Trustees will ponder proposal on AD's contract

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- With the Chief Illiniwek controversy still unresolved and the start of the $116 million renovation of Memorial Stadium just a few months away, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees is being asked to ensure stability at the top of its athletics program.

The board's posted agenda for its meeting Thursday in Chicago includes a proposal to extend athletic director Ron Guenther's contract until Jan. 1, 2009, and grant him an immediate $90,000 raise that would put his salary at $500,000 per year.

The proposed deal also calls for a $250,000 bonus if Guenther does not leave the Urbana-Champaign campus before Dec. 31, 2008.

Guenther, 60, has been athletic director at the university's flagship campus since 1992. He's a UI alum who was voted most valuable player of the football team in 1966 as an offensive guard. He now oversees 19 intercollegiate sports and the multimillion-dollar fundraising efforts of the department.

He also has presided over a department that has been free of major scandal during his 14 years on the job.

"If he's not the best AD in the country, I want to know who is," Urbana-Champaign chancellor Richard Herman said Tuesday. "He does a wonderful job of bringing in great coaches and building a team that understands what athletics is and needs to be about."

Guenther has hired two football coaches and three men's basketball coaches during his tenure and is known for his support of nonrevenue sports. He has added women's soccer and softball to the list of sports at Illinois and is supporting construction of a new practice center for the golf team and an expansion of the tennis center.

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