David Blackburn sat in his office Wednesday and laughed when recalling how Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith convinced the then newly-hired University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic director that Jim Foster — who had just been fired from Ohio State — was the next best fit as UTC women's basketball coach.
"He told me that if I didn't hire Jim, I would be the worst AD in America," Blackburn said.
Wednesday, Blackburn rewarded Foster for one of the best seasons in Moc history by giving the Hall of Fame head coach a one-year extension, which will run through April 30, 2019.
"It's a byproduct of the kind of year we had," Foster said. "We had a good year, and I've said all along I love David's energy. It's good because he gets it, and it's nice to work with people who get it because some don't."
Foster's first UTC team finished with 2013-14 season with a 29-4 record, which included 25 consecutive wins; the Southern Conference regular-season and conference titles; and a spot in the NCAA Tournament, where they fell 59-53 to Syracuse in the first round. The 29 wins tied a school record -- most previously attained during the season prior, when Wes Moore, now at N.C. State, was head coach -- and Foster was named the Tennessee Sportswriters' Coach of the Year for women's basketball.
Foster, who has 812 career wins from stops at St. Joseph's, Vanderbilt and Ohio State, also received a $20,000 raise, which raises his base pay to $161,690. No incentives were added to Foster's contract beyond those in his original agreement with UTC, and none of the buyouts changed. He receives a bonus equivalent to 12 percent of his base pay should the Mocs make the NCAA tournament, a number which falls to 10 percent should UTC go to the Women's National Invitational Tournament. He also receives a bonus equivalent to two weeks of base pay should the team meet the Academic Progress Rate benchmark of 930.
"Being a Hall of Fame coach, winning the league and continuing the success that Wes had means a lot," Blackburn said. "We're thankful he's here -- he's elite and clearly one of the five biggest names in women's college basketball. He's unbelievable, and we're lucky to have him. We think he'll be here a few more years."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.