Tis the season for holiday bonuses.
Bowl season often can mean big bucks for college-football coaches, and that’s no exception for the state of Michigan’s Division I bunch — well, most of them, anyway.
According to contracts reviewed by The News, at least two of the state’s Division I coaches stand to fare quite handsomely this month: Central Michigan’s John Bonamego and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio. Interestingly, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is not due any bonuses for on-field performance — his bonus structure is tied only to Big Ten championships and College Football Playoff appearances — but he can take solace in knowing he’s already made $7 million in 2017, among the highest salaries in the nation.
Bonamego, who guided his Chippewas to an 8-4 season and an appearance in the Potato Bowl, already has secured $62,500 in bonuses for this year, and that includes a $30,000 retention bonus, $10,000 for beating a Power-Five team (Kansas), $7,500 for reaching eight wins and $15,000 for making a bowl game. In his third season at Central Michigan, Bonamego, 53, can earn another $22,500 — $2,500 for getting a ninth victory, and $20,000 for winning a bowl. Wyoming stands in the way, in the Potato Bowl, Dec. 22 in Boise, Idaho.
Dantonio, who guided his Spartans to a stunning turnaround from 3-9 last season to 9-3 this season, receives $75,000 for getting Michigan State into the Holiday Bowl, set for Dec. 28 against Washington State in San Diego. Interestingly, that money is set to be split up among Dantonio, his assistants and administration staff at the discretion of athletic director Mark Hollis, with input from Dantonio. Dantonio, 61, also is due $750,000 in retention bonuses for this calendar year.
Western Michigan’s first-year coach Tim Lester was denied some bonus money when his 6-6 Broncos were not selected for a bowl game, despite qualifying with the six wins. He would’ve received $25,000 for making a bowl, and possibly another $25,000 for winning a bowl. That said, Lester, 40, who took over for P.J. Fleck after Fleck left for Minnesota, will collect an additional $19,500 for getting five Broncos on first-team All-Mid-American Conference, five on second-team, and two on third-team.
Bonamego, Lester and Eastern Michigan’s Chris Creighton, 48, whose Eagles finished 5-7, all have modest bonuses tied to attendance figures in their contracts, as is common among mid-major coaches. It’s unclear if either of the coaches hit any of those benchmarks, just as it’s unclear if any of the five coaches have reached academic thresholds that could lead to additional bonuses.
Eastern, like Central, also beat a Power-Five team (Rutgers), but Creighton doesn’t have any bonuses tied to that feat, as Bonamego does. Creighton could've cashed in quite nicely if not for a maddening, six-game losing streak that saw his Eagles lose those games by a combined 23 points, three in overtime. He also went for two and the win against Army, rather than an extra point for the tie, and it failed; it was a decision he doesn't regret, he recently told The News.