It took $2.5 million for Wright State to lure basketball coach Scott Nagy away from South Dakota State, where he had coached the previous 21 seasons.
Nagy’s contract, obtained by this news outlet through a public records request, is for five years with an annual base salary of $500,000, which is more than double the $225,000 former coach Billy Donlon was earning prior to being fired in March.
That’s a sharp increase for a university that overspent its budget by $34 million this year, but athletic director WSU Bob Grant said basketball is the primary revenue generator for the department and Nagy’s salary is more of an investment than an expenditure.
“We’re always striving for ways to spend less budget dollars, and that’s a hard thing in this economic climate,” Grant said. “One way to spend less is to generate more. And men’s basketball is the best way to do that.
“When you look at what men’s basketball can do for us financially, from a ticket sales standpoint, from a sponsorship standpoint, from a donation standpoint, from an NCAA money standpoint, that’s where our revenue generation starts and ends, with them.”
In addition to paying Nagy more than double what Donlon was making, the university is still paying Donlon $225,000 as part of a separation agreement following his termination with two years left on his contract.
But Grant said the salary spike simply brings WSU in line with the other Division I schools in Ohio and the Horizon League and is a reflection of the experience Nagy brings to the job as opposed to six years ago when Donlon stepped into his first head-coaching position by replacing Brad Brownwell, who left for Clemson.
“Brad Brownell was a tremendous coach for us and we really strived to get Brad near the top of the league,” Grant said. “When he left he was at $385,000 six years ago, and those salaries have not gone down or flat. They’ve gone up.
“The last I checked, the average salary for a head basketball coach in Division I — and I only have access to public schools — is over $800,000,” Grant continued. “Now obviously we’re not going to pay that. But we looked at what is the top of the Horizon League getting paid, what’s the top of the (Mid-American Conference) getting paid. That’s got to be the range if we want to try to get the results and generate the revenue to help us spend less budget dollars. We’ve got to go there.”
In addition to the base salary, Nagy’s contract calls for him to earn a bonus of $41,667 with each NCAA Tournament appearance and an additional $10,000 for each NCAA Tournament win. An NIT invite would earn Nagy a bonus of $20,833.
“We do think about trying to spend less and we’re very cognizant of where we are in the league,” Grant said. “This is a very fiscally responsible athletic department. We try to do things in as conservative a way as possible, but when you hire a basketball coach who can help make you money with results, you’ve got to look at the profile we looked at to get a person like Scott who can get us where we want to go.
“I really look at it as an investment. It really does not upset the apple cart of where we fall in Ohio or in the league, which is near the bottom of both of those categories when it comes to budget dollars we spend.”