A&M Regents Approve Raise For Gillispie

Friday, March 30th 2007, 2:57 pm
By: News On 6

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP-- Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie has agreed to a new contract that makes him one of the highest-paid coaches in the Big 12.

Texas A&M spokesman Alan Cannon said Gillispie wouldn't sign the deal -- approved by regents Friday -- until he returns next week from the Final Four in Atlanta.

Gillispie, who was courted by Arkansas and has been mentioned as a candidate for the Kentucky opening, would get a $500,000 raise to $1.75 million. Big 12 leader Rick Barnes of Texas makes $1.8 million. Kansas' Bill Self, who was Gillispie's boss at Tulsa and Illinois, makes $1.6 million.

"While it's embarrassing to me to be compensated so well to perform my passion for a school I love, I am sincerely appreciative of the efforts of ... everyone associated with Texas A&M for their personal support they continue to show," Gillispie said in a statement. "We will continue to do our best to try and make the Texas A&M family proud."

The 47-year-old Gillispie took the Aggies to the NCAA tournament's round of 16 this year for the first time since 1980. A&M was just three years removed from finishing 0-16 in the Big 12.

"I am so proud of Billy and the job he has done here at Texas A&M," athletic director Bill Byrne said in a statement. "With this contract, I believe coach Gillispie is among the top 10 coaches in terms of income, and he is clearly a top 10 coach in every other way."

Speculation about Gillispie's future heated up when Arkansas fired Stan Heath on Monday and athletic director Frank Broyles said a day later that he had offered the Razorbacks' opening to a coach he wouldn't name. By Thursday, though, A&M officials were telling their counterparts in Arkansas that Gillispie was staying.

Kentucky is looking for a coach after Tubby Smith took the Minnesota job. Speculation has centered on Florida coach Billy Donovan, a former Wildcats assistant who is two wins from leading the Gators to their second straight national title.

Gillispie is 70-26 in three years with the Aggies, who were 7-21 with the winless conference record the season before he arrived. He took over the Aggies after engineering a quick turnaround at UTEP, which went from 6-24 his first season to 24-8 and a near-upset of Maryland in the NCAA tournament. His five-year record is 100-58.

"We look forward to coach Gillispie being here for years to come," said regent John White. "Billy Gillispie and A&M are a great fit."