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Houston Nets Big Raise

Extension Will Pay JMU Coach $515,311 Per Year

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James Madison coach Mike Houston (shown earlier this month) signed a contract extension last week.
Stephen Swofford/DN-R

HARRISONBURG — Mike Houston is gaining a major bump in pay that will push his salary to more than half a million dollars annually.

The second-year James Madison football coach’s 10-year extension will pay him $515,311 per year.

That total includes a base salary of $390,311 — a $15,311 increase from the first extension he signed after leading the Dukes to the national title last year — and an additional $125,000 per year of privately funded pay, raised by “anonymous donors” through the school’s foundation.

Houston signed the 10-year contract extension last week. On Tuesday, the Daily News-Record obtained the details of the extension through the Freedom of Information Act.

“We’ve had a very generous group of individuals step forward, and in fact for the past several months on their own accord, [who] indicated they were more than willing to help do whatever was necessary to help put together a contract that would offer longer-term security to Coach Houston,” JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said. “So it was because of that group and their generosity that significantly made that clause of the contract feasible.”

The total makes Houston the highest paid football coach in program history.

View Mike Houston's Contract On DNROnline.com

Former longtime head man Mickey Matthews was fired in 2013 with one year left on his $222,000-a-year contract, and ex-coach Everett Withers worked at JMU under a five-year contract worth $325,000 annually before leaving for Texas State after the 2015 season.

“I would hope that the contract paints a picture of firm support and commitment from our institution to Coach Houston and his staff,” Bourne said.

Houston will also receive a $50,000 retention bonus on Feb. 1. All of his bonuses and incentives stay the same from the initial extension he inked after last season. This year he’s already notched incentives for winning the Colonial Athletic Association ($5,000), earning a playoff berth ($31,250), winning three playoff games ($15,625 per win) and making a national championship game appearance ($31,250). A victory on Jan. 6 will net him an additional $31,250.

New to Houston’s contract are large buyouts. The amount owed is based on when he’d leave and where he’d leave for.

If he’s to leave JMU before Jan. 2020, he’ll have to pay the school $500,000 for a job in Conference USA, the Mountain West, the Mid-American Conference or Sun Belt, or $750,000 for one in the American Athletic Conference and then $1,000,000 to move all the way up the Power Five.

The buyout numbers lessen the longer he stays at JMU.

“I think it puts us in a position that if we did have to make a change, from a financial perspective, it would help significantly,” Bourne said. “As we all know at this point, that isn’t a clause we want to see exercised any time soon.”

The pay raise comes along with something Houston said his football program has needed since his arrival.

The contract states the school will build a temporary indoor practice facility in time for the start of the 2018 season.

It will be constructed at the uppermost turf field at Sentara Park off of Port Republic Road.

“It’s been a large issue since [Houston] arrived on campus,” Bourne said. “There are multiple times in the course of August and September when we had lightning and weather delays that can extend preparation time for our team, much longer than what’s even feasible for us. So we knew that was a major issue for him and one that he had struggled with, so as we put together the contract we felt like it was going to be an important element of it.”

Last week after signing the extension, Houston said he was pleased with how proactive the school was in negotiations.

“I credit James Madison University for the way they handled it,” Houston said then. “The administration and board of visitors and the president, they knew that this was going to be a year in the college football world that there was going to be a lot of turnover.

“I think they had done their research and they had seen it coming, so they were proactive and tried to get ahead of it. They tried to say, ‘We want you here.’”

Though it’s in Houston’s contract, the indoor facility will be available for all of JMU’s athletic teams to use. The dimensions will be 60 yards by 50 yards.

Bourne said he didn’t know how much it would cost to construct the new facility, but that funding for it would come from the athletic department’s auxiliary budget.

The school’s vice president, Charlie King, is working with JMU facilities on the project.

“The drawings that I’ve seen show an internal frame facility covered with a more heavy pliable surface on the outside,” Bourne said. “It’s a different structure than what we currently have put up for our tennis program.

“It has more of a heavier frame construction to it, so for all intents and purposes, it looks more like an upright and transparent facility.

“But we’re in the stages of ascertaining the final cost and also looking at final designs. Structures of that nature have to go through a final approval process and I know they’re finishing up now and it’s something we should be able to finalize after the first of the year.”

The school has also pledged to help Houston keep his coaching staff intact and salaries for those assistants above or on par with top-level FCS and Colonial Athletic Association programs.

Offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick and defensive coordinator Bob Trott are wrapping up the first year of three-year deals. The rest of the coaches are on one-year contracts.

All staff members that have been with Houston since he arrived at JMU received pay raises last offseason.

“We would anticipate the contract terms staying about at what they are,” Bourne said. “The only ones that I see being extended are the coordinators.

“We have always looked at, not just an individual, but the full staff. And if you consider the value and the work that those individuals bring to a winning team, it’s certainly significant. And we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to take care of them and to keep our program in a position where we have continuity and consistency.”