When Travis Steele was hired last year, he was hired through the 2023 season. In Steele’s first season at the helm he took a team in transition to the NIT before losing to eventual consolation champion Texas. The Musketeers finished the season at 19-16 which, while it isn’t what the fanbase has become accustomed to, represented something of a success after a rough start.
Yesterday, Xavier added another year to Steele’s contract with AD Greg Christopher saying, in part, “This extension reflects the confidence I have in the direction of our program. Working with Travis and his staff, I have seen their work-ethic, strategy and decision-making in action. Travis successfully managed our transition, laying a new foundation for excellence. The future of Xavier basketball has never been brighter.”
There’s no question left, or at least there shouldn’t be, that Steele is the man to take this team forward. Despite that, the extension announcement seems a little bit odd. Why add another year on to a contract that isn’t anywhere near expiring for a coach that just arrived?
A pay raise:
One good reason that a college basketball coach gets another year on a contract is to increase the overall value of that contract. You’ll undoubtedly recall that Xavier used this same tack to pay Chris Mack more on multiple occasions before he eventually succumbed to the siren song of way more money at Louisville. Frequently, a coach getting another year also signifies a step up in yearly salary.
The writing on the wall:
If Travis Steele keeps improving at the rate he did this year, he will be a hot commodity come 2023. This contract is something of an early marker that Xavier believes he will continue grow into one of the top coaches in the nation. The extra year gives Xavier a little bit more leverage come the time that other schools come calling.
There is an argument to be made that 2023 is awfully stable, but that’s not the Xavier Way. (Think the Butler Way, but with success and fewer games in a barn). Christopher has spoken before of making Xavier a serious power. The programs that fall into that category now are coached by long term coaches like Tom Izzo, Coach K, Bill Self, and Roy Williams. National Champion Tony Bennett feels young in that circle but has been at Virginia for nearly ten years. This one year extension adds just that little more toward making Coach Steele the kind of name that eventually ends up written in script on the court.