WMU's Tim Lester gets new contract, additional year for every 8-win season

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

New Western Michigan athletic director Dan Bartholomae's first order of business didn't take long.

On Tuesday, the university announced it has extended head football coach Tim Lester's contract by two years, through the 2025 season. Additionally, for each eight-win season Lester records moving forward, he will get another year added to the end of the deal.

This is the second extension signed by Lester, who became head coach in January 2017. Under his old deal, which didn't include a raise from his original contract, he made $800,000 a year in base pay. Financial terms on the latest extension weren't disclosed.

Western Michigan head coach Tim Lester lifts the Quick Lane Bowl trophy after the victory over Nevada 52-24.

"Tim Lester has represented Western Michigan University in a first-class manner as a student-athlete, alum, and as our head football coach," Bartholomae said in a statement. "I look forward to working hand-in-hand with him as we build off a strong season and an exciting postseason finish.

"With an excellent foundation in place, I am excited to partner with the leader of our football program who shares a commitment to integrity, the student-athlete experience, and championship expectations."

Lester, 44, a former Western Michigan quarterback, is coming off the best of his five seasons as head coach, with the Broncos finishing 8-5 with a win over Nevada in the bowl game at Ford Field in Detroit. It was just Western Michigan's second-ever bowl victory.

The season also included a win over Pittsburgh, which went on to play in the New Year's Six Peach Bowl against Michigan State.

Western Michigan also beat the eventual Mid-American Conference champion, Northern Illinois, and the eventual MAC West Division champion, Kent State.

"I am thrilled and grateful to agree to a two-year contract extension with Western Michigan University, which is so special to me," Lester said in a statement. "This allows us to continue the program's growth.

"We look forward to continued success on the field and in the classroom and to the opportunities we will have to help our student-athletes grow. Let's Ride."

The 2021 Broncos finished second in the MAC in total offense, led by quarterback Kaleb Elleby and receiver Skyy Moore, each of whom has declared for the NFL Draft. Defensively, the Broncos were No. 1, led by conference defensive player of the year Ali Fayad, a senior end from Dearborn.

Lester led Western Michigan to two bowl games in his first three seasons, before the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

He succeed P.J. Fleck as coach, after Fleck left for Minnesota following Western Michigan's appearance in the 2016 Cotton Bowl. Lester played quarterback at WMU from 1996-99, and is in the school's Hall of Fame.

The extension was the first significant move made by Bartholomae, who became athletic director this month, replacing longtime AD Kathy Beaureguard, who retired at the end of 2021. Next on his agenda could be deciding the future of head men's basketball coach Clayton Bates, whose deal runs through next season.

Eastern Michigan extended its head football coach, Chris Creighton, through the 2025 season last fall. Central Michigan's head football coach, Jim McElwain, has a contract that runs through 2023.

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984