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University of Montana Athletic Director Jim O’Day, shown at a community forum in late 2011.

The price tag on the University of Montana’s recent high-profile dismissals has gone up.

While former UM athletic director Jim O’Day’s contract expires on June 30, 2012, the Montana University System has agreed to pay his salary and benefits for the next 14 1/2 months.

That’s an additional year of pay.

O’Day will receive a payout of $31,056, which covers the time remaining on his existing contract, and another year’s salary of $124,225 plus benefits, despite being relieved of his duties on March 29.

That’s because UM President Royce Engstrom didn’t give O’Day prior notice before deciding to terminate his contract.

According to O’Day’s contract, he was entitled to five months’ notice because he’d been at his job for more than three years. O’Day didn’t get that notice.

Therefore, according to Montana Board of Regents policy, he’s entitled to another year of his base annual salary plus benefits, said Kevin McRae, associate commissioner for human resources.

About 1,000 university employees are under similar contracts, McRae said. The university is handling O’Day’s termination the same as it would anyone else. This is not the first time the university has had to pay an employee an additional year’s salary for not providing sufficient notice, he said.

Former UM head football coach Robin Pflugrad was let go at the same time as O’Day. The Montana University System has agreed to pay Pflugrad his salary and benefits through the remainder of his contract, which ends on Dec. 31, 2012, the end of the calendar year.

Had the university system only had to pay the two former athletic employees through the remainder of their contracts, the cost of the dismissals would have been about $147,000.

The total now is $271,225, and that figure could still rise.

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Yet to be determined is whether Pflugrad is entitled to any of the many annual performance incentives outlined in his contract.

As is typical in coaching contracts, Pflugrad has the opportunity to receive annual performance incentives for such things as winning the conference title, a national championship or if his team achieves high academic standards.

Those negotiations have not yet taken place, said Cathy Swift, chief legal counsel for the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.

Unlike O’Day, Pflugrad is not entitled to prior notice of dismissal. If Pflugrad’s contract is not renewed on the date outlined, it simply expires.

UM has remained silent on its reasons for relieving the men of their duties.

In an email sent to the campus community Tuesday, Engstrom announced that within the next two weeks he will appoint an advisory search committee to find a new athletic director by the beginning of the 2012 fall semester.

Jean Gee is serving as the interim athletic director and Mick Delaney is serving as the interim head football coach. Delaney will remain in place through the 2012 football season.

Engstrom said UM will hire a new head football coach by the end of the 2012 football season.

UM will consider internal and external candidates for both the athletic director and head football coach jobs, according to Engstrom’s email.

While Engstrom expressed his support for continuing a tradition of “having one of the most highly respected athletic programs in the country,” he also emphasized a commitment to a program that exudes excellence both on and off the field and “excellence in character in the community.”

The dismissal of O’Day and Pflugrad followed an investigation of nine alleged sexual assaults on or near the UM campus in 2010 and 2011, and additional allegations since that investigation concluded. Some of the incidents allegedly involved members of the football team.

Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at chelsi.moy@missoulian.com.

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