Head Coach Willie Taggart’s new contract makes him WKU’s highest paid employee after approval from the Board of Regents on Friday.
Taggart now earns $475,000 — a large increase over his previous salary of $225,000. In addition, if WKU’s football team wins eight regular season games next season, Taggart’s salary will increase by 15 percent with an opportunity for a five percent increase every following year with eight regular season wins.
The contract places Taggart as head coach of WKU’s football team until at least 2015, with the possibility of extending his contract one more year every year up to 2018.
The majority of the board was in favor of the new contract, with the exception of Patricia Minter, who voted against the contract in its current form.
Minter said she received more than 70 emails criticizing the new contract, calling it unfair and demoralizing.
“This contract is the biggest merit raise in WKU history,” Minter said. “In contrast, faculty and staff haven’t had a merit raise since 2007 — only small bonuses and raises have happened since then.”
Minter said that the new contract shows that academics are not as important as sports to WKU.
“If faculty are not rewarded for merit based performance, our equivalent of having a good season, then WKU cannot claim to be a leading American university.” Minter said.
Minter said WKU faculty salaries all around the board are below benchmark and said she is worried about faculty only doing the bare minimum as there is no reward for great performance.
Athletics Director Ross Bjork made his case for the increase, saying it isn’t all under his and the universities control.
“Unfortunately we didn’t create the market that exists in college athletics…but we do have to compete with that,” Bjork said.
“There are coaches making 4 or 5 million dollars. Is that the right thing to do compared with what we do in terms of providing an academic mission? No, we all know that, but the marketplace is driving this. I’ve had people applaud me and us as a university for stepping up to the plate before we did lose Coach Taggart.”
Bjork said that he wanted to retain Taggart as well as provide continuity and stability with the new contract. He also pointed out that his salary is being paid out of athletic funds raised by the athletic department.
“We need increased revenue, we need to sell more tickets, we need to pack our stadium, and that happens with a winning program and great leadership,” Bjork said.