After leading his team to one of the best comeback stories of the year, the University of Virginia offered men's basketball head coach Tony Bennett a "substantial raise."
Bennett, who led the team to its first national title in program history, had something different in mind.
Instead of accepting the raise, the University announced that Bennett asked for the money to be given to better wages for his staff, along with program improvements.
"This just doesn't happen in our industry," athletic director Carla Williams said.
Bennett is entering his 11th season with the program and opted for a one-year extension. His new contract runs through the 2025-26 season.
Along with declining the raise, Bennett and his wife, Laurel, pledged $500,000 toward a career-development program that was created for current and former UVA men's basketball players.
"I have more than I need," Bennett said. "I'm blessed beyond what I deserve."
"Tony's decision – to turn down a well-deserved raise and instead invest in his players and UVA athletics more broadly – tells you everything you need to know about him as a leader and as a human being," UVA President Jim Ryan said. "Tony is one of the most selfless people I've ever met, and this is just the latest example. He and Laurel show us what it means to be great and good, and I hope they will continue to be a part of the UVA family for many years to come."
According to Bennett, the decision to donate money to career development was his wife's idea.
"She's always said, 'Is there something we can do that can make a difference?' That's been on her heart and mind, and we've talked about it a lot," he said.
"We try to train our guys to be the best basketball players they can be, the school educates them, we try to teach them what it means to be a leader, and we try to pour the pillars into them. But what else can we do? There's an incredible advantage in being a student-athlete here, but there are some disadvantages. You're so consumed with your studies and then your workouts and your playing that you don't always have the time to really pursue as many internships and career opportunities [as other students]."
Virginia historically stunned the college basketball world in 2018 when it became the first No. 1 seed to be upset by a No. 16 seed. The team returned to the tournament as a No. 1 seed again in 2019; only this time took home its first national title.