The price of sustaining last season's unprecedented basketball success at Virginia Commonwealth will apparently come out of the pockets of its students.
According to VCU's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the school will raise fees $50 per student in part to pay for an $875,000 increase in the budget for intercollegiate athletics. About $733,000 of the athletic department's windfall is earmarked for the men's basketball program to help pay for scholarships, facility repairs and the huge raise coach Shaka Smart and his staff received after taking the Rams to their first-ever Final Four this spring.
To fend off interest from NC State, Missouri and a handful of other higher-profile schools, VCU increased Smart's annual salary to $1.2 million, double what he earned last year even after factoring in his bonuses. Smart's new salary makes him the Colonial Athletic Association's highest paid head coach and one of the most well-paid non-major conference coaches in the nation.
Very few athletic departments without a high-profile football program are self-sustaining, so VCU is far from alone in supplementing its intercollegiate sports budget with student fees in addition to private donations and ticket and TV revenue. Nonetheless, it's rare for an increase in university fees to so clearly be a result of the price of keeping a basketball coaching staff intact.
How will VCU students react to the increase in fees? Some won't be thrilled, but those who followed the men's basketball team's stunning run probably will be understanding.
Some students scrounged up hundreds of dollars in gas and hotel money and spent a 22-hour car ride with complete strangers to make it to the Final Four in Houston last month. What's another $50 when you've already been through that?
- Shaka Smart