The NIL era allows college basketball standouts at mid-major programs to benefit from the magic of March Madness, but coaches have long used deep tournament runs to score sizeable raises and higher-profile jobs.
Alabama head coach Nate Oats has led the Crimson Tide to a No. 1 seed in his fourth season after busting brackets in 2018 as Buffalo’s head coach. Former Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley has led the UConn Huskies to their first Sweet 16 since 2014. More recently, Shaheen Holloway returned to his alma mater Seton Hall this season after an Elite Eight run with Saint Peter’s during last year’s tournament.
The list goes on, and additions are imminent.
Dusty May is poised to make the most of this year’s Big Dance. The Florida Atlantic coach has pushed the Owls to the first Sweet 16 berth in school history after stealing the glass slipper from Fairleigh Dickinson on Sunday night. May, who inked a five-year extension back in 2021, has also already scooped up $80,000 in tournament bonuses this month, according to a copy of his contract obtained by Sportico. This includes $35,000 he earned for the team’s NCAA tournament bid as well as winning Conference-USA Coach of the Year honors.
The former Florida assistant has earned an additional $100,000 for securing the school's first ever Final Four berth with a 79-76 win over Kansas State on Saturday. But May, who is earning a $429,975 base salary, perhaps has an even bigger payday on the way.
May, who has become one of the nation’s top mid-major coaches, is expected to grab attention from bigger programs after the 46-year-old led his team to 33 wins this year.
“I’m probably one of the only college basketball coaches that is agent-less,” May said earlier this week on the Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz. “It’s not much of a business for me. I just wanted to be a ball coach, and so I usually just say, ‘Hey pay me what you think I’m worth,’ and I think the school has been very fair.”
As nationwide interest mounts, it might be time for May to get an agent. Texas Tech and Penn State are among schools looking for a new head coach.
“The unexpected creates an opportunity for those who are not well known to become known,” former University of Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said in a interview. “Once that takes place, athletic directors and headhunters start to pay attention. … It really uncovers a lot of great stories that perhaps wouldn’t have been know unless they enjoyed a certain level of success in the tournament.”
If a Power Five school is interested in poaching May from FAU, that institution will have to pay a buyout of $400,000, according to his contract. For some programs, that’s a small price to get their head coach of the future—it’s become routine to pay exit fees for rising coaches who have shined on the big stage.
Fairleigh Dickinson head coach Tobin Anderson is set to take the Iona job, which became open with Rick Pitino taking over at St. Johns. Oral Roberts head coach Paul Mill is also headed to Wichita State after guiding the Golden Eagles to the NCAA tournament two of the last three years.
The Owls, which have never advanced this far in March, are riding the momentum under May entering the Sweet 16. Even if their season comes to an end, the afterglow of success and sunny beaches of Boca Raton might not be enough to keep him around for next season. May would simply be the latest college basketball coach to turn the insanity of the March Madness into more money and status elsewhere.
(This story has corrected the details of May's bonus structure in the fourth and fifth paragraphs.)
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