Why Virginia’s NCAA-title winning basketball coach refused a raise
16th September 2019

Tony Bennett closed his first decade as Virginia men’s basketball coach with a championship.

He’ll start his second without a raise.

Instead of taking a boost to his own pay, Bennett asked that the university use the money it wanted to give him to invest in his staff, his program and UVA athletics as a whole. As athletics director Carla Williams said in a school release, that “just does not happen in our industry.”

Bennett, 50, added one year to his contract that’s now set to expire in 2026. According to USA Today, he made $4.15 million last season.

Bennett said in a school release:

“I have more than I need. I’m blessed beyond what I deserve.

“I love being at UVA. 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.”

Bennett talked it over with his wife, Laurel, after Williams met with him to offer a raise. He said it was a gracious offer but “I have a really good contract.”

The couple are also pledging $500,000 toward a career-development program for current and former players. Bennett told the school it was his wife’s idea since she’s always asking what the two can do “that can make a difference.”

Virginia president Jim Ryan said in a statement:

“Tony’s decision – to turn down a well-deserved raise and instead invest in his players and UVA athletics more broadly – tells you everything you need to know about him as a leader and as a human being. Tony is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met, and this is just the latest example. He and Laurel show us what it means to be great and good, and I hope they will continue to be a part of the UVA family for many years to come.”

Virginia’s title was its first and served as redemption from the 2017-18 first-round loss as a No. 1 seed to No. 16 UMBC. Bennett took over the Cavaliers for the 2009-10 season and is 254-89 overall at the school with six consecutive NCAA appearances.

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