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by Matt Kupec

December 24, 2018

For all of us aging quicker than we would like to acknowledge, one of my new favorite expressions is that “in today’s society 65 years old is the new 45!”  No matter how gray our hair has become or how many aches we feel on a daily basis, our minds feel that we are as young – and good – as ever!

It may feel like we are kidding ourselves but, then again, maybe we are not!!

Three recent personnel moves in the college sports world have brought great comfort to many of us who are in the 60 plus aging category!  The hiring of Les Miles – age 65 – as the University of Kansas new head football coach and Mack Brown – age 67 – as head coach at the University of North Carolina were great examples that maybe there is a fountain of youth after all.

Then to add another bounce to our aging step, the University of North Carolina announced they had given an eight-year contract extension to their 68-year old head basketball coach Roy Williams.  Coach Williams can be coaching at 76 years of age!

Holy youth serum!

Coaches Miles, Brown and Williams are not alone in the “new 45” age bracket.  Add in youthful college head coaches Mike Krzyzewski (Duke – age 71), Nick Saban (Alabama – age 66), Butch Davis (FIU – age 68), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse – age 74), John Beilein (Michigan – age 65) and Tom Izzo (Michigan State – age 63) and we have a “youth movement” right in front of our very eyes!

What is going on here and why are coaches staying in their jobs longer into their careers?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • The Power.  Or perhaps a better category would be “the ego.”  The coaches mentioned earlier are some of the most prominent individuals in their respective states and the entire country.  Mike Krzyzewski can get an audience with anybody in this world.  He is regularly recruited to speak to Fortune 500 companies.  He has a XM radio show now.  On campuses, these coaches are revered and are treated like royalty.  They have complete control over their programs and not director of athletics or University president is going to get in their way.  It is tough to walk away from a program when you have total control.
  • The Money. Roy William’s new contract extension provides an additional eight more years on his contract.  Coach Roy will be 76 years old when his new contract expires.  He will be making more than $4 million per year now and the compensation will rise to well over $5 million per year in 2026.  That is a great deal of money!  When Greg Popovich decided two years ago to renew his contract with the San Antonio Spurs rather than retire, he gave as one of his reasons for staying longer as “the money is pretty good.”
  • The Dean Smith Factor. Dean Smith was one of college basketball’s legendary coaches.  He retired at 66 years old.  Throughout his retirement he would tell people that he regretted retiring so early.  Dean was bored in retirement.  He missed the players, the competition and the teaching.  Jim Calhoun the former University of Connecticut Hall of Fame coach has been outspoken in his interest in getting back to coaching.  Rick Pitino took a new job coaching a professional team in Greece because he couldn’t stand being away from the game.  Coach Smith, though, is perhaps the most prominent coaching legend to regret retiring too early.
  • Why Not? If a University was willing to pay you $5M or so per year with a guaranteed long-term contract, you have full control over your program, nobody really getting in your way and a passionate following of faithful supporters, why wouldn’t you continue coaching?  Bob Stoops, the very successful Oklahoma football coach who retired at age 59 – is a rare exception to coaches hanging it up early these days.  Coach Stoops had interest in watching his kids play ball but most coaches today are not ready to retire at age 65.  And who can blame them?

About the Author

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience.  He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership.  He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit.  He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels.  During his career he set 19 season and career passing records.  Two of which still stand – most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB.  Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC.  Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.