Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2014

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On top of their salaries, some eye-popping paychecks

One of the things I have learned about this business is that sports salaries are like Paris Hilton, Mike Tyson and train wrecks in India. In the words of Kenny Bania, the hack comedian on “Seinfeld,” “They’re gold, Ronnie, gold.” If you write about them, people will read. A lot of times, they’ll even write. Although not so much with the literal train wrecks.

Last week’s story in this space about the base salaries of UNLV coaches and other athletic department personnel generated a lot of response. Most of it was from people who wanted to know how you become an athletic director, or if there is a summer camp for aspiring ones, because it seems to pay pretty well. Plus, you get great seats at basketball games.

They were alluding to the fact that Mike Hamrick, the UNLV athletic director, makes more in base pay than David Ashley, the UNLV president.

But when you add in the perks — media appearance contracts and shoe contracts and cars and country club memberships and bonuses and other incentives — Babe Ruth doesn’t really make more money than President Hoover.

That’s the analogy I used in pointing out that Hamrick’s base salary is larger than Ashley’s.

To clarify, according to the bottom lines provided by the president’s office, Hamrick’s total compensation package is $283,666. Ashley’s, if my math is correct, is $431,000.

Hamrick’s base salary, as noted, is $255,000. He gets an automobile allowance of $23,666. Unlike his basketball and football coaches, he does not receive money for media appearances and public appearances, which may explain why he doesn’t make them. Nor does he have an apparel contract with Sweater Vests “R” Us. But he did receive a $5,000 bonus that was tied to the grade-point averages of the Rebels’ players. If bonuses are necessary, at least that one is for a good cause.

Ashley receives a base salary of $230,000 “together with such additional fringe benefits as are provided for all other professional employees of the Nevada System of Higher Education.” (Where is it written that contracts have to read like the balk rule?)

In addition, Ashley gets $8,000 for a car, $18,000 for a house, $5,000 for a “host account” and $170,000 for ... well, I’m not sure what. The $170,000 is itemized as a supplement from the UNLV Foundation, which, to you and me, may seem like Free Parking. But these supplements are pretty common among people with patches on the elbows of their tweed jackets who sit in high-back leather chairs. What’s not as common is how they are reported to the human resources department.

Ashley and Hamrick, at Nos. 3 and 7, are two of the biggest grazers in the UNLV pasture.

Checking in at No. 4 is Carol Harter, the former university president, who is paid $365,120 for doing jobs that aren’t nearly as important as the one she had. Breaking it down, she receives a base salary of $251,924, housing and auto allowances of $26,000, supplemental compensation of $47,196 and deferred compensation of $40,000.

Her presidential contract runs only through June 30, so maybe if UNLV still had a wrestling team, it wouldn’t have to drop it.

John Valery White is a rung below Harter on the salary ladder at $325,000. At least the dean of the Boyd School of Law is still performing the job he was hired to do. Cliff Seran, the head of advanced dental education, receives $293,000 to rank No. 6 among UNLV’s top moneymakers.

Mike Sanford, the football coach who has guided UNLV to a 6-29 record in three seasons, is the second-highest-paid UNLV employee with $457,688 in total compensation. Sanford gets a base salary of $150,000, $137,500 for media appearances, another $137,500 for public appearances and a $32,688 car allowance.

Judging from the plays he calls on fourth down, let’s hope the honor of UNLV’s Highest Paid Employee will not defer to the runner-up should Mr. Congeniality not be able to fulfill his obligations.

Lon Kruger, who wears that title on his sash, is also the UNLV basketball coach. He is the highest-paid school employee with total compensation of $996,000. On top of his base salary of $195,000, he receives $400,000 for media appearances and $330,000 for public appearances (at least he makes them). He has a $50,000 apparel contract and gets $21,000 for a car.

At first blush, receiving almost a million dollars a year to coach basketball seems like an awful lot of money. But Kruger’s pretty good at it. Besides, when you consider that basketball pays the football team’s bills and that if UNLV weren’t paying Kruger close to a million dollars to coach, somebody in the Big Ten would pay him more, it’s money well spent.

Besides, he did have a better year than the president.

He beat Kentucky and others for 7-footer Beas Hamga from Cameroon, so you can’t argue with his foreign policy.

And the only one he declared war on was Kent State.

Sun reporter Charlotte Hsu contributed to this column.

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