Details emerge in 5-year contract for new Wichita State basketball coach Paul Mills

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New Wichita State basketball coach Paul Mills, is presented to the community during a ceremony at Koch Arena on Thursday. (Jaime Green/The Wichita Eagle)

Details have emerged in the contract offer Wichita State made to lure men’s basketball head coach Paul Mills away from Oral Roberts.

The full contract has yet to be signed, but Wichita State athletic director Kevin Saal and Mills signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday, obtained by The Eagle in an open records request, that outlines the main details and will act as a placeholder until the full contract is finalized. Both sides agreed to finalize the contract before July 1.

Here are the main takeaways:

How much is Mills making at WSU?

Mills and WSU agreed to a five-year contract that will pay the coach upwards of $8.5 million — without performance bonuses — over the life of the contract, which runs through the 2027-28 season.

The compensation structure is arranged much differently than previous WSU head coaching contracts.

Under guaranteed compensation, Mills’ base salary will pay him $1.25 million in his first year, $1.3 million in his second year, $1.35 million in his third year, $1.4 million in his fourth year and $1.5 million in his fifth year. That adds up to $6.8 million over five years in base pay, but that’s not all Mills will receive.

There is an “other” compensation section with various stipends — $65,000 each for radio, television, official appearances and other appearances. Throw in a $24,000 stipend for club membership and Mills is earning another $284,000 in the first year of his contract. That figure grows to $294,000 in his second year and is a consistent $314,000 the final three years of his contract. That adds up to an additional $1.5 million over five years.

Beginning after his second season, Mills will earn a retention bonus every July 1 he remains the head coach at WSU. He will earn $50,000 in 2025, another $75,000 in 2026 and another $100,000 in 2027.

Assuming Mills fulfills his appearance obligations to earn his stipends and receives his retention bonus, he will earn $1.534 million his first year, $1.594 million his second year, $1.714 million his third year, $1.789 million his fourth year and $1.914 million his fifth year.

Mills can earn an automatic contract extension

At any point during his contract, Mills can earn a one-time automatic one-year extension, which would include total compensation of $1.914 million for the 2028-29 season, if Wichita State wins at least 25 games or wins a conference regular-season or tournament championship.

How much did WSU have to pay Oral Roberts in buyout money?

Because Oral Roberts is a private university, Mills’ contract was not publicly known. The buyout price remains a mystery, even after the release of the MOU between Mills and WSU.

While WSU agreed to pay for his buyout from Oral Roberts, an amount is not specified in the memorandum of understanding.

If Mills leaves WSU for another job prior to June 30, 2025, the coach would have to repay WSU in full for whatever the buyout amount is.

What is the buyout information on this contract?

If WSU fires Mills without cause in the first three years of his contract — basically anytime before June 30, 2026 — then the coach receives 100% of the remaining balance of the guaranteed compensation and “other” compensation owed to him.

For example, if Mills is fired without cause right after the 2024-25 season, which would be his second year, he would be owed close to $5.2 million. If he is fired without cause right after the 2025-26 season, his third year, he would be owed $3.5 million.

If WSU fires Mills without cause in the fourth, fifth or sixth (if applicable) year in his contract, he would be owed 75% of the remaining balance of the guaranteed compensation and “other” compensation owed to him.

For example, if Mills never earned the one-year contract extension and is fired without cause following the 2026-27 season, his fourth year, he would be owed $1.36 million.

If Mills is fired without cause, he has “an affirmative obligation” to obtain future employment with his salary at his subsequent employer reducing WSU’s buy-out payment dollar-for-dollar.

WSU can fire Mills with cause for a list of terms and conditions that are “consistent with generally accepted industry standards.” Those include, but are not limited to any insubordinate, unprofessional or insulting behavior towards anyone associated with WSU, conduct that constitutes a Level I or II NCAA violation, failure to comply with the terms of the contract or endangering the health and welfare of any other person.

What if Mills leaves Wichita State for another job?

If Mills leaves WSU for another job before April 15, 2024, he owes WSU $1.5 million plus repayment for his buyout from Oral Roberts. That number drops to $1.25 million prior to April 15, 2025, $1 million prior to April 15, 2026 and $750,000 prior to April 15, 2027.

One-half would be owed within 30 days of the date of termination, while Mills would be required to pay the other half one year following the date of termination.

What are the incentives in the contract?

Mills is motivated to be mindful of Wichita State’s metrics in the NET. He cashes in $25,000 if WSU finishes in the top-40 of the end-of-season NET rankings or $10,000 for a top-50 finish. He also collects another $25,000 if WSU has a non-conference strength of scheduled rated in the top-50 of the NET rankings or $10,000 for finishing inside the top-100.

An at-large berth in the NCAA tournament nets Mills $15,000, while a round-of-32 appearance earns him another $25,000. He would earn $70,000 total for a Sweet 16 run, $110,000 total for an Elite 8 run, $160,000 for a Final Four run, $235,000 for a national title appearance and $335,000 for a national championship win.

If WSU wins 20 or 21 games, he receives $10,000, or if WSU wins 22, 23 or 24 games, he receives $20,000. He earns $25,000 if named Coach of the Year in conference and $50,000 for a national award.

If the men’s basketball team has an academic progress rate cohort score of 960 or an annual grade-point average of 2.8, Mills receives $25,000.

What are the benefits in the contract?

Mills will receive a $35,000 stipend for moving and relocation expenses to move his family from Tulsa to Wichita. He will also receive an annual automobile stipend of $7,200.

He is entitled to the same insurance and leave benefits as other full-time employees in Wichita State’s athletic department.

Mills will also receive 12 tickets in the lower bowl to each regular-season home men’s basketball game and four tickets to any other Wichita State sporting event. He also receives 12 tickets to any men’s basketball postseason game.