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After lackluster ASU men's basketball season, coach Hurley's contract is still unsigned

The Arizona State University men’s basketball team ended its season on Wednesday with a loss to Utah in the Pac-12 tournament. The Sun Devils finished 14-18 on the season, second to last in the conference.

All of that has led to some fans calling for a change at head coach; Bobby Hurley has gone 155-130 since taking over at ASU in 2015. But the contract extension Hurley and the school agreed to last year still has not been signed.

Jason Wolf is a sports investigative reporter for the Arizona Republic and USA Today Network, and he joined the show to talk more, starting with the terms of the new deal for Hurley.

Full interview

MARK BRODIE: What were some of the terms of this new deal for Hurley?

JASON WOLF: The most important thing to understand is that it was a two-year extension announced a year ago. In 2023, it was to continue his tenure at Arizona State through the 2025-2026 season. It gave him $100,000 pay raise this year to his base salary and set a bunch of other incentives that he could reach various dollar figures. But none of that takes effect with the exception of his $100,000 pay raise until Penn is actually put to paper, according to Arizona State.

BRODIE: And as you found out that has not happened?

WOLF: Correct.

BRODIE: Do you have a sense of why?

WOLF: After speaking with his agent, my understanding is that the hold up is on Arizona State's end. Supposedly, it, it it's basically done but revolves around having to change some mentions of the conference from the Pac-12 to the Big 12. And supposedly Ray Anderson's resignation as athletics director last November factors into the delay as well, but neither of those reasons seem particularly reasonable considering that, you know, switching wording from Pac-12 to Big 12 is, you know, find and replace in Microsoft Word, right?

Like if you just knock that out and Ray Anderson resigned eight months after the contract extension was announced, the extension was announced in March 2023. It was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents in April 2023, and then Ray Anderson did not resign until November. So there was a 7-8 month delay between the time of the extension and it's the term being approved by ABOR and Anderson stepping down. There was a four-month gap between, you know, ABOR's approval in April and the university announcing that it was moving to the Big 12 in August. So I don't understand how four, even four months went by without this deal being finalized.

BRODIE: Well, so one of the things that's really interesting as you report is that even though this contract is not signed, it sounds like Bobby Hurley was still getting the, the higher salary. Is that right?

WOLF: Correct. They saw the parties, they signed a term sheet at the time the extension was announced it was approved by ABOR, but this term sheet is not binding, according to the general counsel at Arizona State. And so he has been being paid his higher salary, but Arizona State says until the full form contract is actually signed that none of the other terms of their agreement will take effect and Arizona State will not release his contract or the term sheet until it's a done deal. That's typically a public record and this is how it ended up coming to light actually is because the university continuously refused to provide his contract to a public records request.

BRODIE: Well, so has anybody said why the university paid him the higher salary when none of the rest of the terms of the new contract were being enforced?

WOLF: Well, from what I understand, it's fairly typical, right? Like every coach that signs a new deal or agrees to an extension, there is a term sheet or in MOU or, or some type of non-binding document that both parties sign and agree and there's a drop dead date on negotiations and these are typically short-lived documents that lead to a signed contract. I spoke to a sports contract attorney, a longtime expert who's been around for has been in the business for the last 50 years in fact, he told me that it was extraordinarily unusual for a term sheet to not result in a full form contract 12 months after an extension was announced.

BRODIE: Well, so where does this leave Bobby Hurley? Because before he signed the extension, his contract was up at the end of June and you know, with ASU losing in the Pac-12 tournament, a kind of a disappointing season for them. A lot of fans are calling for his dismissal as head coach. Like, do you have a sense of where, where all this leaves him?

WOLF: Well, both parties, both Hurley's agent and Arizona State University have told me that they remain committed to the terms of the deal as they were announced and as they were approved by the Board of Regents and they expect that the contract will be signed imminently. Imminently was a term used by Arizona State. So it seems as though the contract will get signed. What that means for his long term future, it's hard to say. First of all, until it's signed, it's not signed, right? And it does that the legally binding contract that's currently in force does expire June 30. If he does sign the contract, obviously, he is extended for another two years and there is a $2 million up to a $2 million buyout that was attached to that extension. 

If he does not sign the contract, obviously, he owes nothing the, the current contract ends and he walks, I don't want listeners to think that the bigger picture here is Bobby Hurley because I think what it does is it raises some very valid questions about the way at the Arizona State Athletics Department is doing business and this is a bad time for questions to be raised about ASU's business practices when it's arch rival the University of Arizona is under such intense scrutiny for financial mismanagement that is in part tied to its athletics department.

So, I know that UA and, and, and ASU like, you know, whatever one does the other wants to do the opposite. ASU does not want to join UA in, in, in this regard, in terms of the level of scrutiny that they have. But it, it is curious that the head men's basketball coach, again, this is not a minor oversight, this is one of the highest paid public employees in the state and you're sitting there a year after announcing an extension and the deal is not done. So there are lots of questions that should come from that, not only for Arizona State but for the Board of Regents.

BRODIE: Sure. All right. That is Jason Wolf, sports investigative reporter for the Arizona Republic and the USA Today network. Jason, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.