New Western Michigan football coach Tim Lester will earn the same base salary as his predecessor, P.J. Fleck, was earning before he left for a bigger gig, though the contracts are broken down a little differently.
Lester, a first-time head coach, will earn $800,000 annually under his five-year contract, including $225,000 base pay, $287,500 for TV and radio appearances and $287,500 for making public appearances, according to his signed contract, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Lester also gets the standard benefits, including a car and cell-phone allowance, and a country-club membership, as well as a roster of bonuses that mostly mirror Fleck’s bonus roster.
Fleck also earned $800,000 annually, but that included $225,000 base, $195,000 for TV and radio, $195,000 for public appearances, and $185,000 for a retention bonus.
Fleck was working under a six-year contract, his second deal since arriving at Western Michigan prior to the 2013 season. Keeping him on the job always was a hot topic of conversation as he quickly turned the program around, leading the Broncos to a perfect regular season in 2017, plus a trip to the New Year’s Six Cotton Bowl.
Despite being offered a 10-year contract worth more than $2 million a year to re-up at Western Michigan — and being close to signing before the Cotton Bowl — Fleck held off and departed for Minnesota and a five-year deal in the $17.5 to $18.5 million range shortly after the Broncos’ loss to Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas.
There’s no retention bonus for Lester, though that could change if he puts together some quality seasons on the front end of his deal, like it did for Fleck.
Fleck also was a first-time head coach when he took over at Western Michigan, and in his second deal, his structure got a little sweeter, especially with bonuses.
For instance, Lester can earn $50,000 for winning a Mid-American Conference championship, but that’s in lieu of $30,000 for winning the MAC West. Same thing with winning a bowl game — $50,000, but in lieu of $25,000 for making a bowl game.
Lester’s bonuses for each player he lands on all-conference, academic all-conference, academic all-district and academic All-America is capped.
Fleck got the aforementioned bonuses in addition to the other ones, and he had no caps on how many bonuses he could collect for players’ postseason honors.
The buyout structure remains the same, though. Lester would owe $1 million if he left after 2017, and it drops by $200,000 each year through the rest of the contract.
Fleck, 36, turned a 1-11 team his first season into a 13-1 team his last season, making three bowl games in four seasons.
Lester, 40, a former Broncos quarterback who most recently coached on staffs at Syracuse and Purdue, has a tough task, taking over a program that lost its star receiver, first-round draft pick Corey Davis, and its starting quarterback, Zach Terrell, both to graduation. Plus, the Broncos will open the season with two behemoths on the road, Southern Cal and then Michigan State.
WMU makes $50K at Cotton
Western Michigan profited a little more than $50,000 from its trip to the Cotton Bowl, according to a revenue-and-expenses sheet received through a FOIA request.
For the team and the team’s traveling party, Western Michigan spent $704,312.60; and for the band and spirit groups, the university spent $448,226. That includes all meals, hotel rooms and chartered airplanes, among other expenses.
The expense report was meticulously recorded, down to $40.71 for ATM service fees and $28.56 for tolls.
The MAC allocated $3.25 million for the university’s expenses, and paid up front for hotel and ticket sales — with the hotel and ticket sales eventually being deducted from Western Michigan’s allotment. Western Michigan got to keep 10 percent of ticket sales, or $62,862.80.
Western Michigan’s costs also included some “holdover” expenses, or funds to care for the players and band members via meals, housing, etc., during the week or so between the end of the school semester and when the team traveled to Texas in late December.
The end result for Western Michigan was $53,324.20 in the positive.
The MAC received its $6 million Cotton Bowl distribution in April, with leftover money divided among the 12 member institutions.
Wisconsin beat Western Michigan, 24-16, on Jan. 2 before a crowd of 59,615, a low turnout for Cotton Bowl standards.