OU regents approve big raise for women's gymnastics coach K.J. Kindler

Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler smiles and points towards the crowd while waiting for the awards ceremony to start at the NCAA championships in Fort Worth in May. OU regents approved a substantial raise for Kindler on Thursday. (Paxson Haws / OU Daily)

NORMAN — With its women’s gymnastics program firmly among the nation’s elite, Oklahoma took a step Thursday to ensure it remains there.

The board of regents approved a deal that will pay OU coach K.J. Kindler a total of $3.17 million if she fulfills the remaining six years on her contract. She is believed to be the nation’s highest paid women’s gymnastics coach.

Kindler, whose contract was extended through the 2025 season, has won four national championships since 2014, including the latest in 2017 and 2019.

“There’s not a program out there, at the moment, that can compare,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “There are several other programs out there who would love to have her.”

Together, Kindler’s base salary ($225,000 to $280,000) and outside income from unrestricted private funds ($80,000 to $100,000) increased by 25 percent. She is due a non-cumulative $20,000 raise annually beginning in July 2020.

Her annual stay benefit was increased from $25,000 to $70,000, payable if she remains the coach February 1 of each contract year. She is due two additional stay benefits — a one-time payment of $250,000 if she remains the coach through June 30, 2023 and another one of $100,000 if she stays through June 30, 2025.

Kindler, an Iowa State graduate, recently completed her 13th season. OU has won 11 conference titles in that span and gone undefeated in the regular season six times.

“We need to not only show our appreciation for her and her staff and the program at large, but recognize what we’re trying to do to win national championships, like we’ve done in other sports,” Castiglione said. “Mark Williams (men’s gymnastics) is right there with nine national championships and Patty Gasso (softball) has also won four national championships like K.J.

“These are the best of the best right now. So again, there’s a great deal of gratitude having them associated with our program but we also recognize this insatiable desire to keep getting better.”

Longtime UCLA coach Valorie Kondos-Field compared Kindler to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick when the Sooners beat the Bruins before a record OU crowd of 10,177 people in early March. It doubled the program’s previous record.

“When we first got here the average attendance was 600 people,” Kindler said afterward. “So we have built a fanbase, but to double your highest attendance, that’s an explosion.”

• Other coaches receive pay increases: Men’s gymnastics coach Mark Williams received an extension through 2025 and his base salary was raised from $226,000 to $230,000. His outside income increased from $65,000 to $70,000.

Baseball coach Skip Johnson was extended to 2023; his base salary goes from $215,000 to $220,000. Wrestling coach Lou Rosselli was extended to 2023 and given a $5,000 raise to $170,000.

Women’s tennis coach Audra Cohen was extended to 2023 with a $10,000 raise to $130,000. Men’s tennis coach Nicholas Crowell was extended to 2023 with a $6,400 raise to $149,400.

Volleyball coach Lindsay Walton was extended to 2023 and received a $5,000 raise to $180,000. Men’s golf coach Ryan Hybl was extended to 2024 with a $6,000 raise to $197,000.

Other extensions were: Softball coach Patty Gasso (2026), men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger (2023) and women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale (2023).

• Stoops’ role changes: Bob Stoops recently accepted a position as the XFL Dallas team’s head coach. The board approved a move that makes him a part-time employee, cutting his annual salary from $325,000 to $162,000.

Stoops took on a special assistant to the athletic director role after he retired as OU’s football coach in 2017.

• Fundraising going steadily: When Castiglione attended OU softball’s run through regionals and the Women’s College World Series, he was continually asked for updates on plans for a new softball stadium.

Funds are steadily being raised for a proposed $22 million facility. Last June, OU’s regents approved a design phase for the new stadium that would seat 3,000 people. Marita Hynes Field holds 1,378.

“We continue to move along a path that allows us to complete the design development, so when we do have the funds available we can immediately move forward with the rest of the project,” Castiglione said. “In this particular case to get this done it require a significant amount of giving. But it’s growing. Of course, we understand we want it to grow faster than it is.”

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