Minnesota House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee Chairman Gene Pelowski called the University of Minnesota's $2.5 million buyout of men's basketball coach Tubby Smith "obscene" in an interview on Tuesday.
"I don't think the university has grasped the public reaction to all of this, that it hurts the university not just as an athletic endeavor, it hurts its reputation period," the Winona Democrat said.
News of Smith's buyout comes as the university is seeking millions of dollars in additional state funding. Pelowski said this latest revelation does not help those efforts. He said his committee will likely discuss the matter, but the Legislature has limited control over the university's spending.
"Can we look into it? We can. We are very limited to what we can do about it. I would hope that the university would take it on its own responsibility to clean its House and refocus those resources into something much more productive," he said.
The DFL-led Legislature is expected to boost funding for higher education this year. The House budget calls for an additional $150 million above forecasted spending and the Senate's plan allocates an extra $250 million. Pelowski wants those dollars to be used to hold tuition flat after years of increases. He is also working on legislation aimed at requiring the state's colleges and universities to provide more detailed reports to lawmakers of how the additional dollars they get are spent and the results of those investments.