Cheryl Burnett retired yesterday morning during an evaluation meeting with Athletic Director Bill Martin after a five-year run as Michigan women’s basketball coach, according to an athletic department press release.
When Burnett was hired in 2003, she had a simple plan.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself,” said Burnett at her inaugural press conference. “But let’s do this, and let’s do this quick.”
Four seasons later, Burnett leaves Michigan having failed at her mission.
Michigan was just 35-83 (.297) under Burnett and 10-54 (.156) in Big Ten play.
“Michigan is a very special place of which I’ve been privileged to be a part,” said Burnett in an athletic department statement. “Our staff has worked extremely hard to build a foundation that will bring tremendous success in the future for Michigan women’s basketball. I wish the players, administration and fans great success in the years to come.”
After a press conference following the Wolverines’ first round loss to Wisconsin last Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament, reporters asked Burnett whether she was concerned about her job.
“That’s not a decision that I make,” Burnett said. “You’ll have to ask my administrators what their position is. I’ve always felt a great amount of support at Michigan.”
According to the release, Burnett was the one who ultimately made the decision to leave.
Still, Burnett was under fire as the season ended. Both the Detroit Free Press and the Ann Arbor News – two papers that don’t usually cover Michigan women’s basketball – ran stories critical of her in the last two weeks.
According to the athletic department, she met with players following the meeting with Martin, but the team hasn’t yet been made available for comment.
Burnett will not do any direct interviews with the media, but may make another statement through the athletic department, athletic department spokesman Marc Ressler said.
Burnett had one year remaining on her five-year contract with Michigan, according to a copy of the document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. She was paid $154,000 in base salary for her first season. Her base salary is adjusted each year in accordance with the University’s Salary Program. Her base salary was $168,279.96 this past season.
Burnett was also paid an additional $124,000 each year for her “television, radio, Internet, shoe and/or apparel sponsorships, consulting, development or promotion and other services” and receives the use of a car with paid insurance and maintenance. According to the contract, Burnett can resign for any reason before the basketball season begins without penalty.
If Burnett had been fired without cause before the end of March, she would have been owed her entire salary for the year.
If Burnett was still employed by Michigan on April 1, the University would have been forced to pay her entire 2007-2008 salary.
The Centralia, Mo. native came to Michigan after a year off following an immensely successful 15-year run at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State). She led the Lady Bears to a 319-136 record (.701), 10 NCAA Tournaments bids, nine regular-season conference championships and six conference tournament titles.
She took Missouri State to two Final Fours in nine years. Burnett’s run to the Final Four in 2001 is often credited to her shooting guard, Jackie Stiles, who was the NCAA’s career scoring leader when she graduated.
But she suddenly resigned as head coach at Southwest Missouri State in 2002, citing “philosophical differences” with the administration. At the time, Burnett said she was dissatisfied with the Southwest Missouri State’s dedication to building a top-25 program.
Minnesota offered her its head coaching job, but she turned it down. Although Burnett cited possible NCAA sanctions for the Gophers among her reasons for not taking the job, some Minnesota players e-mailed their athletic director with concerns about hiring Burnett, according to The Associated Press.
As Burnett sat out for a year, rumors swirled that someone – possibly Missouri State Athletic Director Bill Rowe – was badmouthing her and hurting her effort to get a job.
This time, though, the parting seems more amiable.
“We wish Cheryl and her staff all the best in their future endeavors,” Martin said. “Our search for a new women’s basketball coach will begin immediately.”