NU president extends UNL athletic director contract, doubles salary

The salary of University of Nebraska-Lincoln Athletic Director Trev Alberts would increase again in 2026, boosting Alberts’ pay by just under 150% from the initial rate

By: - November 14, 2023 5:10 pm

Huskers Athletic Director Trev Alberts on Oct. 5, 2023. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska is immediately doubling the salary of the athletic director of its flagship university and extending his employment contract by five years.

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

NU President Ted Carter, who is leaving the system at year’s end, announced he is extending the employment contract of Athletic Director Trev Alberts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln through at least 2031.

NU leadership approved Alberts’ first contract July 14, 2021, and his most recent contract was set to expire July 18, 2026.

The restructure, effective Tuesday, boosts Alberts’ current salary from $853,882 to $1.7 million. In 2026, Alberts’ pay will increase again to $2.1 million through 2026, a nearly 150% increase from the starting pay.

From salary alone, that equates to $16 million from 2024 to 2031, excluding these bonuses:

  • If Alberts stays after July 18, 2026: $500,000 retention bonus (from the original contract).
  • Every successive year after July 18: $300,000 retention bonus.
  • If Alberts completes the eight-year agreement: $3 million completion bonus.

Alberts is also eligible for performance bonuses based on academics and athletics, with additional bonuses based on the success of Husker football. 

Carter said the change comes after reviewing compensation packages for other Big Ten athletic directors. The goal is to retain Alberts and keep Nebraska “highly competitive in the market.”

Contract buyout rates

Should Athletic Director Trev Alberts resign his position before 2029, he will have to pay liquidated damages at the following rates:

  • Between now and Dec. 31, 2024: $4.12 million
  • During 2025: $2.835 million
  • During 2026: $1.72 million
  • During 2027: $750,000
  • During 2028: $315,000
  • On or after Jan. 1, 2029: $0

Alberts, in a statement, said he and his family are humbled by the confidence the regents and Carter have placed in him for a role he does not take for granted.

“Our student-athletes, coaches and staff have accomplished so much in the past two years,” Alberts said. “We have great momentum in Husker Athletics and we are excited for what is ahead. Go Big Red!”

Investigation into fiscal discipline

Carter’s announcement follows a Flatwater Free Press investigation two weeks ago into an internal University of Nebraska at Omaha memo regarding the financial state of its athletics department between July 2016 and June 2022. Chancellor Joanne Li requested the memo. 

UNO Chancellor Joanne Li (Courtesy of University of Nebraska Foundation)

Alberts led the UNO department before accepting the UNL position in July 2021.

In part, the memo, written by UNO athletics leaders and the campus financial strategy officer, found a “historical lack of fiscal discipline” and a “lack of monitoring” of projected budgets.

Carter and Regents Tim Clare of Lincoln and Rob Schafer of Beatrice, respective chair and vice chair of the NU Board of Regents, told Flatwater they had faith in Alberts.

On Tuesday, Clare and Schafer also endorsed the contract extension.

“Leadership matters, plain and simple,” Clare said in a statement. “Trev is competitive, he wants to win and he bleeds Husker Red. We appreciate his loyalty to Nebraska and we want him to be a Husker for life.”

Alberts is now leading a $450 million renovation of Memorial Stadium in its 100th year.

NU has a $58 million shortfall

Alberts will not be paid through tuition or state dollars as Husker Athletics is separate from the university. However, the department often supports scholarships and has provided financial support to UNL in the past. 

Regent Tim Clare, chair of the NU Board of Regents. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

NU currently has a projected $58 million shortfall over the next two years. UNL Chancellor Rodney Bennett announced plans last week to address $12 million at his campus. Faculty and students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney have protested proposed cuts, which include academics.

Clare, in a call with the Nebraska Examiner, emphasized the physical and financial separation of Husker Athletics and UNL. He said he does not see the revised contract impacting the department’s ability to continue to provide scholarships or financial support as Alberts is at the center of those negotiations.

Athletics departments nationwide have millions in debt — multiple schools in the Big Ten had over $200 million in debt according to a survey earlier this year — yet UNL has long had none, which Clare said speaks to Alberts’ fiscal discipline and leadership.

Clare said that as far as general budget cuts go, NU is trying to build programs to be the best they can while being fiscally responsible.

“We want to create an outstanding university,” Clare said. “We have a great university, and we want to continue to thrive to make it better.”

Chris Kabourek, senior vice president and chief financial officer for the University of Nebraska. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

NU’s chief financial officer, Chris Kabourek, is slated to fill an interim president role after Carter leaves for The Ohio State University. The two have worked closely on addressing the budget, with Carter stating cuts are necessary for the “survival of the overall institution.”

Next steps in reductions are due Dec. 1, the same day of the next scheduled regents meeting.

Regents approval not required

Carter noted the past two years under Alberts have included the completion of a new football facility, the ushering in of a new multimedia deal with PlayFly Sports and the success of Husker teams and student-athletes, notably Husker volleyball, which is ranked first in the nation and broke the world record for attendance at a women’s sporting event in August.

The collegiate athletics landscape is “complex and ever-changing,” Carter noted, and NU needs “exactly the right person leading Husker Athletics forward.”

Alberts, a lifelong Husker and a Nebraskan “in every sense,” is that leader, Carter said.

“There is no one I would trust more to lead athletics at the University of Nebraska than Trev Alberts,” Carter said in a statement. “I have no doubt that someone of Trev’s caliber and character would be an attractive candidate anywhere, but I am thrilled to tell Husker Nation that Trev is here to stay.”

The regents unanimously approved shifting oversight of Husker Athletics from the UNL chancellor to the NU president. This means Alberts’ contract does not require regents’ approval.


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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling recently graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a double major in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C. He reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan before joining the Nebraska Examiner staff as an intern.