The terms are being worked out, and a contract may soon be signed.
Its total worth is more than $1 million. There is a $100,000 signing bonus and equivalent retention bonuses every year. The incentive package is impressive, too. A car is provided complete with a driver. There are travel and entertainment allowances and even a spousal recognition and compensation.
No, it’s not a professional athlete who demands these lofty terms. It’s not a rock star either.
Instead, if the USF Board of Trustees acts on information gathered by Ray Cotton, it will be USF President Judy Genshaft who will be signing a lucrative contract.
The board announced at its Nov. 21 meeting that it had hired the services of Cotton, who is a Washington, D.C.-based consultant brought in to analyze Genshaft’s compensation.
Genshaft currently makes about $237,000 a year. But according to numbers compiled by Cotton, Genshaft’s in the bottom pay quarter for presidents of Research I institutions.
A strong comparison for USF, Cotton said, is Florida State University. FSU President Talbot D’Alemberte has a base salary of about $285,000 and a benefits package totaling about $50,000.
The University of Central Florida, which often draws comparisons with USF, pays its president a base salary of $202,000. But, Cotton said, despite similarities in enrollment and faculty, its presidents’ salary should not be used by USF as a basis for Genshaft’s contract for one particular reason.
“Central Florida is not comparable to South Florida because it does not have a medical school,” Cotton said.
Universities with medical schools, Cotton said, are more high profile, and thus handle more money. That makes the president’s job that much more difficult, he said.
Looking outside of Florida, Cotton has also provided other examples for the BOT to consider. Highest paid on his list is George Washington University, which pays President Stephen Trachtenberg $550,000. Lowest is the University of West Florida, where John Cavanaugh earns $178,000.
Also, Cotton said, there is a growing trend around the nation for a “retention bonus” of about $100,000 per year. That money is meant to encourage a president to stay with an institution. Cotton said several presidents have commanded hefty signing bonuses, as well.
So why is it that presidents are commanding higher salaries with luxurious extras? Well, Cotton said, much of it has to do with supply and demand.
“The supply of people that are competent to run these large complex entities are relatively few,” Cotton said. “What’s happening is there is a turnover that’s taking place right now with current presidents … a lot are retiring.”
Because there are so few qualified presidents in the market, Cotton said universities are actively recruiting presidents already sitting in other universities, a practice that used to be less common. An underpaid Genshaft, he said, may be a steal for another university, and her departure would leave USF out in the cold.
Therefore, Cotton said, USF is going to be forced to do whatever it takes to be competitive in the market.
“It’s what your competitors are doing,” Cotton said. “However dedicated (presidents) are, and they’re very dedicated people, but they also have families and want to be fair to themselves and to their family.”
So just how much of a raise could Genshaft receive? Cotton said his job is not to recommend outright. Instead, he said, he provides the board with facts and figures from other universities, as well as some small suggestions, and allows them to formulate a plan.
Judging from numbers from other Research I institutions nationwide and positive comments from BOT Chairman Dick Beard, Genshaft stands to see a substantial salary increase. With it will probably come at least some of 13 extras recommended by Cotton.
Genshaft, for her part, has maintained a middle-of-the-road attitude on her possible salary.
“I’ve said that I would like to be paid in a fair way compared to other presidents of universities like USF,” Genshaft said Nov. 21. “I’ll leave it up to the board.”
The board’s vote on Genshaft’s consultation will come in the middle of the Christmas break. A “compensation committee” will discuss the issue Dec. 16, and a full board conference call will more than likely approve the new terms Dec. 18.