The search for the new men’s basketball coach is entering its fourth week, and there hasn’t been any word from the SIU athletic department about how the search is going.
Former Illinois and SIU coach Bruce Weber reportedly has an offer to return to SIU, although Mark Scally, associate athletic director in charge of finance, said that wasn’t true. Even if Weber does have an offer, the financial state of the school might be enough to keep Weber out of Carbondale.
“With a new coach, we’re going to sign a contract that is appropriate to a school of our level,” Scally said.
Scally said they will not do a contract as high as Lowery’s, which was a seven-year, $750,000-a-year contract signed in 2007, after SIU made the Sweet 16. This means Weber, who made $1.3 million last season with Illinois, is way out of SIU’s price range.
There are several arguments for why Weber would come here. With the $3.9 million buyout he’s likely to receive from Illinois, he could certainly afford to give SIU a hometown discount.
When Weber made an appearance on Chicago Tribune Live March 22, he said his family was one of the main reasons he liked the Midwest, and he turned down several lucrative offers to leave the area. But now, with his youngest child graduating high school, it sounds like Weber isn’t a lock to stay in the Midwest.
“I need to have a fresh start, to get away from everything (at Illinois) that’s happened,” Weber said.
Even if he does want to stay in the Midwest, Frank Martin just left Kansas State, opening up a job at a bigger program with higher expectations and a larger paycheck for Weber. Martin made $1.5 million last season according to the USA Today, so if it came down to a bidding war, SIU would bow out rather quickly.
The only thing that might help SIU land Weber is if they can justify giving him a large salary with an expected increase in ticket sales. But with a 37 percent decrease in ticket sales since 2008, don’t expect Saluki Athletics to open its wallet with the hope that Weber can bring in a ton of money right away.
Paul Klee, beat writer for IlliniHQ.com, said barring a change of heart, Weber would be reluctant to take over for Lowery, his former assistant and close friend. So even if SIU had the money, it might not be enough to convince Weber to come back.
The new coach will have to be come rather cheaply. Weber is the only coach that could have a significant impact on ticket sales in his first year, so the athletic department will have to operate with the expectation that ticket sales will stay where its at until the team performs better.
This means SIU will probably look to sign a coach for around $300,000 or $400,000, which would compensate for the drop off in ticket sale revenue if they stagnate around the $788,085 the men’s basketball team made last season.
Scally said the new coach will probably make approximately the average for coaches in the Missouri Valley Conference, so the kind of coach SIU brings in will match the caliber of mid-level Valley coaches.
This may be disappointing for Saluki fans who hope for a Weber homecoming and a quick turnaround of the basketball program, but it can’t be as disappointing as the play on the court during the last few seasons.