KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The entire basketball program at Wichita State runs on what Louisville coach Rick Pitino makes in a single year, with money left over to purchase plenty of trophy cases for Final Four hardware.
In an NCAA tournament driven by longshots and upsets, the Shockers are in many ways the oddball of the season’s final weekend: They don’t have a big-time football program like Syracuse, Michigan or the Cardinals, and they don’t belong to a major conference that enjoys a weighty television contract.
Instead, the Shockers run their basketball program on a budget of just $3.1 million, which accounts for everything from coach Gregg Marshall’s salary to a robust recruiting budget, all of the transportation to road games and everything else that comes with playing Division I sports.
Pitino, by comparison, makes $3.9 million in base salary alone.
But the fiscal disparity between the three big schools and a mid-major like Wichita State will hardly matter when the ball is tossed up Saturday night in the Georgia Dome, and the Shockers take on the Cardinals for the right to play for the national championship.
Everything is equal when the teams step on the hardwood.
Our administration gives us wonderful support, Marshall said this week. We fly on private planes every time we leave town. We have 10,500 fans at every game. It’s a great place to coach.
That’s why Marshall has rebuffed every overture to leave.
The calls will undoubtedly pick up given what the Shockers have done this year, but the longtime coach of Winthrop has said repeatedly that it would take the perfect opportunity to pry him away.
For one thing, he has it pretty good at Wichita State.
The school’s robust aerospace engineering program, along with the National Institute for Aviation Research right on campus, means Marshall has plenty of private planes at his disposal – no flying in coach for this mid-major team. And that extends to recruiting, where Marshall’s able to cover more ground than most coaches.
They’re kind of like sports cars, instead of a school bus. They’re more like Ferraris and Jaguars. They go pretty fast, Marshall said, joking about the fleet of private planes. That is a great benefit, he said. Our players don’t understand how good they have it, to go from bus to private plane to bus and in a couple hours be in our hotel.
Then there’s the fact that the Shockers no longer have a football team – it was disbanded in the mid-1980s. The money that the Missouri Valley school once funneled into a losing program has, for the better part of 30 years, been directed toward basketball.
I think for schools within our conference, obviously football isn’t a moneymaker for them, said Rege Klitzke, Wichita State’s senior associate athletic director for business operations. If you compare ourselves to fellow conference schools, not having football is a big advantage.