Late last week Iowa announced that Tom Brands had signed a contract extension, tying him to the Hawkeyes through the 2019-20 season. Brands previously signed a contract extension approximately three years ago, one that extended his stay in Iowa City through the 2016-17 season. So it was probably time to re-up him, if only to reassure recruits that he would be here through their entire college careers. Although what we said at the time still rings true now: barring scandal or a health issue, the job is very likely his for as long as he wants it, unless results drop precipitously. And results haven't dropped precipitously.
True, when Brands signed his previous extension (in 2012), it was when memories of Iowa's national title three-peat (2008-10) were still relatively fresh in our collective memory. Brands is signing this extension after a period in which Iowa failed to add any new national championships to their collection and added just one Big Ten title (a shared title with Ohio State last year). That rankles a bit at Iowa, where the expectations are generally "championship or bust."
And while that national title expectation hasn't been met, the results haven't been bad. Iowa has won at least a share of seven of the last eight Big Ten regular season titles, finished in the top three at the last nine Big Ten Tournaments, and finished in the top four at the last eight NCAA Tournaments -- the longest such active streaks in the country. No other program in the country can match that -- Ohio State is the king of the moment (Big Ten/NCAA Champion in 2015) and Penn State has been the most dominant program overall recently (Big Ten/NCAA Champions from 2011-14), but even they've had setbacks in recent years -- Penn State finished 5th at the Big Ten Tournament and 6th at the NCAA Tournament this year, while Ohio State hadn't finished higher than 5th at the NCAA Tournament in the five seasons prior to this year. Under Brands, a down year for Iowa means finishing 3rd in the Big Ten and 4th in the NCAA. That's not bad.
Granted, there's a counter-argument to be made that recent Iowa teams have tended to have a high floor but a somewhat low ceiling, results-wise, which may not be wholly desirable. Penn State fielded a deliberately weakened team in 2015 so that they could improve their ability to contend for titles in 2016, 2017, and beyond; is it worth punting on a season if it might lead to greater success in the short-to-medium term? Perhaps. But these are also topics that I'll be exploring in greater detail as we get closer to the start of the 2015-16 season.
Regardless, top 3 (in the Big Ten) and top 4 (in the NCAA) finishes are fine, but they're not what Iowa aspires to by any means -- which Tom Brands acknowledges:
"We have high expectations for this program, and I know our fans, administration, and campus leaders share those expectations," said Brands. "Being a part of Hawkeye wrestling is a privilege, and as head coach it comes with a responsibility that I take very seriously. We've got work to do."
Those expectations haven't been met over the last few years and he's right: there is work to do. It's difficult to argue that Brands isn't the man to do it, either. He's succeeded at a high level already -- a level that only a handful of current coaches can match (Cael Sanderson at Penn State, J Robinson at Minnesota, and John Smith at Oklahoma State, basically) and even if results haven't been as good as we might hope, they haven't been poor and they haven't been trending in the wrong direction (which was a problem for Jim Zalesky, Brands' predecessor). Replacing Brands at Iowa also means, quite literally, finding a replacement... which is a challenging proposition. The list of wrestling coaches of his caliber is pretty short -- and those coaches are already well-compensated at powerhouse programs of their own. The alternative is to go with a less proven coach, a decision that could be fraught with peril. It was relatively easy to make the decision to replace Zalesky when Tom Brands was just a phone call away -- that situation doesn't exist today.
Terms of Brands' three-year extension have not yet been disclosed, though Brands is likely to remain one of the top-paid college wrestling coaches in the sport even if his extension doesn't include any sort of raise. Brands had a base salary of $153,000 in 2014 per his 2012 contract extension and the information available in the Press-Citizen's state employee salary database. By comparison, Sanderson has a base salary of $175,000 per year, according to information released by Penn State when he signed his own extension in 2012. (That deal runs through 2017, so Sanderson should be signing a new extension of his own soon.) J Robinson signed a two-year contract extension(through April 30, 2016) in 2012 that stipulates an annual salary of $140,077.00 (information from the Pioneer Press' state employee salary database lists his "total pay" for 2014 at $143,579). The newest member of the championship coaching club, Ohio State's Tom Ryan, had a base salary of $162,000 (and "total pay" of $212,482.73) in 2014, per the Ohio State University salary database maintained by Columbus Business First. (Incidentally, Ryan also signed an extension of his own recently.) According to the state employee salary database maintained by Tulsa World, John Smith had a "total 2014 salary" of $304,979.96.
My hunch is that Smith's reported figure includes compensation other than base salary; obviously Oklahoma State has a lot of T. Boone Pickens money, but it seems unlikely that Smith has a base salary twice as high as Brands (and over $100,000/per year higher than any other top coach). We also know that wrestling coaches can (and do) make far more than their base salary figures and in that context, Smith's figures make much more sense. For instance, Hawk Central broke down Brands' total compensation last year and it was far more than that $153,000 base salary (actually $160,000 since his base salary figure amount increased from 2014 to 2015):
Under the terms of Brands' previous contract, which he signed in 2012 and was scheduled to run through 2017, he earned $345,000 in the 2014-15 season - $225,000 from guaranteed pay ($160,000 base salary, $65,000 for TV/radio/I-Club commitments), a $55,000 longevity bonus and $60,000 in competitive bonuses (including Midlands and Big Ten championships, plus a top-three NCAA finish). That figure does not include any money earned through summer camps or academic performance bonuses.
Those figures are drawn directly from the terms in the extension that Brands signed in 2012, available here. It seems reasonable to assume that Sanderson, Robinson, Smith, and Ryan have similar incentives and non-base salary compensation commitments that would raise their total compensation packages to figures far beyond the base salary amounts reported above. (They might even have higher incentive totals or additional compensation commitments, which would explain how Penn State has reportedly paid Sanderson as much as $500,000 in the past.)
Again, terms for Brands' current contract extension have not yet been made public, so we don't know what (if any) sort of raise he might have received or how the other aspects of his compensation package have been altered (if at all). Regardless, Brands is very well-compensated, but his results back up that compensation -- he's getting paid like one of the best coaches in his sport and he has Iowa continuing to perform like one of the best teams in the sport. That's good. The next step is getting Iowa to once again perform like the best team in the sport.