UVA's Tony Bennett Rejects Raise in New Contract in Order to Help Staff, Program

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 08:  Head coach Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers celebrates with his team after the 85-77 win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 2019 NCAA men's Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Virginia Cavaliers men's basketball coach Tony Bennett was offered a raise by the school this offseason but turned it down, instead asking athletic director Carla Williams to focus on "additional compensation for his staff and improvements that would benefit his program," per Jeff White of VirginiaSports.com.

Bennett spoke about that decision:

"Laurel [his wife] and I are in a great spot, and in the past I've had increases in my contract. 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.

"President [Jim] Ryan and Carla were very gracious in what they offered to me as a potential contract, but I have a very good contract. I have more than enough, 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."

Williams applauded the Bennetts for their commitment to the school, which included a $500,000 donation to a career-development program for current and former Cavaliers players:

"I'm thankful for their consideration of the department, for their gift to the Master Plan, and for their commitment to the young men in our basketball program. We want to lead the way, nationally, in regards to the student-athlete experience. Career development programming for our men's basketball players will help set that standard and differentiate our program."

Bennett did agree to add another year to his contract, which will now keep him with the program for another seven years.

Bennett said he and the school could afford its student-athletes more opportunities:

"Whether your players play professionally for 15 years, five years or zero years after college, they can still be working on the things that are going to help them out. For a lot of players, when their [basketball] careers are done they're starting over and they say, 'Coach, can you help us?' This is a way, without monopolizing a lot of their time, to be actively working on figuring out what it is they want to do and preparing them, giving them opportunities.

"Carla said this is generational. That's where my heart is. This might be more significant than what we can do for them with the championships and winning. Whether they know it or not, two-thirds, three-quarters of their life is going to be outside the game. It's going to be in work and providing for their families."

On the court, Bennett has helped build a powerhouse. In his 10 seasons as the men's basketball coach, the Cavaliers have reached the NCAA tournament seven times (the last six years in a row), won four ACC regular-season titles, secured two conference tournament titles, reached the Elite Eight twice and won the national championship this past season.

His teams have become famous for their stifling defense and for being consistently competitive in the ACC, regularly the deepest conference in men's college basketball. But his work off the court is clearly just as important to him.

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