employees.  The top honor goes to BSU football coach Chris Petersen.  Earlier this year, the board approved Petersen’s new five-year contract worth more than $8 million.  Rice is now the second-highest paid employee.  After the three coaches, the next three biggest earners are the university presidents from BSU, U of I, and Idaho State University.  More than 200 state employees earn more than the governor’s $115,348 salary, according to a report from the state controller.

During the meeting, the board also approved the limited service of alcohol at football games at BSU and the U of I this year, and at the Humanitarian Bowl, held in Boise, for the next three years.  The board also approved a privately-funded $5.3 million renovation of the Kibbie Dome, U of I’s football stadium, which includes a new press box.  The board also agreed to a five-year, $1 million sponsorship with Litehouse, a Sandpoint condiment company, for a seating area at the Kibbie Dome.  Part of the sponsorship deal includes putting Litehouse’s logo on the Kibbie Dome football field for the next 10 years.

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Athletic coaches at Boise State University and the University of Idaho are now the three highest-paid state employees, Athletic coaches at Boise State University and the University of Idaho are now the three highest-paid state employees, Athletic coaches at Boise State University and the University of Idaho are now the three highest-paid state employees, Athletic coaches at Boise State University and the University of Idaho are now the three highest-paid state employees
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