Four days ago, prior to accepting their bid to the NIT, Illinois fired its head basketball coach John Groce after a disappointing 19-14 record following the Big Ten Tournament. Today, there are reports that Illinois is now considering offering Virginia head coach Tony Bennett $4.8 million per year.
The rumor appears to have originated from Sam Snelling, who covers Missouri basketball for SB Nation’s Rock M Nation.
Here’s what I know, Illinois is talking about offering $4.8m/yr to Tony Bennett, they aren’t talking about offering half that for Cuonzo— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) March 15, 2017
The tweet came a couple hours before Cuonzo Martin was named the head coach of Missouri. It was picked up by SB Nation’s The Champaign Room, our Illinois counterparts.
Virginia, of course, tips off against UNC Wilmington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Orlando on Thursday at 12:40 p.m. ET. It would be unlikely that Bennett, if he is even interested in leaving the program, would be interviewing right now, or even having his agent shopping the market for him.
To be clear, there is no report that says that Illinois has made any offer, or that Bennett has interviewed for the position. At this time, there isn’t anything more than a rumor that someone who has heard that the school might be willing to offer a lot -- a lot -- of money for a very good coach.
Bennett currently makes $2.1 million per year at Virginia. He earned an additional $50,000 for reaching the NCAA Tournament and will continue to earn bonuses depending on how deep into the tournament the Hoos go.
If Illinois were to make an offer at the $4.8 million mark, Virginia will need to take a long, hard look at whether it’s willing to pony up this amount. Fans, we already know what you think.
According to USA Today, Virginia brought in approximately $91.3 million in 2014-2015, good for 29th in the country. Illinois wasn’t too far behind, ranked 36th with $86.0 million in revenue.
An offer of $4.8 million would bump him up to somewhere around the sixth-highest paid coach in the country, behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Arizona’s Sean Miller, and Kansas’s Bill Self (the numbers vary by source). Illinois had paid its previous coach $1.6 million per year.
There are plenty of reasons Bennett would stay in Charlottesville, including the obvious ones of him having rebuilt the program to where it is today, Charlottesville being a lovely town to raise some kids, and a fan base that cheers more loudly for him than it does for his players. Charlottesville has bought into the system. Is $4.8 million enough reasons to jump to Illinois? Can Illinois buy a new system?
We will keep you posted as anything more concrete develops.