For years, the Colorado athletic department has felt hamstrung by legislation that limits the amount of multi-year contracts it can offer to coaches.
That could change as early as this summer.
Senator Kevin Priola has helped to lead the charge for Senate bill 17-041, which would allow CU and other in-state schools, including Colorado State and Northern Colorado, to offer more multi-year contracts to coaches.
Currently, CU and other state schools are limited to six multi-year contracts per campus, with a cap of five years in length on those deals. CU uses all six contracts in athletics. Athletic director Rick George, head football coach Mike MacIntyre, football defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, head men's basketball coach Tad Boyle, head women's basketball coach J.R. Payne and head women's volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney have multi-year contracts.
Senate bill 17-041 would take those multi-year contract restrictions away from self-funded auxiliaries, such as athletics.
"It's just trying to give them a little bit of flexibility to manage their own affairs and keep some top-notch talent here and offer this as an inducement (to hiring other coaches)," Priola said. "It's something I've been aware of for a few years and thought about it, talked with some folks and we finally decided to run with it."
Bill 17-041 has gone through three of the seven hurdles thus far. It has gone through all three readings in the state Senate and on Tuesday was introduced to the Colorado House of Representatives and assigned to the education committee. If the bill passes all three readings in the House, the final step is a signature from Governor John Hickenlooper.
"I'm pretty encouraged," Priola said. "It's a bipartisan piece of legislation, and it hasn't had anybody testifying against it."
A 1996 CU graduate, Priola is a sports fan and CU season ticket holder, so he has been aware of this issue for a while.
"My primary motivation is the Buffs, but it will also help other athletic programs around the state," he said.
It's difficult to quantify how the inability to offer multi-year contracts has hurt CU, but George said, "I certainly think it has impacted, sometimes, our ability to recruit and retain coaches and staff.
"I think it puts us as a competitive disadvantage."
In January, CU lost assistant football coach Charles Clark to Oregon. While the multi-year deal may not have been the only factor, Clark did get a two-year contract from the Ducks.
All of Oregon's football assistant coaches have multi-year deals. Utah has typically given each of its assistants two-year deals that roll over annually.
CU isn't the only Pac-12 school with coaches operating on year-to-year deals.
A year ago, Arizona's regents approved multi-year deals for defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and offensive coordinator Calvin Magee. The Arizona Daily Star reported it was believed to be the first time an Arizona assistant received a multi-year deal. Arizona's other seven assistants have year-to-year deals.
The Colorado 71st General Assembly is set to adjourn on May 10, so if this bill passes, it will become effective 90 days later, on Aug. 9.