By Steve Berkowitz
USA TODAY Sports
Having joined the ranks of perennial college football bowl participants, Northwestern University also now has joined the ranks of schools at which a coach has the highest annual compensation.
Pat Fitzgerald was credited with more than $2.2 million in compensation during the 2011 calendar year, according to the university’s new federal tax return. That is nearly $1 million more than he was reported as making in 2010, and the differential is almost entirely in base pay.
In addition, Fitzgerald has received a $2.5 million loan from the school as part of his compensation package, and the balance due on the loan grew by nearly $70,000 during the university’s fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, 2012. (IRS rules require non-profit organizations to report compensation on a calendar-year basis and other data on a fiscal-year basis.)
Even without the loan, this is the first time since 2005 that Northwestern’s tax return has shown a coach to be the highest paid employee of the university and its related organizations, according to documents compiled by USA TODAY Sports.
In 2005, then-football coach Randy Walker was credited with nearly $1.9 million, but more than $1.2 million of that was from the payout of a deferred compensation account. In 2004, then-men’s basketball coach Bill Carmody was credited with nearly $1.4 million, but $600,000 was from a deferred payout. In both of those years, other Northwestern reported employees with higher annual compensation. The figures for Walker and Carmody come from tax returns dating from 2000 compiled by CitizenAudit.org.
Northwestern’s new return reports Fitzgerald totaling $2,221,153 as follows:
— $1,972,041 in base pay – about $900,000 more than what he received in 2010. None of this money was reported as coming from deferred, or other one-time, pay.
— $82,500 in bonus and incentive compensation – almost $30,000 less than what he received in 2010.
— $121,041 in other reportable compensation.
— $24,500 in retirement and other deferred compensation.
— $21,071 in non-taxable benefits.
Fitzgerald’s 2011 compensation moved him ahead of the just-over $2 million in earnings Northwestern reported for Patrick M. McCarthy, a professor of cardiothoracic surgery who also was reported with a little more than $2 million in 2010. (McCarthy is paid primarily by the related, but university-controlled, Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. Beginning with 2008 compensation data, IRS regulations have required that highly compensated employees of non-profits who are being paid by multiple, related non-profits be listed on the tax returns of each group paying them.)
As a private school, Northwestern is not required to make public its employment contracts.
“It is Northwestern University’s longstanding policy not to comment … about the salaries and compensation of our employees,” university spokesman Bob Rowley said via e-mail.
In May 2011, when Fitzgerald agreed to a new contract, Northwestern’s athletics department issued a news release saying the deal was for 10 years. Fitzgerald’s biographical sketch on the school’s athletics web site says the deal is “unprecedented in Northwestern Athletics history.”
The $2.5 million loan to Fitzgerald initially was disclosed on the school’s tax return for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2011. Even though the balance due increased during the subsequent year, the new return says the loan is not in default. The university also has two loans, originally totaling $180,000, outstanding to vice president for development Robert McQuinn.
Other schools have made loans to coaches so the coaches could make buyout payments to their previous employers; those arrangements generally at least initially have included provisions forgiving pro-rata portions of the loan for each contract-year completed or forgiving the loans entirely if the coach were to be fired without cause. Some UCLA athletics department employees are contractually granted the opportunity to participate in a University of California home loan plan that also is available to certain other school employees.
Fitzgerald, who had been an all-American linebacker and an assistant coach at Northwestern, is in his eighth season as the Wildcats’ head coach. He has a 51-39 overall record and has led the team to bowl games in each of the past five seasons, accounting for nearly half of the school’s all-time bowl appearances. The team’s victory in the Gator Bowl following last season was its first bowl win since the Rose Bowl that followed the 1948 season.
In addition, the team has maintained top-level academic performance under Fitzgerald. It has had the NCAA Bowl Subdivision’s top multi-year football Academic Progress Rate in each of the past two most recent releases of those data. It tied with Notre Dame for No. 1 in the NCAA’s most recent football Graduation Success Rate data.
Category: Big Ten