The University of Colorado system Board of Regents approved the contract for athletic director Rick George Friday morning, 6-2, but some criticized the large amount of funds that go toward athletics.
The approved five-year contract for George — which begins July 1 and runs through June 30, 2024 — includes an $850,000 base salary, as well as several supplemental benefits. He will receive $3,500 in sponsorship support, $8,400 for a country club membership, a $7,200 courtesy car stipend and eight season tickets for football games, as well as eight season tickets for all other University of Colorado Boulder home games.
He can also receive incentive funds of up to $995,000 for meeting academic, fundraising and attendance goals.
George is also liable for various sums if he terminates the contract early.
George became athletic director in 2013, and was the highest paid administrator in the history of the school at the time with a base salary of $700,000. In June of 2016, he received a three-year extension, with a base salary of just over $754,000 per year; that contract was unanimously approved by regents.
George has succeeded in raising money for the previously struggling athletics department, and he received praise from several regents as well as CU system President Bruce Benson at the Friday meeting at Williams Village in Boulder.
“I don’t think there’s any disagreement about the caliber of athletic director that he is,” said board Chair Sue Sharkey, R-Castle Rock.
However, both Regents Linda Shoemaker, D-Boulder, and Jack Kroll, D-Denver, opposed the contract. Regent Lesley Smith, D-at large, abstained from the vote, saying she did not have enough time to fully educate herself on the issue.
Kroll said his no vote came from his opposition to the money spent on the athletic department, which gets about $8 to $9 million per year from various sources. He asked the other regents to think of what that money could fund instead, including student tuition, more Nobel Laureate faculty and regent proposals, like civics education.
“My fiduciary obligations require me to ask if this subsidy is the best use of our students’ and taxpayers’ money,” he said. “I do not think it is.” He added that, while they often blame the reduction in state funding for rising tuition rates, he doesn’t think he could say they’re trying to make tuition affordable if they continue to approve “multimillion dollar salaries for government employees.”
To support this contract in the future, he said he’d need the department to be self-sustaining, have a plan for the declining popularity of football and measures put in place to pay athletes who risk their minds and bodies while playing.
Shoemaker also voted against the contract, citing similar issues.
Regent Irene Griego, D-Lakewood, approved the contract, although she said she also concerned with the athletic department’s finances. One of the reasons she supports it is because of George’s willingness to discuss student athlete safety, as shown at a panel on the topic on Thursday. She said she’s impressed with his dedication to the issue of concussions and CTE, among others, and with the fact that he isn’t ignoring the concerns of some on the board.
Sharkey said she is concerned that some regents used “their personal views on football or athletics or concussions or TBIs” against George in their votes on the contract.
“This is not a reflection on the quality of work that Rick has brought to the athletic department,” she said. “I think it’s very unfortunate that we use our athletic director’s contract to make statements about player safety. That is a separate issue.”
Regent Glen Gallegos, R-Grand Junction, said the board can change the direction of the department if they want to, but that the issue at hand was George’s job description and the quality of his work.