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Gophers add three years to AD Coyle's contract

Minnesota Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle speaks with a fan at the Gopher Road Trip event at the Owatonna Country Club in Owatonna, Minn. on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Jace Frederick / St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota Board of Regents on Thursday, Oct. 11, approved a three-year contract extension for athletic director Mark Coyle.

The agreement contains no salary increase but reduces the amount Coyle would have to pay the U if he were to leave his job early.

Coyle left Syracuse University for the U in 2016, accepting a five-year contract that pays him an $850,000 salary plus $100,000 in annual retirement contributions. The extension keeps him under contract through June 2024.

President Eric Kaler, who is retiring next summer, said stability at the position will help the U as it transitions to a new president.

Some regents saw it differently.

Darrin Rosha suggested thaat the board postpone the extension to December. Regents expect to have found a new president by then and the delay would give that person time to interact with Coyle.

Rosha was outvoted.

"I think actually this is a case where we do the new president a favor by getting this done," Ken Powell said.

"When you have somebody that's one of the best in their ... vocation, you need to keep that person," Dean Johnson said.

Kaler and regents praised Coyle for his integrity and the tone he has set since taking over for Norwood Teague, who resigned in 2015 after sexually harassing two co-workers.

Kaler said Coyle's "integrity, his accomplishments, his ability to attract and retain talent and the overall movement of the athletic department forward" make him a "remarkable package."

Rosha agreed that Coyle has done his job well. But while Gophers student-athletes are doing well in the classroom, he said, the football and men's basketball teams aren't winning enough.

If that changes, Rosha said, he anticipates Coyle will get a pay increase, after all.

Under Coyle's original contract, he — or his new employer — would have had to pay the U an amount equal to the base salary left on his contract if he were to leave early.

The new agreement keeps that provision through June 2020. After that, his buyout is reduced by half through 2022, 75 percent the next year and eliminated in his final year.

Kaler said that concession, paired with no increase in compensation, "seemed to me to be a good deal."

If the U fires Coyle, he still will get his full base salary for the remainder of his contract. However, he would be required to seek similar employment and any new salary would reduce the U's obligation.

"It would take him about an hour and a half to find a new job, in my opinion, so I think the financial risk to the institution is negligible," Kaler said.

Meeting as the finance committee, regents voted 9-2 Thursday to approve the new contract. They'll make it official Friday.