Fresno State pays settlement to its former basketball coach. The amount may surprise you

Former Fresno State basketball coach Justin Hutson will be richly rewarded after his contract expired in April as part of a settlement agreement with the university.

Hutson, will serve as a special assistant to the athletics department through the end of September, and will be paid a total $241,000 for five months, or $48,200 per month with $22,200 paid by the university and $26,000 from its Athletic Corporation, plus benefits.

Fresno State and Hutson reached a settlement after he filed claims of racial discrimination. An independent investigation found those claims to be without merit.

Hutson will be paid nearly as much as women’s basketball coach Jaime White’s annual base salary in 2024-25 ($290,000) and more than baseball coach Ryan Overland ($160,000), softball coach Stacy May-Johnson ($130,000) or any of the other coaches of the university’s Olympic, non-revenue sports.

The monthly pay rate is actually higher than Hutson received in his original five-year contract, signed in 2018. In the first year of that deal,a five-year contract, he received $41,667 per month in base salary, $43,750 monthly in the second year $45,833 per month in the final three years.

In the settlement, both parties agreed to not to pursue legal action, releasing and discharging each other against all liabilities, claims, causes of action, charges, complaints or grievances, according to the agreement.

The Bee obtained the settlement agreement through a public records request. Hutson, who went 92-94 in six seasons including 12-21 and 11-20 in his final two seasons, signed it on April 4.

Vance Walberg, who was hired to replace Hutson, will be paid $49,548 per month or $595,000 in his first season, then $50,658 per month or $608,000 in his next two seasons and has an option for two more years at the sole discretion of the campus president at $51,824 per month or $622,000 per season.

It’s unclear what exact duties Hutson will be required to perform as special assistant to the athletics department. According to the settlement agreement, the role is defined broadly. Huston is to provide assistance and advice to the basketball program related to recruiting and the retention of student-athletes, training and compliance and participate in promotional activities on behalf of the athletics department.

He is eligible to work remotely, and reports to interim athletics director Rob Acunto.

The settlement agreement does include an offset provision, which would relieve the university and Athletic Corporation of having to to provide compensation or health and fringe benefits if Hutson were to accept employment elsewhere prior to the end of the agreement.

Fresno State declined to comment on the settlement beyond a statement released in March when they parted ways. “On behalf of Fresno State, I want to thank coach Hutson for his dedication and commitment serving as our head basketball coach over the past six seasons,” university president Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said, at that time.

“During his tenure, coach Hutson led the program with integrity and care for his student-athletes. As he transitions from his coaching duties, we thank him for his support of our Bulldog community and appreciate his willingness to continue in a temporary advisory role during the transition.”

Fresno State was preparing to fire Hutson at the end of the 2023 basketball season, more than one year ago, but the day before the Mountain West Conference Tournament attorneys representing the Bulldogs’ coach sent a letter to Jiménez-Sandoval alleging that Hutson, who is Black, had been discriminated against due to his race. Hutson’s immediate supervisor, now-former athletics director Terry Tumey, is also Black.

The allegations by Hutson were tied to the lack of financial resources for the basketball program, which ranks at the bottom of its conference in operating revenue and near the bottom in operating expenses. Hutson alleged that the low level of support was because of his race, as the only Black head coach in the athletics department and working with a staff and team that were predominantly Black.

Rather than fire Hutson, the university initiated an investigation into his claims, hiring the Oakland-based law firm Oppenheimer Investigations Group. Hutson was allowed to coach the final year of his contract.

His final salary is not available, but he was paid $813,259 including salary, benefits and bonuses in 2022-23, according to the financial document that the athletics department submits annually to the NCAA.

Had Fresno State fired Hutson following the 2023 season, it would have owed the basketball coach 80% of his base salary or around $440,000, under terms of the contract.

The Oppenheimer Group found a preponderance of evidence did not support a finding that race was a factor in the level of support the basketball program received. A summary report on the investigation confirmed that Jiménez-Sandoval and Tumey were planning to replace Hutson at the end of the 2023 season, following the conference tournament.

The university has yet to release a full report from Oppenheimer, or the letter from the attorneys representing Hutson that alleged the discrimination.