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Eric Peterson, Published August 03 2013

Details in dollars: A closer look at coaching salaries among the area's three public universities

Moorhead - When Steve Laqua had to choose between flexibility and money, the Minnesota State Moorhead head football coach picked the former.

“Ultimately, in the end, money is not a motivator for me,” Laqua said. “I don’t get caught up on it.”

For most MSUM head coaches, a portion of their salary is for duties other than coaching and can include teaching.

Laqua just coaches. So his $52,658 salary for 2013-14 is based on him not being full time. Laqua has a 75-percent position.

“Steve Laqua is a unique guy and this was a unique situation,” MSUM athletic director Doug Peters said.

The Forum obtained the salaries for each of the head coaches at MSUM, North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota through open records requests. Officials from all three schools said raises were given to all of their returning coaches.

“We are very, very fortunate to be able to provide raises pretty much across the board,” NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said. “To my knowledge, there was no coach who didn’t get a raise.”

Laqua got a raise of around 4.5 percent. He made $50,418 last season.

A father of six, Laqua didn’t want to be tied to teaching a class or other duties besides coaching.

He made that decision for both professional and family reasons. His wife, Dr. Patricia Laqua, is a family practitioner at Essentia Health.

“Part of being a team with my wife is balancing what her professional goals are, too.” Laqua said. “For us to balance that with our family, to spend extra time teaching, didn’t align with the goals we had.”

Peters said Laqua is a good example of Division II’s “Life in the Balance” mantra.

“One of the things I do appreciate about Steve’s situation is that it sends the message to his players that there are some things more important than your sport or your career,” Peters said.

During the season, Laqua said his typical day starts around 5 a.m. on a treadmill at home. While Laqua walks on the treadmill, he typically breaks down practice film and puts together scripts for that day’s practice.

“I will start working from home before everyone else has gotten up,” Laqua said.

Around 7 a.m., it is back to being dad for the next hour and a half or so.

“Instead of having to go in and teach a class, I have a little bit of time and can get the kids breakfast,” Laqua said.

Once his family duties for the morning are done, Laqua will get back on the treadmill and finish his prep work for football. On most days, he gets into his office at Alex Nemzek Hall


“Where it frees me up is flexibility,” Laqua said. “Flexibility if I need to come into the office a little bit later in the morning. Flexibility if I needed to go out and see a recruit. … It’s good for both home and the job.”

Laqua ranks sixth in pay among head coaches at MSUM. If he chose to teach and become a full-time employee, his salary would project to be around $70,000.

Peters said that most of the full-time head coaches at MSUM have salaries that are above the league average in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. MSUM doesn’t have incentive-based pay.

Peters said MSUM is also working on improving its salaries for assistant coaches.

For example, Rob Hunt, the offensive coordinator for the football team, is set to make around $52,000 for next season. Hunt has a full-time position with a 50-50 split between coaching and teaching.

Peters said the athletic department is working toward having nine assistant coaches with full-time positions for the upcoming school year. Most of those positions are half coaching and half teaching. There were three assistants who had full-time positions in 2012-13.

“We’ve been able to keep the core of our staffs together,” Peters said. “We’ve had better continuity in the last three or four years, especially in football.”

At UND and NDSU, both Division I schools, the salaries are based on just coaching. UND athletic director Brian Faison and Taylor said coaches can teach, but that is not a requirement.

“They have the option to teach some courses if they choose to, but that is handled outside of the department,” Faison said.

Earlier this summer, NDSU head men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips agreed upon a five-year contract extension. That bumped his base salary to $175,000 for 2013-14. Last season, his base pay was $151,000.

“We pay well for the Summit League,” Taylor said. “We’re at the top of the Summit League, I would say, in most of our positions.”

The Bison are a member of the Summit League in most sports. Football is one of the exceptions. NDSU is in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Bison head football coach Craig Bohl and UND head men’s hockey coach Dave Hakstol have the potential to be among the top-paid public employees in North Dakota. They both ranked in the top five for highest-paid public officials for 2012-2013, The Forum reported in June.

Hakstol is scheduled to make a base salary of $309,000 next season. Bohl is set to make $216,828 in base salary. Their overall compensation can grow substantially if both reach performance incentives like they did last season.

Hakstol made a total of $649,618 in 2012-13. Bohl’s total was $367,843 as his team won the FCS national championship for a second consecutive season.

“If he hits everything like he did this year, he would probably have back-to-back years in the mid-300s,” Taylor said. “Craig has the most opportunity for incentives when you look at his coach’s show and his percentage of (sold) tickets. Nobody else really has that.”

One reason NDSU was able to give raises to their returning head coaches and assistants is because of the revenue the athletic department generates.

Taylor said 22 percent of the money set aside for salaries and benefits is appropriated dollars from the state legislature. The remaining 78 percent is non-appropriated dollars from sources like ticket sales and fundraising.

Taylor said most head coaches got raises in the 4 to 5 percent range.

“For athletics, it is really about being able to generate enough revenue to be able to give salary adjustments that are warranted,” said NDSU women’s athletic director Lynn Dorn.

While Hakstol was the second highest-paid public employee in the state in 2012-13, most NDSU head coaches have salaries that are higher than their UND counterparts.

Volleyball is one of the exceptions. UND head coach Ashley Hardee has a salary of $86,401 for next season. NDSU head coach Kari Thompson is set to make $75,029.

UND head men’s basketball coach Brian Jones recently signed a contract extension to push his base salary to $100,000 for next season. His base salary was $86,334 a season ago. The Grand Forks Herald reported in April that salary ranked Jones last among men’s basketball coaches in the 11-team Big Sky Conference.

“We know where we should be,” Faison said. “It’s not where we necessarily are with some of the situations unfortunately. We have work to do.”

Faison said one of his “primary focuses” is to increase the salaries for assistant coaches.

“We want to do everything we can to be able to attract and retain quality assistant coaches to work with our head coaches,” Faison said.

Dorn, Faison and Taylor agree that a coach’s value isn’t based solely on wins and losses. Academic achievement of student-athletes and community involvement are other important areas.

Faison said UND coaches have academic incentives in their contracts.

“Clearly, there are a lot of factors that go into what constitutes a good coaching job and a good coach,” Faison said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com