Beard Final Four Interview

For just the second time in his short career as head coach of the Texas Tech men’s basketball team, Chris Beard has signed another extension that will tie him to Tech through 2024-2025.

Originally hired back in 2016, Beard saw some struggles in his first season as a head coach. In his second season, Beard took Tech to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history and signed an extension in early 2018 that tied him to Tech through 2024. Now, after taking Tech to the National Championship for the first time in program history, Beard has signed a second extension, this time through 2025.

With the extension, Beard now sits among the highest paid coaches in the country, a feat that is unsurprising given the immediate success he has seen at Tech. Averaging $4.575 million per year on his new contract, Beard has jumped from the 28th highest paid college basketball coach in the country to the third highest, according to USA Today’s College Basketball salary tracker.

As the third highest paid coach in the country, Beard falls among elite company. The highest paid coach is John Calipari, head coach at Kentucky, making $7.95 million per season. Behind Calipari is Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of the Duke Blue Devils, the NCAA leader in career-wins for a head coach and a sure-fire lock for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Krzyzewski’s salary comes in at $7.05 million in his 44th season as a head coach.

With Beard now third highest paid in the country, the three coaches directly under him in salary are all some of the best at what they do. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Kansas’ Bill Self have all brought home National Championship wins for their respective programs and have turned each school into regular NCAA Tournament contenders.

Even looking outside of men’s basketball, Beard’s new contract places him among the highest paid coaches in the state, according to USA Today’s NCAAF salary tracker. Only three schools in Texas pay their coaches a higher salary than Beard, and all three are football coaches. Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, Texas’ Tom Herman and Texas Christian University’s Gary Patterson all make more than Beard, but in a predominantly football state, Beard is making football money coaching basketball.

In the state of Texas, the previously highest paid men’s basketball coach was Shaka Smart at Texas, averaging $3.2 million per year. Beard’s extension marks almost a 43 percent increase from the previous high in state, indicating a shift in the importance of college basketball in Texas.

Previously, the state of Texas had been in a drought of sorts in college basketball, as a Texas team had not advanced to the National Championship since 1984, when Houston went in back-to-back years and lost both. In the entirety of the NCAA Tournament, only one Texas-based school has won the National Championship, the University of Texas El Paso back in 1966, then known as Texas Western.

With Beard taking Tech to back-to-back Elite Eight appearances and now a National Championship appearance, Tech was hard-pressed to get the rising superstar under contract. As coaching vacancies opened up across the country in March, Beard’s name was brought up in various coaching searches, ranging from UCLA to Texas to Arkansas, with over a dozen schools reportedly pursuing the fast-rising coach.

As such, Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt made it clear following the National Championship loss that securing an extension with Beard was his utmost priority with the season over. Just three weeks after the end of the season, Tech announced the school had agreed to an extension with Beard, silencing immediate rumors he would pursue opportunities elsewhere.

While the signing of the contract did a lot to silence the rumors, the actual contract language made it even more apparent he would be tied to Tech for years to come. His buyout for the remainder of his contract is fairly substantial, but the real kicker is if Beard leaves Tech for a school in Texas, his buyout is doubled.

Since he was hired in 2016, Beard has been adamant his commitment is to “building the program” at Tech, and this extension helps prove to fans, and more importantly recruits, he is here to stay. With Beard firmly locked up, players are lining up at Tech’s door to play for one of the best defensive teams in the country, a feat many would have deemed unfathomable up until a year ago.

Already, Tech has the best recruiting class in program history heading into 2019, with several key players still mulling over their college destinations, according to 247sports. A seven player class, the 2019 class is highlighted by Jahmius Ramsey and Terrence Shannon, the first and fifth best recruits in Tech history based off 247sports recruit rankings.

Tech’s 2019 recruiting class is currently ranked as the 16th best in the country and the second best in the Big 12. With several key stars from the 2017-2018 season departing, a strong 2019 class will reinforce the remnants of last season’s runner-up team and give Tech a shot at the NCAA Tournament again.

A final key piece to an already great class could be five-star guard RJ Hampton, seventh best prospect in the 2019 class, according to 247sports, who recently listed Tech as one of his top four schools, replacing Coach K’s Blue Devils with Beard’s Red Raiders.

While Kansas, Kentucky and Memphis will all make a serious push to land Hampton, the presence of Tech in his top four speaks volumes on where Beard has taken the program. If Hampton were to decide to go to Tech, he would be the only five-star recruit in program history.

With Beard locked in for years to come, Tech is poised to continue to climb up the ranks in the college basketball world, as Beard takes Tech from tournament hopeful to perennial contenders.

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