Christian’s contract extended

Kali Price

Jim Christian officially became the highest paid coach in the Mid-American Conference yesterday as Laing Kennedy, Kent State director of athletics, announced the signing of Christian’s new seven-year contract.

“This is a great day for Kent State University, and in particular Kent State Athletics, because today we are very pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with Jim Christian that will take us through the 2012-13 season,” Kennedy said. “It’s in recognition for the outstanding leadership Jim (Christian) has provided our men’s basketball program. Jim (Christian), his staff and the student athletes have made KSU men’s basketball absolutely the finest program in the MAC.”

This past season, Christian, the 2006 MAC Coach of the Year, led the Flashes to a 22-8 regular season record, a 15-3 MAC record, a regular-season and MAC Tournament championship and its first NCAA Division I Men’s Tournament appearance since 2002.

Kennedy said Christian’s base salary will be $250,000 plus added incentives.

With the bonuses worked into Christian’s new contract, he will make more than President Carol Cartwright. The Daily Kent Stater reported last November Cartwright receives $270,000 per year.

“(There are) interesting incentives, based on academic performance, based on community involvement, as well as team performance,” Kennedy said.

Other incentives include endorsements and profits from camps.

The negotiation process went easily, Kennedy and Christian said.

“I would say, negotiating this contract went very, very smooth,” Kennedy said. “Towards the end of February, we decided to postpone it until after the tournament, and then we got back at it. As strange is it may sound, when I called Jim (Christian) the other day to say we have a final document, he was more interested in talking about prospects for next season and recruiting, and things of that nature.”

Christian said he is excited to continue working with Kent State and that the process of negotiating his new contract was more about improving the program.

“I don’t even call it negotiation, it was more like we were discussing our basketball program more than we were discussing anything else,” he said. “And what he (Kennedy) put in front of me flattered me right away. I don’t know if we negotiated anything. We were talking about our basketball program and what we need to do to move forward.”

Christian has been head coach since the 2002-2003 season and boasts four 20-win seasons, an 89-40 overall record and a 51-21 MAC record.

“I’m truly excited to remain a part of this university,” he said. “This has been a special place for me. I understand fully the opportunity that Laing and Dr. Cartwright have given me here, and I’m really looking forward to continue the work that we’ve done and continue to build on the success of this program.”

Kennedy said that with the new contract, Christian’s job has become the most desirable position in the MAC. Kennedy also wanted to help the MAC and Kent State’s basketball programs move forward.

There is a buyout option worked into the contract, which Kennedy said is “reasonable” and would allow Kent State to find a good replacement for Christian.

The next steps for the men’s basketball program include improving the M.A.C. Center and making small changes to team strategy.

“We are looking to install a new message center and new scoreboard system,” Kennedy said. “We would like to improve our arena seating and give it a first-class upgrade … We just want to enhance it and improve the seating, and hopefully that will happen.”

Christian said he would like to make more improvements to the program to help attract recruits.

“There are some small things we can do to maintain the level of success we’ve had, because you can’t stay the same in college athletics,” Christian said. “A lot of it has to do with investments and where you want your program to go … That’s what makes Kent State different than some places in our league. We identify what we need to do to go forward, and we try to do everything we can within our means to get there.”

Contact sports editor Kali Price at [email protected]