If Mick Cronin is bluffing about leaving the University of Cincinnati, he’s doing a good job. Per the Las Vegas Sun, Cronin has landed in Las Vegas and is ready to talk. Shortly after 10 p.m. PT, Tuesday evening, Cronin’s flight arrived at Atlantic Aviation. The Bearcats coach is scheduled to meet with UNLV Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy and a few other alumni and boosters.
The Rebels are set to offer a contract that would be reportedly close to $3 million. That would surpass the $2.2 million Cronin is currently averaging at Cincinnati. If a deal is made, the salary would be the most UNLV has offered to pay a coach.
Since asking Dave Rice to leave, UNLV has been in search mode to replace him. The university wasn’t allowed to talk to coaches until the teams’ season ended. Two of the rumored candidates, Brad Underwood and Jamie Dixon, have taken positions at Oklahoma State and TCU, respectively.
Kunzer-Murphy has worked tirelessly to get things in place for Cronin. The Nevada Board of Regents has gotten enough positive feedback to proceed with at least $2 million. The rest of the deal may be subject to monetary agreements with Under Armour. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, assurance by the regents is important if UNLV president Len Jessup and Kunzer-Murphy move forward in their efforts to woo Cronin.
Kunzer-Murphy was delighted to be moving forward with the talks. She was overjoyed to be getting positive input from the regents towards Cronin. She addressed the situation via text message.
“We have had good discussion and input that has been very valuable! The president and I are speaking with many people to produce a positive outcome!”
UNLV has an apparel contract with Nike that is expected to expire soon, and Under Armour wants to establish more of a presence in the West. Under Armour is the apparel provider at Cincinnati. They would provide about $1 million annually to Cronin once the Nike deal expires.
For the past few days, University of Cincinnati Athletic Director Mike Bohn has been unavailable for comments on the situation. Cronin has not responded to any messages from news sources concerning the talks.
As reported by The Inquisitr, when Rice was asked to leave UNLV, he was earning close to $850,000 annually. He’s still owed close to $1 million dollars by the university. The basketball program is still in the red with two of the assistant coaches. UNLV owes them close to $400,000.
One source has stated that the Board of Regents is still working on money moves to make the deal happen. Having Cronin in town could speed up a process that is supposed to have the coach under contract by March 30.
Cronin has led the Bearcats to the NCAA Tournament six consecutive years. Since leading Cincinnati to the Sweet 16 in 2012, Cronin and the Cats are 4-8 in postseason play. The university was still reeling from the resignation of Bob Huggins when Cronin took over. He has compiled a 207-129 since that time.
Cronin has entertained other offers from universities. In recent years, the coach has been approached by North Carolina State, Nebraska, and Virginia Tech. Each time, Cronin remained loyal and stayed with the Bearcats. With Fifth Third Arena needing an upgrade, the football program being handed money like candy and rumors of the university being handcuffed financially, this may be the time Cronin decides to leave.
According to SB Nation, the athletic department at UC is truly struggling. Some of the things Cronin wants to be done are simply not within the budget. With the debt mounting, the UNLV move seems to be a ploy to gain leverage.
Both Cronin and UC may be bluffing. But the Rebels are holding the best hand. Regent James Dean Leavitt summed it up.
“In athletics, it’s time to go big or go home.”
[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]