Kudos to University of Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett for his recent decision to turn down a raise and, instead, to donate a portion of his compensation to a career-development program.
“This just does not happen in our industry,” said Athletic Director Carla Williams, referring to the rejection of a raise.
“I have more than enough,” Mr. Bennett explained, “and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs and coaches, by not tying up so much [in men’s basketball], that’s my desire.”
One of the things we like about this choice is that it focuses on the fact that even for elite athletes, the college experience isn’t just about sports.
“Career-development program” does not mean trying to prep players for the NBA (or any other pro league) — unless, perhaps, they want to take a management job in the front office.
Instead, it focuses on the educational side of the term “student-athlete.” Student-athletes are “so consumed,” Mr. Bennett said, with their studies and their teams that they don’t have time to pursue career options such as internships or to polish their resume-writing skills.
If their necessary dedication to sports has created a gap in their practical knowledge of, and opportunities for, career options, then the development program can help them fill those gaps.
Even if a student has left UVa to go into professional sports, he or she has the potential to get career-development coaching through the program.
Mr. Bennett earns a base salary of $500,000 annually — and with his decision to turn down a raise upon extension of his contract, that amount will not change.
Instead, he and his wife, Laurel, will donate $500,000 to the development program.
Coach Bennett receives additional millions in supplements and incentives, so he and his family will not suffer from forgoing the raise or donating his base salary.
But such decisions are indeed rare. Which is another reason we applaud it: It sets a fine example for other coaches and athletes in the elite sphere of sports.
(Another such example is former NFL star Chris Long, about whom we’ve written previously.)
“Laurel and I are in a great spot…,” Mr. Bennett said. “We just feel a great peace about where we’re at, all that’s taken place, and how we feel about this athletic department and this community and this school.
“I love being at UVa.”