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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Olson to earn full salary, incentives for now”

    Lute Olson
    Lute Olson

    While Lute Olson takes the season off on a personal leave of absence, he will be paid as if he were still coaching the Arizona men’s basketball team, at least for now.

    Olson’s contract calls for him to earn a base salary of $737,790, which makes him the university’s highest-paid employee.

    The coach can also earn an additional $355,000 from incentives involving the NCAA Tournament (up to $175,000), the Pacific 10 Conference regular season and tournament titles (up to $45,000), regular season wins (up to $40,000) coach of the year honors (up to $40,000), final team rankings (up to $30,000) and players’ academic achievements (up to $25,000).

    “”We follow the contract just as if he was coaching,”” said Jim Livengood, Arizona’s athletic director.

    That means he also will receive fringe benefits that include the use of two cars, 13 men’s basketball season tickets, eight football season tickets, four softball, baseball and volleyball passes and 15 all-inclusive passes to men’s basketball postseason events.

    “”It’s all in there,”” Livengood said. “”We follow the contract.””

    Interim head coach Kevin O’Neill, however, does not have a contract to follow because he was hired in May as an assistant on a $375,000 deal. Livengood said all of Arizona’s assistants are hired “”year to year,”” so they do not have incentive-laden long-term deals like Olson does.

    With O’Neill stepping into Olson’s place for the season as the head coach, O’Neill will not earn any of Olson’s incentives, at least for now.

    “”All that’s to be determined,”” Livengood said. “”Right now he’s like any of our staff members. All of that stuff is just as it has been.””

    As for Olson’s leave of absence, mystery still surrounds when he will return. In a Dec. 6 statement, Olson announced “”that he intends to extend his leave of absence through the end of the current basketball season,”” which does not specify a return date.

    Livengood termed Olson’s absence an “”authorized paid leave”” that was signed off by himself, the university and “”everybody that was supposed to.”” He said it’s not known whether Olson will be paid during the entire absence, referring such questions to the contract.

    However, a copy of the contract obtained by the Arizona Daily Wildcat did not reveal any section covering leaves of absence.

    Arizona President Robert Shelton did not return calls for comment.

    The school’s policy states that employees can use vacation and/or sick days to be paid during a leave of absence, but Livengood did not specify whether that’s the situation with Olson.

    “”That’s personnel, and so I have no comment on that,”” he said. “”It’s an authorized-by-the-university paid leave.””

    According to UA policy, appointed personnel earn 22 vacation days per year, which can be carried over to the next year but cannot exceed 1.5 times the annual allowance. That means Olson can potentially use up to 33 paid vacation days during his leave.

    On top of that, UA employees also receive 12 days of sick time annually, which have no limits on how long they can be accrued for, said Allison Vaillancourt, the UA associate vice president for human resources. Therefore, Olson could possess up to 288 days of sick time for his 24 years of service if he has not missed any time.

    “”You can just keep accruing,”” Vaillancourt said. “”There are people who have been here for years and have days and days of sick leave. It doesn’t go away.””

    However, for a UA employee to use sick time, they must either be sick or be taking care of a family member who’s sick, according to the university handbook.

    Employees who use up their vacation and sick time while on a leave would then be shifted to an unpaid leave, Vaillancourt said.

    Whether those guidelines apply to Olson’s leave has not been specifically stated by university officials.

    “”At some point and time all of this probably needs to have an end to it,”” Livengood said. “”In other words, all the kinds of things, it’s an authorized paid leave, period. Big period on that.””

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