Meet LeVelle Moton, college basketball coach with the unusually lengthy contract

For an industry that loves to send bright young coaches up through the ranks, sometimes before they’ve proven anything on the court, it’s somewhat puzzling that LeVelle Moton is still at North Carolina Central. 

Moton, 45, is already responsible for the best stretch of basketball since the historically black university joined Division I, having won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament four times with a possible fifth coming this weekend. 

Even some of his former players are surprised he hasn’t parlayed that success into a higher-profile job. 

“We thought he was going to leave possibly going into my senior year because we came off such a great year and he showcased himself and was a hot commodity,” said Jordan Parks, who was part of North Carolina Central’s first NCAA tournament team in 2014. “He’s a phenomenal coach. But it’s hard to say because he has a strong bond with the university being an ex-player (at NCCU), being from Raleigh and doing all the things he’s done. He wants to do culture-shifting things. He’d love to take NC Central and break that stigma of being just an HBCU basketball program.” 

LeVelle Moton has a 199-126 record in 10 years as coach at North Carolina Central. (Photo: Peter Casey, USA TODAY Sports)

But there’s another factor to Moton’s longevity at NC Central beyond just loyalty: His contract. 

Out of the 62 Division I coaches at a public school whose contract terms USA TODAY Sports obtained for its annual pay survey, nobody has a longer-team deal than Moton, who is guaranteed to make $325,000 annually plus bonuses through the 2030-31 season. 

Though the reasons for extending Moton’s contract out that far following another NCAA tournament bid last season are likely easy to explain, North Carolina Central declined interview requests from USA TODAY Sports with any coach or administrator to discuss Moton’s contract. 

Salary database: See how much men's basketball coaches make

“(Moton) does not want to draw attention to the details of his contract,” spokesman Kyle Serba wrote in an e-mail. 

Those details, however, are both publicly available and relevant in understanding how a small school that competed in Division II until 2007 has rewarded a uniquely successful coach with job security that goes far beyond what his peers have been able to obtain. 

STILL ON THE RISE: Cheating allegations, corruption scandal don't slow coaches' pay

And as NC Central’s program has grown, so has the school’s commitment to keeping Moton. 

After being elevated to head coach in 2009, Moton signed a new eight-year contract on April 1, 2014 following the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance.

USA TODAY Sports' Scott Gleeson breaks down the field heading toward selection Sunday.

USA TODAY

It was extended again in 2017 for a new eight-year term, increasing his guaranteed salary from $250,000 to $288,000. But this time, it included a new clause that Moton would automatically have a year added to the end of the contract (up to three years total) if NC Central won either the MEAC regular season or tournament title.

Finally, NC State sweetened Moton’s deal again last spring after its third straight MEAC tournament title, extending the deal through 2030 with the same potential three-year rollover provision. Because of the Eagles’ regular season title, that means he will begin the 2020-21 season with 11 years remaining on his deal with a total of $3.575 million in salary guaranteed.

That level of commitment is justified, according to former player Kyle Benton, because Moton has proven the ability to sustain that success even though the roster changes significantly nearly every year. 

“The last three years there were times me and former players would look back and say, ‘Hey is this team going to be the same? But when MLK Day comes around, he says that’s when his teams start to click,” Benton said. “What has happened is North Carolina Central has become that target school people are either really scared of or really prepared to play. It’s the other teams' championship game.” 

The success has given Moton the leverage to secure other contractual perks, including a courtesy car and a clause that was added in 2019 to pay for travel accommodations for his wife and children to half the team’s road games and all postseason games. 

Moton can earn a $1,000 bonus for every athlete who graduates within their five-year NCAA eligibility clock, $4,500 if the team reaches a 950 APR or a 3.0 GPA, $4,000 for winning 20 games, $7,500 for a MEAC regular season title and $15,000 for winning the conference tournament.

But Moton’s biggest potential bonus comes in the form of a one-time payment equal to 20% of the net revenue (minus travel expenses) NC Central collects for playing non-conference guarantee games if that total number reaches $250,000. Last year, under slightly different contract terms than he has in his new deal, that payout to Moton totaled $44,244.58.

Though it’s unclear how much more NC Central could do for Moton if a school in a bigger conference came calling — the entire athletics department had total operating expenses of $14.7 million in the most recently reported fiscal year — the long-term commitment they’ve already made could pay off if it keeps him around a few more years.

“He just knows what he’s doing,” Parks said. “He knows who to recruit, who fits into his program. He’s not always looking for the best player, he’s looking for the guy who is going to buy in, and he’ll showcase what it is you do well. I really think he has a few steps ahead of the other programs where he just knows how to get it done and what it takes to win. I truly believe he can do it at any level, not just the MEAC or HBCU level.”

Often, though, it’s a struggle for coaches at HBCUs to get attention from schools in higher-level conferences, largely because the number of guarantee games they have to play just to make their budget distorts their record. This season, for instance, the Eagles started 3-10 playing games against the likes of Georgia, Louisville and Wofford before proving themselves as the top team in the MEAC with a 13-3 league record.

Few know that reality as well as Cy Alexander, who won a combined six MEAC tournament titles at South Carolina State and North Carolina A&T before retiring in 2016. Alexander interviewed for numerous jobs over the years that would have paid him more money and given him a bigger platform but always found himself as the runner-up in those searches. He wonders if the same stigma has been attached to Moton. 

“I don’t think he loses a lot of sleep because he hasn’t gotten that opportunity,” Alexander said.  “At some point maybe you say to yourself, ‘I can keep winning championships and make history here at my alma mater and I’ve taken care of my family real well.’ That’s what happened with me, and at some point you say make the best of where you are. You can become so frustrated that it takes your eye off the prize and the prize is still to try to win championships.

“But he deserves that opportunity. He’s a great tactician and a genuine high-level Division I college basketball coach. He could coach at any level and he’s proven that with the success he’s had.”

Source: Read Full Article