The clause that pays

Brooke Becher, Assistant Special Projects Editor

May 8, 2016

Men’s basketball coach Dan Monson schedules tough for the benefit of his team, the school and his pocket.

On the court, the field or the track — nothing is guaranteed.

However, the exception is in the guaranteed games inked at the bargaining table.

Casually referred to as “buy games,” these matches are scheduled in advance of the conference season. The buying home team negotiates with the opposing travel team to go head-to-head, exchanging thousands of dollars in hopes of an RPI boost.

For state schools with modest budgets, Long Beach State University’s athletics director Vic Cegles said that guaranteed game clauses provide a gateway to keep major coaches like Dan Monson around for mid-major teams like LBSU. Cegles followed this unconventional route, including a guaranteed games clause in Monson’s contract that entitled his client to additional compensation through preseason matches.

“It’s a really creative way to invest in Dan,” Cegles said, referencing his unconventional strategy to pay the head coach for men’s basketball at LBSU. ”If we’re ever going to advance this program, it’s because we beat Kansas. We beat North Carolina. And we get into the top 20. And we go to the Final Four. And we win two games in the NCAA tournament … he’s the right guy to help us get to that.”

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Ben Hammerton | Daily 49er

Out-of-state buy games rivaling teams at Duke University or Oregon State University retail at an estimated $90,000, Cegles said. A non-conference match against the University of California, Los Angeles Bruins on in-state turf runs for about $40,000.

The 49ers visited five campuses for buy games this past season, four out-of-state and one in-state, roughly estimating a $400,000 sum split between Monson and the school.

Monson’s base salary since his second year has been $358,640, making him the highest-paid coach in the Big West Conference, according to LBSU coach contracts requested by the Daily 49er.

His contract provides a retention bonus of $100,000 among other incentives, such as an additional $5,000 for snagging a regular-season Big West championship title and $15,000 for winning the Big West Basketball Tournament, and automatically receiving an NCAA bid.

The compensation cap was negotiated at $800,000.

To compare, the base salary of UCLA’s men’s basketball head coach, Steve Alford is set at $300,000. It is complimented by a sum of $2.4 million under “other pay” as well as benefits of $50,000, according to Transparent California, a database of government employee compensation.

Guaranteed games are common practice within a rich marketplace that can absorb the costs, namely college football and basketball leagues, Cegles said. They also afford mid-major teams time on the national stage.

“These schools have $150 million budgets. It’s all from TV money,” Cegles said. “If [LBSU] had a football team, and we wanted to play Michigan, they’d probably give us $1.5 million for a game.”

Cegles recalled the “unbelievable amount of exposure” for the men’s basketball team with 16 nationwide telecasts since Monson settled in the Pyramid in 2007.

Monson made a name for himself in his second-year wearing a head-coach hat in Washington, raising Gonzaga University’s status to the Elite Eight in 1999.

In the wake of nationwide attention, Monson accepted an offer to be a head coach at the University of Minnesota. Eight years later, he resigned mid-season after the Gophers experienced their longest losing streak in 40 years.

“I went to Minnesota for the wrong reasons – I went for the money,” Monson said. “You can’t buy happiness, and I learned that the hard way in life.”

The Beach has been Monson’s latest project nine years in the making.

Junior point guard Anson Moye commented on the buy games, saying that facing teams in major Division I programs not only translates to heightened exposure, but also helps ripen a fresh line-up with pre-conference court time.

“If we pull off a couple of upsets, it could be big for us in the long run,” Moye said, noting the importance of a solid RPI record. “With that intense travel schedule, we’re able to get that cohesiveness going into our actual Big West Conference play and, a lot of the time, [buy games] reveal our weaknesses and give us a chance to patch those up early.”

Though wins are seldom for LBSU in preseason, by no means are they impossible.

Outside of the Pyramid, the 49ers defeated Villanova, Xavier University, North Carolina and Seton Hall University. Last December, only one point separated the Big West wildcards from UCLA Division I elites before the buzzer.
“We’re competitive in those games, but you don’t play this game to be competitive – you play it to win,” Monson said, noting the 66 percent odds standing against any team on the road. “We believe next year’s team has the ability to get over that hurdle.”

Even without any W’s from this year’s preseason, the toughness of schedule increased the team’s RPI, and ranked LBSU No. 1 in non-conference competition. For the past six years, LBSU has ranked consistently in the top five.

“What I’ve noticed is that the losses don’t really affect us,” Moye said. “Our motto is ‘On to the next,’ win or lose, we take it one game at a time.”

The 49ers began the season strong with three wins and rounded out with 12-4 in conference and 20-15 overall. They also claim four Big West Tournament championship games and three postseason berths.

Next year’s preseason anticipates matches against University of Kansas, University of North Carolina, University of Texas, UCLA and Washington University, Cegles said.

“When they gave me this contract, I turned down a seven-year, $2 million per year contract from another school; that’s a guaranteed $14 million contract,” Monson said. “I turned that down because I believe that this could be the next Gonzaga.”