The argument about whether or not college athletes should be paid for their work has raged on for years and will likely continue to do so until the NCAA allows for it to happen. Many people point to the salaries of coaches when they talk about the discrepancy. One coach, however, is not chasing the same type of money that some of the biggest names in the field often are given.
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett may have led his team to a national championship in men’s basketball, but he isn’t asking for a raise because he did so.
Who is Tony Bennett?
When people hear the name Tony Bennett, their first thought isn’t likely to be that of a college basketball coach. He first made his name at Washington State, where he brought his team to the NCAA Tournament in two of his three years. After making his name there, Bennett accepted a job at Virginia in 2009, and he has been there ever since.
After building the program back up, Bennett led his team to the NCAA tournament in 2012, and while he missed the tournament the following year, he has not missed it again since coming back in 2014. His teams have constantly been ranked in the top 10. Virginia has remained a basketball powerhouse over the last five years.
NBA Players Malcolm Brogdon, Mike Scott, and Joe Harris all got their starts at Virginia under Bennett. By winning the Championship in March, Bennett and Virginia were on the radar in ways they had never been before.
This meant it was not crazy to think that Bennett was going to get a healthy payday and to Virginia’s credit, they tried. Bennett, however, didn’t want a raise.
He did what?
Sports and money, even at the college level, go together hand in hand. Outside of student-athletes, accomplishments such as a championship are often met with a healthy pay raise. So when Virginia offered Bennett the incentive following last year’s historic run, he was flattered to receive it, but politely declined.
“[Virginia was] very gracious in what they offered to me as a potential contract, but I have a very good contract,” Bennett said in a statement. “I have more than enough, and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs, and coaches, by not tying up so much, that’s my desire.”
Bennett makes $4.15M a year, so he isn’t making pennies for his work, but even the world of amateur sports can be plagued with greed. He asked the school to spread the money through his staff and the basketball program itself instead of his pocketbook.
On top of turning down the lucrative raise, Bennett also pledged $500,000 toward a career development program for Virginia players who don’t have the luxury of making it into the NBA after they play for him.
Virginia’s upcoming season
Virginia’s championship glory will remain until the season starts, but once the new season tips off they will need to adjust their celebration instincts into survival ones. They play in a deep ACC that could make the prospect of contention tough.
They lost key players like Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter in the offseason, so it will be a tough battle for Virginia, and perhaps Bennett can show his worth if he can raise them into contention yet again.
Bennett did what many other coaches do not do. While the coaches talk about the love of the game and sanctity of the game, their paychecks often show that they, themselves, are motivated by factors that go beyond the ones they preach during every practice.
Bennett has proven that he is one of the best college basketball coaches in the country, but he also proved that he doesn’t have the same desire for monetary compensation as many others have.