Rick Barnes got a boost in salary this week, and a lot of people had an opinion about it. Some Texas legislators thought it was "nuts" to hand out a raise at this time. Their biggest complaint was that it just "didn't look good," Never mind that the Texas Athletics Department is stand-alone when it comes to revenue and expenses, and doesn't include any tax money. If there is one thing politicians are experts on it is perception and how important it is to look good -- as opposed to doing good.
The two Austin columnists also thought it was a bit of bad timing.
But Gary Parrish, the national basketball writer for CBSsports.com, came to Barnes' defense.
Fans also wonder how someone who hasn't gotten out of the first weekend of play in the NCAA tournament three years in a row ends up in the Top Ten on a list of highest paid coaches from the 2011 NCAA Tournament
First a couple of items about the raise. Technically it was $125,000 (he was due a $75,000 boost this season contractually). As for being among the Top Ten highest paid college basketball coaches -- not really. Fans in the blogosphere wonder how Barnes could make more than Roy Williams, Ben Howland or Jim Calhoun. The answer is he doesn't. Texas is one of the few Universities that "turn keys" their coaching salaries.
Barnes' base salary is now $1 million; his overall compensation includes additional money for TV and radio appearances, a shoe deal with Nike, and summer camps. If you take a look a the USA Today list of coaches and their salaries there are a lot of elite coaches who have a NA (Not Available) under "Non-University Compensation." Coaches like North Carolina's Williams, Calhoun of Connecticut, Jay Wright of Villanova and Pitt's Jamie Dixon. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is listed as making $4.1 million with an NA thrown in as well. Somehow I have to believe that Nike is compensating Coach K at a fairly healthy rate.
So, while Barnes is probably not in the Top Ten for coaching compensation, it still rankles some that he is getting $2.4 million for his on-the-court production the last few years.
Fans have criticized Barnes for having too many one-and-done players and not enough NCAA tournament wins over the past five years.
Barnes has been frustratingly consistent: Texas has averaged 25 wins a year and has reached the NCAA in every one of his 13 seasons. Counting his last three years at Clemson, Barnes has taken a team to 16 straight NCAA Tournaments, something only Coach K at Duke can match. He's got a Final Four, two other Elite Eight and another two Sweet 16 appearances while at Texas. But of course it is the implosion of the 2009-10 team and the bitter ending to this year's tournament that is freshest in the fans minds.
Big picture, there can be no doubt that Barnes has brought Texas unprecedented success. Over the past 50 years Texas is 31-28 in tournament play, which means in the 37 years before Barnes, the Horns were 13-15. Abe Lemons didn't win one single NCAA Tournament game while at Texas. Tom Penders was 10-8, but Penders was best at performing triage on programs. He took Bob Weltlich's players, rehabilitated their morale and went 4-2 in two seasons, reaching an Elite Eight. With his own recruits however, he was 6-6, getting to the Sweet 16 just once in his last seven years on campus.
Barnes has spent his time raising the bar - and expectations - for Texas basketball, and now frustration is setting in. Texas had exactly one McDonald's All-American recruit before Barnes hit campus -- and that was local prospect Kris Clack. Incoming recruit Myck Kabongo is the 12th Mickey D's AA to play for Barnes at Texas. That's part of the problem -- all that talent and so little hardware for the trophy case. He is 6-5 over the past five years, getting out of the first weekend just once.
Of course there are plenty of examples out there of coaches who took their time reaching the top of the mountain. Jim Calhoun was at Connecticut for 13 years before breaking through. Roy Williams coached 20 years before getting a title, Jim Boeheim reached a championship game in his 11th year, but didn't win until his 27th year as head coach at Syracuse.
Bottom line, you can make a case for Barnes' raise when you look at the bottom line.
In 2001, Texas basketball generated a little over $4.4 million or about 8% of the total revenues for the Athletics Department. There was just a little over $1 million in profit. In 2009-10, Texas basketball brought in $15.6 million, about 11% of all revenue, and cleared just under $7 million -- right on the edge of the Top Ten in most profitable college basketball programs.
None of this matters to Texas fans who see three players head off to the NBA draft and wonder if their relationship with Barnes is the basketball equivalent of Charlie Brown to Lucy -- forever having the ball swiped away at the last moment.
Has Barnes reached his basketball ceiling? Or will the next logical step be taken in the near future?
Trips Right tells me he knows of someone who just might be able to help Longhorn basketball fans with their emotional dilemma, and at a reasonable price.