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UI Trustees Panel Endorses Extension for Athletic Director

University of Illinois Trustees are poised to vote on a 2-year extension for the school’s athletic director.

A Trustees committee Thursday endorsed the plan for Mike Thomas, which would boost his salary to $554,000.

He currently earns just under $504,000 in a contract that expires in 2016.  In just over two years, he’s fired and hired coaches for men’s and women’s basketball and football, and overseen the $60-million plan to renovate the State Farm Center.

U of I Urbana campus Provost Ilesanmi Adesida said this involves much more than sports. He says there are ‘metrics’ tied to it, including the academic performance of student athletes.

"My concern is how they are doing in the classroom, and how are we preparing them for success when they leave here all around," he said. "That's something that Chancellor (Phyllis Wise) and myself have been talking to Mike about.  It's taken very seriously, and we see improvment all around."

Adesida says tutoring and other programs have helped those grades ‘significantly’ the last couple of years, but he didn't have specifics about how much grade point averages have improved.

Thomas’ salary was a concern for Trustee James Montgomery, who said there’s a public perception the U of I sometimes pays more for athletics than academics, but Adesida said Thomas is in the ‘middle of the pack’ when compared to other Big Ten schools.  

Trustee Pam Strobel said she recommended the extension based on her interactions with Thomas.

U of I Trustees will take up the plan when they meet in two weeks on the Chicago campus.

Categories: Economics, Education, Sports