Working hard for the money

The Big East won’t necessarily equal big time for the USF coaches. While their counterparts in the realignment of the Big East this fall — Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and West Virginia — are at the top, USF coaches find themselves near the bottom of the totem pole, underneath seven elder schools.

Rounding out the bottom of the major sports at USF is Greg Thiel, the men and women’s track and field coach, while understandably the frontrunner is football coach Jim Leavitt.

Thiel barely makes one-tenth of what Leavitt makes in a year, and while many would not agree that they should be paid the same, others in the Athletic Department find themselves with very low salaries.

Men’s soccer coach George Kiefer, who in three years has posted a 28-20-3 record, is the third lowest-paid coach at $41,711, while international star and Olympian Gigi Fernandez — who recently departed USF claiming she was tired of coaching — was making a base salary of $40,738, just $123 more a year than Thiel.

In men’s college soccer — a sport found at most universities despite Title IX — coaches are found to be the lowest paid.

Kiefer has been at USF for three years. Women’s soccer coach Logan Fleck, who’s been with the University for 15 years, makes $46, 827.

Men and women’s tennis coaches find themselves in a similar situation, making barely more than the average salary of a teacher in Florida. Men’s tennis coach Don Barr, surrounded by his foreign players, makes less than the average X-ray tech ($45,000).

Though the general trend of most athletics departments is rewarding coaches of the more prominent sports — football, men’s basketball and, recently, women’s basketball — coaches who find success, and those who find success over long periods of time, find themselves with larger checkbooks.

Louisville’s men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino is paid $1.35 million a year, while its football coach, Bobby Petrino, makes a cool million a year. USF’s men’s basketball coach Robert McCullum, two years into a six-year contract, makes $202,559 a year.

But others — those who have success either very early in their careers or take a while to get warmed up — have loftier contracts, though find themselves underneath their counterparts.

Women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez, fresh off a pay raise and the best season in team history with a 21-11 record, receives $125,000 annually; but new rival and three-time National Champion Connecticut coach Gino Auriemma, who also received a new contract, has a base salary of $225,000, plus $25,000 tacked on every season.

Decades of fidelity to a school don’t always mean pay dividends for coaches.

Take USF baseball coach Eddie Cardieri. He’s been a coach in Tampa for 23 years — 20 of those as head coach — and finds a paycheck at the end of the year totaling only $63,220 with two years remaining on his current contract.

Then there’s softball coach Ken Eriksen, who’s been with USF for 10 years in addition to serving as a pitching coach at the 2004 Olympics — and is even an alumnus — makes significantly less than Cardieri at $53,964.

USF entering its first year in the Big East, has its coaches in the lower ranks of its peers.