News With Commentary by TSL Staff

Saturday, March 27, 2004
by Will Stewart,

Henrickson Leaving Tech for Kansas

The news has broken out of Blacksburg that VT women's basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson is departing for the University of Kansas. A press conference announcing the hiring is expected Monday in Kansas.

WSLS (Roanoke, VA) Channel 10's Justin Ditmore announced the news on the 6:00 p.m. Friday news broadcast. It is not known at this point what the terms of Henrickson's new deal with Kansas will be. At Virginia Tech, she is currently making about $130,000 in salary, with a total compensation package in the neighborhood of $200,000 per year.

Sources indicate that Kansas may be willing to pay twice that, though the package of KU's Marian Washington, who recently retired after leading the Jayhawks for 31 years, was very similar to the one Henrickson currently has with VT. Washington had a package worth about $200k per year, plus two automobiles, country club memberships, and a $2 million term life insurance policy, paid for by the KU athletic department.

Kansas is looking to revive their women's basketball program, which fell on hard times late in Washington's tenure. Attendance had fallen to 1,539 fans per game, after Kansas had posted a record of 25-62 (5-43 in the Big 12) the past three seasons.

While the program at Kansas is down right now, it does have the attraction of being run by Athletic Director Lew Perkins, who was the AD at Connecticut when the Huskies built their women's basketball program to prominence under coach Geno Auriemma. Perkins has a proven track record of supporting sports programs and building them to national prominence.

The support and financial backing to compete with the top programs in the country appears to be a factor in Henrickson's decision to leave VT. Sources indicate that Henrickson was growing increasingly frustrated with what she felt was insufficient support from the Virginia Tech Athletic Department and Athletic Director Jim Weaver to achieve her goals.

The issue with Henrickson wasn't really her own personal salary as much as it was the overall support for her program. In April of 2002, Henrickson interviewed with Vanderbilt, and she later used that as leverage to gain a $78,000 increase in funding for her basketball program, which boosted assistant coaches' salaries, travel budgets, and recruiting budgets.

Despite those increases, sources told TSL that Henrickson didn't feel her program at Virginia Tech was receiving enough backing, mostly financial, to compete with well-funded programs at places like Connecticut, Tennessee, and Duke.

Henrickson was hired by former VT athletic director Dave Braine in 1997. Virginia Tech was Henrickson's first head coaching job, and the gamble Virginia Tech took on her paid off in spades. In her seven years at Virginia Tech, the Hokies won at least 20 games and advanced to postseason play every year, including five NCAA appearances and two WNIT appearances. Her record was 158-62, an average of roughly 22-9 each season. Tech experienced its best-ever season under Henrickson in 1998-99, when the Hokies went 28-3, falling to Tennessee in the Sweet 16.


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