University of Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione received $30,000 in bonuses tied to the postseason success of the women’s gymnastics team, a program that lost more than $1.5 million last year.
The Sooners won the Big 12 title in March, their sixth in seven years, and shared the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship last weekend. The program was one of four women’s gymnastics teams whose expenses outpaced revenue by more than $1.5 million in the year ended June 30, according to data schools submit to the U.S. Department of Education.
Castiglione, who is being paid a $905,000 guaranteed salary this year, was unavailable to comment, according to school athletics spokesman Pete Moris. An e-mail sent to university President David Boren’s office wasn’t returned.
Castiglione’s contract, obtained through open records laws, includes bonuses of $10,000 for the gymnastics team’s conference title and $20,000 for the NCAA championship.
“‘We try to say college sports isn’t a business, and yet we let athletic directors operate like for-profit CEOs with all this incentive pay,” said David Ridpath, a sports administration professor at Ohio University. Ridpath is president-elect of the Drake Group, a collection of university faculty members who since 1999 have called for reform of an athletic system that they say prioritizes money over academics.
Castiglione isn’t the only athletic director to have bonuses tied to the performance of money-losing teams. Ohio State University’s Gene Smith received an $18,086 bonus -- one week of his $940,000 base salary -- when wrestler Logan Stieber won his weight class at the NCAA championship in March. The wrestling program lost $805,000 in fiscal 2013. California’s Sandy Barbour got a $10,423 bonus -- 2.5 percent of her $416,931 base salary -- for the men’s NCAA swimming and diving title last month. Those programs lost a combined $534,000.
Oklahoma is the only school to reward its athletic director for a women’s gymnastics title among the NCAA’s top- five ranked programs, according to a review of contracts at the schools.
Lawsuits over use of players’ images and claiming antitrust violations as well as an effort by Northwestern University football players to unionize have led to new scrutiny of college sports.
In current broadcast contracts alone, the NCAA and the five richest conferences are guaranteed more than $31 billion. That doesn’t include other sources of revenue such as sponsorship, merchandise sales, ticket sales and booster donations.
“The only reason we’re able to pay out those salaries and incentives for a gymnastics team’s performance is because we’re suppressing the earning power of the labor, so the system itself is broken,” Ridpath, a former assistant wrestling coach at Ohio, said in a telephone interview. “I know $30,000 for some of these programs would be fantastic. Let’s help out the students.”
Heading into this academic year, Sooners teams had won eight national championships and 60 conference titles under Castiglione, who has been with the Norman, Oklahoma, school since 1998. He was named Athletic Director of the Year in 2009 by the Sports Business Journal. Oklahoma’s intercollegiate sports programs turned a $17.5 million profit in the year ended June 30, according to the Department of Education data.
Castiglione this year received $40,000 for the football team’s participation in the Sugar Bowl and $25,000 for the men’s basketball team’s berth in the NCAA tournament. Both those programs made money in fiscal 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
He also received a $10,000 bonus for the men’s gymnastics team’s conference title and a $25,000 bonus for the postseason participation of the women’s basketball team, which lost $3.1 million last year. Castiglione’s contract also includes a $10,000 bonus tied to graduation rates.
Oklahoma women’s gymnastics coach K.J. Kindler and her two assistants each received a total bonus of 40 percent of their base salaries for winning the Big 12 and NCAA titles. For Kindler, who is paid $175,000, those bonuses totaled $70,000.