The progression of the Ohio State basketball program since 2004 is staggering enough that and even head coach Thad Matta looks back in amazement when analyzing just how far the Buckeyes have come during his tenure.
But that progress hasn’t been lost on Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who announced on Jan. 21 that Matta is in line to receive a 10 percent raise that increases his salary to more than $3.2 million annually.
“One of the things I am most proud of is what we have built here,” Matta said. “From where we started, we were at ground zero nine years ago in terms of the uncertainty of our program. We have been very, very fortunate with the teams that we have had and the jobs the coaches have done to build this program.
“You look at what we’ve been able to accomplish, for me personally, I am a lot more proud of that than I am of a contract. Fortunately, it kind of comes with the territory now a days in terms of what universities are doing and what coaches are getting.”
In Matta’s first eight years at Ohio State, the Buckeyes have won at least 20 games, reached the Final Four twice, won the Big Ten regular season five times and the conference tournament title three times, and have had seven players drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Most importantly to Smith were the improvements made in the classroom, as Ohio State’s NCAA Academic Progress Ranking – otherwise known as the APR – has improved from 911 to 972 under Matta’s guidance. During that span, 17 players out of 22 players that have exhausted their collegiate eligibility earned degrees from OSU.
Given the achievements Matta’s teams have made both on and off the court, Smith felt compelled to voluntarily reward the head coach with the revised contract that keeps Matta as one of the top-10 paid coaches in college basketball. The contract – which extends until 2019 with the five extra years he earned after winning Big Ten titles – won’t be officially in place until the OSU board of trustees approves it.
“I have always tried to keep coaches like Thad in the top-10, but that keeps moving so I am committed to having a coach that is paid consistently with his peers and our expectations,” Smith said. “This has been my behavior with all coaches ever since I have been in this business, to keep them compensated with their peers consistent with what I see out of their performance.”
Along with the raise, Matta also will receive academic bonuses and a car stipend. But the revision to the contract wasn’t only about compensation, as more stringent requirements for compliance were also added.
The new contract requires Matta to report “anyone who may have potentially violated” NCAA rules, and Smith said wording in his and all coaches’ contracts were updated after violations committed by former football coach Jim Tressel led to Ohio State’s probation and 2012 postseason football ban.
Matta had no issues with stricter requirements for compliance.
“All the things in there are things I live by in terms of my responsibility to this university,” Matta said. “I don’t know how much drastic change there is from that, because you look back at when I first came in, the program was (in bad shape). The way they should be is the way I view it. I look at that, and say, ‘Hey, that’s how I want to operate.’ I like having those in there.”
Follow Ari Wasserman on Twitter and find us on Facebook.