Cal Poly’s athletic director received a raise this year of about $25,000 — or 15.7 percent — which has been criticized by the faculty union as bad timing amid a 10 percent pay reduction for university faculty and staff as part of a furlough agreement.
But Cal Poly officials say Alison Cone’s raise was to correct a pay inequity and put her compensation on par with other athletic directors in the Big West Conference.
Cone earned an annual salary of $162,840 before her pay was increased in May to $188,376, which was made retroactive to January, according to university officials. Her benefits remain the same.
“This is not an isolated event,” said Larry Kelley, Cal Poly’s vice president of finance and administration. “Even in times of budget distress, when our employees are paid well below what they should be, we have the ability to correct that.”
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Cone, 57, announced in September that she plans to retire at the end of this year but said that has nothing to do with her raise. “The raise was an equity situation,” Cone said. “I decided to retire because I felt the time was right for me and it was a good transition period for Cal Poly athletics.”
The raise boosts Cone to her highest salary as a state employee, which will be used as part of a formula to calculate her retirement pay.
The retirement formula also takes into consideration a worker’s age and years of service to the state.
“Even if the salary was justifiable, the timing was terrible,” said Cal Poly’s faculty union president, Glen Thorncroft. “Here we are facing a huge budget crisis, and we can’t pay anybody what they deserve, and yet they’re able to scrape together money to bring an athletic director up to a standard salary. It makes the faculty and staff wonder where the priorities are on campus.”
Thorncraft said that faculty voted to take a 9.5 percent reduction in pay through the furlough plan last fiscal year as a “sacrifice for the good of the institution.” (Furloughs are not in effect this fiscal year for faculty or staff.)
University officials said that all Cal Poly employees, including Cone, took the pay reduction because of the required furlough days.
Cone’s take-home was reduced by about $16,700 because of the furlough plan — which was effective from July 2009 through this June.
But Provost Bob Koob said that it was his idea to initiate Cone’s raise because she was “chronically underpaid and overworked.”The survey found that Cone’s compensation was near the bottom of the Big West’s nine athletic directors, Cal Poly officials said, noting that now she ranks around the middle of the group.
According to the Sacramento Bee’s state salary database for 2009, Cal State Fullerton Athletic Director Brian Quinn made about $157,000; Long Beach State Athletic Director Vic Cegles made about $167,000; and UCSB’s athletic director Mark Massari made about $196,000. Each of their respective universities is part of the Big West.
Cal Poly participates in the Big West for all of its sports expect football.
Koob said he reviewed a survey that included salary information of all the Big West’s athletic directors and considered workload. “Alison was promoted from within the department to athletic director and started out at a low salary compared to others in the conference,” Koob said. “But she was doing the work of at least two people. I felt we had to recognize her contributions.”
During Cone’s tenure, Cal Poly had 23 teams achieve a top-25 national ranking, 13 teams (plus 87 individuals) advance to the postseason and 17 teams win conference championships. Also under her guidance, two significant upgrade projects were completed at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. In 2007, a $20 million renovation of its west side was finished, and two years later, a $1 million video scoreboard was installed.
Cal Poly also was accepted into the Big Sky Conference in football this year, which will provide the school its first chance to compete for a guaranteed berth into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Cone came to Cal Poly in 1994 and was appointed athletic director in 2004. She’s currently the only female athletic director in the Big West.
Cal Poly employees are eligible for a pay increase to make their compensation equitable with jobs at other similar universities, or nonuniversity jobs, Kelley said.
Kelley said that 13 staff members and five managers in 2010 received equity-based raises; 18 staff members and two managers received the increases in 2009.
Kelley added that 160 faculty members in 2010 and 14 faculty received equity raises in 2009.
Cal Poly officials said providing details on each case would take considerable research. The numbers above represent the calendar years and not the fiscal years.
The comparison can include local market pay scales for such positions as clerical jobs, he said. The equity-based raises are decided on a case-by-case basis.
“Bargaining units allow individuals to request a review of compensation based on equity,” Kelley said. “It has always been our position to pay our employees equitably.”