Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman embraces and comforts senior guard Trent Frazier after the Illini’s 68-53 loss to Houston in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Anthony Zilis/The News-Gazette

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman is in line to receive his second contract extension since being hired more than six years ago.

According to an item on the agenda for next week’s UI trustees meeting, Whitman would receive a four-year contract extension that will bump his salary past $1 million.

If approved by trustees, the latest extension will keep Whitman at Illinois through the 2027-28 academic year after an initial three-year extension in 2019.

The terms of Whitman’s extension will push his base salary to $975,000 for 2022-23 with the new terms starting in one week. The amended contract also calls for $50,000 annual raises through 2027-28, with Whitman’s salary reaching $1.225 million by the end of the deal.

Whitman is also in line to receive additional retention incentive compensation of $200,000 on June 30 of 2024, 2026 and 2028 should he remain continuously employed as Illinois’ athletic director. Whitman’s incentive compensation — bonuses he can receive for athletic and academic achievements within the program — was also increased to a maximum of $300,000 annually.

Whitman’s amended contract also includes an update to his buyout. Should he be terminated without cause, liquidated damages will equal 100 percent of his base salary capped at $4.5 million. Should Whitman resign his position at Illinois, he will owe the university $1.8 million — a total that will be reduced by $300,000 annually.

Whitman has overseen a facilities boom since the former Illini tight end returned to Champaign to become the AD at his alma mater in February 2016. The new projects, which have been almost exclusively practice facilities, were a combined $155 million investment in the athletic program.

The project that started it all was the $80 million Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Performance Center. Since it opened in August 2019, Illinois has also started a $40 million expansion and renovation of Ubben Basketball Complex to address the program’s other major sport.

Other projects include the $14 million Demirjian Park for soccer and track and field, which was completed last fall, and the ongoing construction of the Susan and Clint Atkins Baseball Training Center ($8 million) and the Rex and Alice A. Martin Softball Training Center ($6 million). Illinois has also invested more into golf with a $2 million expansion of the Demirjian Indoor Golf Practice Facility and a $5 million renovation of Atkins Golf Club.

Whitman has also made several changes among Illinois’ 19 Division I sports — most notably in football and men’s and women’s basketball. The first move Whitman made after being hired was to fire football coach Bill Cubit in March 2016 and replace him with Lovie Smith.

Smith went 17-39 overall and 10-33 in the Big Ten before being fired in December 2020. Whitman’s second football hire was Bret Bielema, who posted a 5-7 overall record and 4-5 mark in conference play last fall.

Whitman has also hired two women’s basketball coaches. Matt Bollant was fired one year into Whitman’s tenure as athletic director and replaced by Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Fahey. Fahey, who won five Division III national championships at Washington University in St. Louis, retired in March after going 42-99 overall and 7-77 …….


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *