Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Millions of Reasons to Stay Donovan Agrees to 5-Year Extension with Florida

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Millions of Reasons to Stay Donovan Agrees to 5-Year Extension with Florida

Article excerpt

Jeremy Foley has said countless times that the University of Florida can be a basketball school.

The athletic director at Florida, Foley took another step in that direction yesterday, agreeing to a 5-year, $3.5 million contract extension with men's coach Billy Donovan.

The extension is through the 2003-2004 season, and makes Donovan, who turns 34 tomorrow, the third-highest paid basketball coach in the Southeastern Conference. Only Tubby Smith of Kentucky ($1.2 million per season) and Nolan Richardson of Arkansas ($1 million) make more money than Donovan ($700,000).

"It's in our best interest to keep Billy as our coach for many years to come," Foley said. "This university is trying to be proactive, showing him this is the only place for him to be. We think he is a perfect fit for this institution."

Foley and the university continue to show that with each year. Donovan, who will begin his fourth season in Gainesville in November, was given an extra year to his contract after his first season, and a $100,000 raise after his second season. That raise coincided with a $9 million renovation of the O'Connell Center.

This $200,000 raise (from his previous $500,000 package) comes on the heels of UF beginning plans for an $8 million basketball practice facility, complete with two practice courts, state-of-the art locker rooms and offices for the men's and women's coaches.

If Florida -- which reached the Sweet Sixteen last year for only the third time in school history -- isn't a basketball school yet, Foley and the university are doing their best to get it there.

"It's very flattering," Donovan said. "I think the University of Florida has been very fair to me. I'm excited about everything that is taking place. That [facility improvements] says to me, to the recruits, players, everyone here, that there is strong commitment by everyone here to put this basketball program in a strong situation to compete at the national level.

"It sends a message to kids. …

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