How Illini AD's paycheck compares to Big Ten peers

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Here's what the Big Ten athletic director guaranteed compensation chart will look like this month, when UI trustees are expected to sign off on an extension and raise for Josh Whitman. Excluded from the list: Northwestern, the league's lone private university, and Rutgers, which bases Pat Hobbs' annual pay on the median salary of his fellow ADs.

The News-Gazette obtained conference ADs' employment agreements via open-records request this fall.

1. Gene Smith, Ohio State: $2.06 million

2. Josh Whitman, Illinois: $1.5 million

3. Pat Kraft, Penn State: $1.285 million

4. Warde Manuel, Michigan: $1.25 million

5. Mark Coyle, Minnesota: $1.050 million

6. Chris McIntosh, Wisconsin: $1 million

7. Mike Bobinski, Purdue: $975,000

8. Damon Evans, Maryland: $845,000

9. Trev Alberts, Nebraska: $800,000

10. Alan Haller, Michigan State: $800,000

11. Beth Goetz, Iowa: $650,000

12. Scott Dolson, Indiana: $626,000

URBANA — The University of Illinois Board of Trustees is poised to approve a three-year contract extension and another big raise for Athletics Director Josh Whitman at its Nov. 16 meeting.

Under the extended eight-year contract, Whitman would continue leading the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics through at least June 30, 2031.

The extension provides Whitman a considerable raise retroactive to July 1, and puts him in line to become the second-highest-paid athletic director among Big Ten ADs before retention bonuses, retirement contributions and incentives are added.

On top at $2.06 million is Gene Smith, who has announced plans to retire from Ohio State next summer.

Under Whitman's current contract, which expires in 2028, his annual base pay rose July 1 from $975,000 to $1.025 million.

Under the proposed extended contract, his annual base pay would rise to $1.5 million, retroactive to July 1, not including potential performance-based bonuses of up to $300,000 a year, according to UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

"The intention was that other ADs likely will receive increases as well, and we want to be competitive," Kaler said.

Whitman, who has been in his position at the UI since 2016, would also continue to be eligible for retention incentives.

He's currently set to receive $200,000 retention bonuses in 2024, 2026 and 2028.

After the 2024 retention bonus, to be paid next summer, there would be four additional retention incentives paid to him over the course of the eight-year contract.

His contract would also include the potential for two one-year extensions next summer and in the summer of 2025, which could extend the agreement's end date to June 3, 2033.

The contract also includes a reworking of Whitman's buyout provision, which adds "significant protections" for the university in the event of his departure, according to Kaler.

Whitman's tenure at the UI has included hiring football coach Bret Bielema, men's basketball coach Brad Underwood and women's basketball coach Shauna Green.

Chancellor Robert Jones credited his "thoughtful and decisive leadership" for being "a critical stabilizing force in both the Big Ten and here at Illinois through one of the most tumultuous and challenging periods in the history of collegiate athletics."

Under his guidance, Illinois teams have made 82 NCAA postseason appearances, with 22 of those teams finishing in the top 116 nationally and seven finishing in the nation's top four, according to Kaler.

"I would like to thank Chancellor Jones, President (Tim) Killeen and our Board of Trustees for their unending support of my leadership and of Fighting Illini Athletics," Whitman said in a statement. "It is truly an honor to be entrusted with the only job I've ever wanted — serving as athletic director at my alma mater."