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Published: Wednesday, 9/22/2010

Toledo extends Cullop's contract

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Mike O'Brien first broached the subject of a contract extension with successful University of Toledo women's basketball coach Tricia Cullop last spring during her annual review, and Wednesday the Rockets' athletic director announced Cullop will be sticking around for eight more years.

Cullop, O'Brien, and UT president Lloyd Jacobs all signed an amendment Monday that extended Cullop's contract through June 30, 2018, according to a copy of the document released to The Blade Wednesday following an open records request.

“I'm very appreciative,” said Cullop, who begins her third season with the Rockets Nov. 12 against St. Francis (Pa.) at Savage Arena. “The people I work with daily here at the University of Toledo have made feel welcome and have been extremely helpful. For me, the last two years have just been a joy.”

According to the amendment, all other provisions of Cullop's original contract “will remain in full force and effect,” meaning she will not receive a pay raise. Cullop will continue to receive an annual base salary of $180,000, plus an additional $20,000 annually for marketing compensation for making speeches and other public appearances on behalf of the university.

Cullop has led the Rockets to a 43-22 overall record and a 23-9 mark in the Mid-American Conference since she was hired in April, 2008.

Last season UT claimed an outright MAC West Division title for the first time since 2001. They Rockets also advanced to the MAC tournament final and the second round of the WNIT.

In the classroom, the Rockets have produced team GPAs above 3.0 in each of the last four semesters, with a total of eight players making the dean's list.

Spearheading the academic surge have been junior point guard Naama Shafir and recent graduate Lisa Johnson, who both earned Academic All-MAC honors.

The Rockets also have been very active in the community under Cullop, helping with projects such as Habitat for Humanity, Ovarian Cancer Walk, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and sponsoring a family for Christmas.

“Tricia has rebuilt a national-caliber program while being the head coach at the University of Toledo,” O'Brien said in a statement. “Obviously winning the West Division title and returning to the postseason a season ago are a big part of that, but also her student-athletes have produced in the classroom and been very active in the community. We're pleased about this commitment to Tricia and look forward to her being with us for many years to come.”

Before Cullop's rookie season, the Rockets were predicted to finish last in their division. Instead, they went 11-5 — the third-best record in the MAC that season — and Cullop was named co-coach of the year with Bowling Green's Curt Miller.

“It's been kind a whirlwind,” Cullop said. “That was very motivating when we were picked last before my first season. And to know after two years we could finish first in our division was fun and exciting, but we still feel like we've got a lot to prove.”

The Rockets ranked among the top 50 NCAA Division I schools in attendance in 2009-10, averaging 2,720 fans per contest — its highest total since the 2001-02 campaign (2,846). They also were first among MAC schools in attendance for the 20th straight season.

UT ended last season on a 13-game win streak in Savage Arena, the longest since the 1998-99 campaign, and are 24-3 (.889) at home under Cullop.

“We want more than anything to someday play in the NCAA tournament and to win a MAC tournament championship,” Cullop said of the new goals on her checklist. “We're going to work tirelessly until that happens.”

Contact Zach Silka at: zsilka@theblade.com or 419-724-6084.



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