How Texas Tech, wisely and affordably, is making Chris Beard one of college basketball's highest-paid coaches

Earlier this month, just two days after Texas Tech played in the title game of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, the Big 12 announced that it had reached a deal to expand its media rights agreement with ESPN. Sports Business Journal reported that the deal would mean an additional $22 million per year for the league. And though Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby subsequently described that report as inaccurate, there's no question the following is true: Big 12 schools that were previously set to get $40.1 million annually in rights fees are now set to get even more than $40.1 million annually in rights fees.

That's a lot of money, no matter how you cut it.

Which is among the reasons it shouldn't be surprising that Texas Tech on Monday reached a new six-year, $27.45 million deal with Chris Beard that makes his annual salary of $4.6 million the third-highest in the sport, according to USA Today's database of coaching salaries. Simply put, if you have the perfect coach for your program, and more money than you know what to do with, why not give as much of it necessary to keep the perfect coach for your program happy and on campus? Anything less would be equal parts crazy and unwise.

And, make no mistake, Chris Beard is perfect for Texas Tech.

He was raised in Irving, Texas, went to college in Austin and Abilene, and has worked, at various times, pretty much all over the state. So Beard understands the region, the people, the recruiting landscape, everything. And though he's only been a Division I head coach for four seasons, it's well-established, already, that this 46-year-old former Bob Knight assistant is an undeniable difference-maker.

First consider his one season at Little Rock.

Beard, in his rookie year as a Division I head coach, led the Trojans to a 30-5 record that allowed them to make the NCAA Tournament, advance in the NCAA Tournament (by beating Purdue) and finish 56th at KenPom. That's impressive without context. But the context makes it even more incredible.

Little Rock's past seven KenPom finishes serves as context.

Check them out:

  • 2013: 220th at KenPom under Steve Shields
  • 2014: 219th at KenPom under Steve Shields
  • 2015: 235th at KenPom under Steve Shields
  • 2016: 56th at KenPom under Chris Beard
  • 2017: 245th at KenPom under Wes Flanagan
  • 2018: 296th at KenPom under Wes Flanagan
  • 2019: 222nd at KenPom under Darrell Walker

In other words, in the three years before Beard was at Little Rock, and the three years since Beard left Little Rock, the Trojans finished outside the top 215 at KenPom. But they were inside the top 60 with Beard.

That's remarkable.

And all Beard has done since leaving Little Rock is achieve one unprecedented thing after another. In his second season with the Red Raiders, he guided them to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in history. And in his third season, which was this season, he took the Red Raiders to their second Elite Eight, first Final Four and first national title game, where they, of course, lost in overtime to Virginia. Meantime, Beard has also enrolled two unheralded recruits and developed them into top-20 picks. First, it was Zhaire Smith -- who was ranked 194th in the Class of 2017 but was selected 16th in the 2018 NBA Draft. Next up is Jarrett Culver -- who was ranked 312th in the Class of 2017 but will, barring a surprise, be selected in the top 10 of the 2019 NBA Draft.

Bottom line, what Texas Tech has in Chris Beard is a homegrown miracle-worker who has turned its men's basketball program into a nationally relevant entity that's far exceeding all normal historical standards. He takes rosters that seem uninspiring and turns them into great teams. He takes high school prospects literally nobody projects as NBA players and turns them into NBA players.

What more could Texas Tech want?

So, yeah, $4.6 million per year for a coach is a lot of money. But when you're a Big 12 school that gets more than $40 million annually from its media rights alone, and when you don't have to pay players because of the NCAA's outdated and shameful system of amateurism, it's almost impossible to overpay for a great coach like Chris Beard, which is what Texas Tech has wisely, and accurately, concluded. Not only is that $4.6 million in the budget, it's actually money well spent. 

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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