The recent contract extensions awarded to University of Minnesota Duluth athletic director Josh Berlo and Bulldogs women’s hockey coach Maura Crowell include raises and other financial incentives, however, the new agreements also contain broad and extensive language that allows the university to terminate Berlo and Crowell for cause prior to the expiration of their contracts in 2026.
Berlo, who was hired by the Bulldogs in April 2013, is scheduled to make a base salary of $181,750.82 in 2021-22 with a $5,000 retention base salary increase scheduled for May 1, 2022. Another $10,000 increase scheduled for May 1, 2024, would bring his salary to $196,750.82.
On top of that, the university will now make a $5,000 yearly payment to Berlo’s university retirement plan beginning in 2022.
“Under Josh Berlo's leadership, our athletic programs continue to see sustained success on multiple levels,” UMD chancellor Lendley Black said in a statement. “This contract extension exemplifies my confidence in his leadership and the direction of Bulldog athletics. Josh is a valuable part of my leadership team and has brought benefit to UMD through his sound financial management, fundraising success, enhanced community engagement, student success in the classroom, and outstanding accomplishments in competition."
Berlo last signed an extension in 2017 that gave him a base salary of $156,829, with retention bonus salary increases of $5,000 in 2018 and 2020.
Crowell, who was hired as the second head coach in UMD women’s hockey history in 2015, also last signed an extension in 2017. After taking the Bulldogs to the NCAA Frozen Four last season, she was entering the final year of that extension with a scheduled base salary of $190,000 in 2021-22 after making $180,000 in 2020-21. Per her new deal, Crowell will still receive a base salary of $190,000 in 2021-22 with a $5,000 increase coming each season after that, culminating at $215,000 in 2025-26.
Per their contracts, both Berlo’s and Crowell’s salaries are subject to furloughs, pay freezes, salary reductions and other adjustments that may be required of other UMD employees, the university or athletic department, as was the case during the last two seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both were part of the University of Minnesota’s systemwide pay cuts for employees who made $60,000 or more.
Berlo’s new contract — which was signed on May 24, 2021 — is still subject to approval by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents at their meeting this week.
Crowell’s contract, which was signed back on May 6, 2021, is not subject to board of regents approval. Both contracts can be read in their entirety below.
It pays to win
Berlo’s new deal also includes new competition-related incentives related to the men’s and women’s hockey programs that are retroactive to the 2020-21 season. Berlo will receive $1,000 if the men’s hockey team reaches the NCAA tournament and $1,000 if the women do as well. Both teams made the NCAA tournament in 2020-21. It was the sixth-consecutive NCAA tournament berth for the men.
Berlo currently sits on the NCAA’s National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey Committee, which is in charge of overseeing the selection and seeding of the NCAA tournament. In 2020-21 because of the pandemic, it was the committee members who selected the eight-team field, but in 2021-22, the Pairwise rankings are expected to once again dictate who is in and out of the tournament.
“I value and appreciate the commitment and compensation the university provides myself and all of our athletic department staff and coaches,” Berlo said. “My motivation and purpose have always come from the opportunity to support and lead our programs and student-athletes to reaching their greatest potential.”
While new to Berlo’s contract, men’s hockey coach Scott Sandelin, football coach Curt Wiese and Crowell all have competition bonuses written into their contracts for themselves and their assistant coaches.
In her new deal, Crowell saw her bonus for reaching the NCAA tournament doubled to $5,000. A new $2,500 bonus for reaching the NCAA championship game is also available while the $5,000 bonus for reaching the Frozen Four and $10,000 for winning the national championship remain the same.
The bonus pool for Crowell’s two assistant coaches also increased, most notably when it comes to NCAA tournament success. The NCAA tournament participating bonus pool doubled to $5,000, a $2,500 NCAA title game bonus was added — the $2,500 Frozen Four bonus remains the same — and there is now $7,500 available to split among the two assistants for winning a national championship, compared to $4,000.
Crowell’s director of operations is now also eligible for WCHA and NCAA bonuses, with that person receiving $250 when UMD hosts a first-round WCHA playoff series or finishes in the top four of the league, $500 for winning a WCHA regular or postseason title, $500 for reaching NCAA tournament, $750 if the team reaches the Frozen Four and $1,000 for winning an NCAA title.
“It’s always been important for me to take care of the people that take care of me and our players,” Crowell said. “I’m very appreciative of the support of both Josh and the chancellor, and the university, really, to make that happen. (My staff) is a big part of the operation.”
Sandelin also added bonuses for his director of operations in his most recent extension in 2019.
And like Sandelin in 2019, Crowell is also now eligible to receive up to eight tickets for all conference and NCAA tournament games for personal use. The university will also pay for Crowell’s spouse and children to accompany her to any NCAA tournament games UMD is playing in, subject to a maximum of $750 per person for tickets, travel and two additional rooms for lodging.
‘Terminate for cause’
In addition to the added financial perks, Crowell and Berlo’s new agreements include extensive new language on how to terminate them for cause. It’s a trend sweeping across the University of Minnesota system as much of the same language can also be found in the 2020 contract extension of Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle.
Section 3.1 of both contracts, “The University’s Right to Terminate for Cause” includes specific language that covers NCAA violations, fraud and dishonesty, gambling, outside activities and income, honoring the decisions of the sports medicine staff, and the use of drugs, alcohol and other controlled substances, like steroids.
Section 3.1 also includes broad language that allows the university to fire Berlo and Crowell for “participation in any act, situation, or occurrence, which, in the University’s judgement, brings Athletic Director or the University into public disrepute, embarrassment, contempt, scandal or ridicule.”
“All of the language around that is typical for university contracts like this,” said Lynne Williams, UMD’s director of marketing and public relations.
The university has the right to terminate both Berlo and Crowell without just cause, however, it could be costly.
If UMD fires Berlo without cause, the university must pay Berlo his base salary for the remainder of the contract. Crowell’s termination fee when without cause is one half of the remaining base salary that would otherwise be payable for the remainder of the agreement.