Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a four-part series breaking down the contracts for the coaches of the revenue sports at Montana State University. The first installment addresses the year remaining on head football coach Rob Ash’s three-year deal signed in February of 2013.
For just the third time since coming to Montana State, Rob Ash is coaching for a contract extension.
The all-time leader in wins by a Bobcat head coach — he’s 65-32 as he enters his ninth season at the helm — earned a contract extension in 2010 that ended in 2013. Ash signed a three-year deal that February which is set to end on June 30, 2016.
By almost all accounts, Ash has a strong case to coach beyond this season if he wishes. Since taking over at Montana State in 2007, he’s led the Bobcats to eight winning seasons, a run that includes Big Sky Conference titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012. MSU has qualified for the FCS playoffs four of the last five seasons (2013 was the exception) and have hosted at least one playoff game each season. MSU has claimed two playoff wins.
Off the field, the Bobcats have been almost entirely free of major trouble aside from the Anthony Knight saga. In the classroom, Ash has helped MSU emerge from restrictions due to Academic Progress violations to post one of the top APRs in the Big Sky. In the community, the Bobcat football team did close to 1,000 hours of community service.
For his guidance and leadership of the MSU program, Ash receives a base salary of $174,538 with incremental raises possible each year. He gets guaranteed appearance bonuses totaling $30,000 each for the Cat Chat and Bobcat Pregame radio shows and for the Bobcat Sports Report television show. Each year he participates in fundraising activities, social activities, booster functions (social and golf), public speaking engagements and ticket sales campaigns, the university pays him $21,500, bringing his baseline annual salary to $256,038.
Ash also receives a courtesy automobile and can explore endorsement opportunities to supplement his income. He also receives an undisclosed amount of money from football camps hosted by MSU. He gives all the profits from the camps in their entirety to his assistant coaches. Ash may also supplement his coaches salaries through money raised by the MSU Quarterback Club or the Coaches Excellence account.
His contract also has incentives that pay his country club dues at Black Bull in Bozeman and for his wife, Margaret, to expense travel to all MSU games. Ash receives a ticket package as part of his contract that includes: six season tickets for football, four season tickets for each women’s and men’s basketball and eight individual tickets for all home games, including playoff games.
Other clauses in Ash’s contract include: he must inform MSU athletics if he is looking for other jobs if more than six months remain on his existing deal; Ash must provide income and revenue statements for the program each September; Ash can be terminated at any time but must be provided written notice and given a week to appeal; If fired, Ash would still receive a pro-rated salary until the contract’s completion but he would have to pay back all liquidated damages that stem from his termination; and Ash would receive all performance-based incentives owed to him at the time of his termination or resignation
The Iowa native has won 242 games in his 35 years as a college head football coach. He’s the all-time leader in head coaching wins at three different schools: Division III Juanita, Pioneer League affiliate Drake and Montana State. Ash earned the 2010 Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year and earned the Liberty Mutual National FCS Coach of the Year in 2011.
During his eight seasons at MSU, he’s led the Bobcats to a 46-18 record against Big Sky competition, including a 32-8 mark since 2010. His Achilles heel has been the Big Sky’s top competition. Ash is 38-3 against Weber State, Idaho State, Sac State, Northern Colorado, Portland State, UC Davis, North Dakota and Southern Utah. SUU is the only one in the group to qualify for the playoffs this decade.
Ash is a combined 7-16 against Montana, Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona and Cal Poly. Each school has at least one playoff appearance since 2012. Ash is 2-6 against Eastern Washington, including a win in 2011 and 2-6 against Montana, including back-to-back wins in Missoula in 2010 and 2012.
Ash’s current contract is flush with incentive-based bonuses but does not include any bonus for beating certain teams. He does receive a $10,000 bonus each time MSU plays an FBS school, something the Bobcats don’t do during 2015’s 11-game schedule.
Ash can earn the following performance-based bonuses: $10,000 for winning the Big Sky Coach of the Year; $7,500 for winning the regional or national Coach of the Year; $10,000 for winning the regular-season Big Sky title; $5,000 for winning eight or more games, including the playoffs; $7,500 for winning nine or more games including the postseason; and $10,000 for winning 10 or more games including the playoffs.
Ash receives a $7,500 bonus for each playoff bid and $7,500 additional each round the Bobcats advance up to the semifinals of the FCS playoffs. A trip to the national title game would earn a $15,000 bonus and $50,000 for winning the game.
Ash also receives bonuses if his team performs well academically. For each semester of a 2.75 grade-point average, he gets a $2,500 bonus. For each year over 2.75, he gets $5,000. Each year football achieves an Academic Progress Rating of 930 or higher, Ash receives a $10,000 bonus. Each time the score exceeds 945, he gets an additional $5,000. Each time it exceeds 960, he gets an additional $5,000.
The football team had an APR of 974 in 2013-14, the most recent year of data released. That score brought its four-year average to 960, up from 955 a year ago. The four-year mark is ahead of the FCS average of 951. Montana State has had two straight years with an APR of 974 and the team GPA was just over 3.0 last year.
With each incentive achieved a year ago, Ash earned $298,538 in the last fiscal year. The maximum Ash can earn if he achieves each and every one of his bonuses is $446,038.
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.