The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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Board of trustees revises coach contracts, adds 3 new degrees

Aidan Cusack
University President Jay Gatrell speaks during Friday afternoon’s board of trustees meeting. The trustees approved revising the head volleyball and football coach’s contracts and three new academic programs.

Eastern’s board of trustees revised two multiyear personnel contracts for the football and volleyball head coaches during its meeting Friday afternoon. 

Both coaches led their teams to record-breaking seasons this past year. Both coaches will receive the standard terms offered to Eastern Illinois University coaches, according to the meetings agenda.

Volleyball coach Sara Thomas’ contract will begin Jan. 28, ending Dec. 31, 2027, with an annual salary of $85,000 per year, and a signing bonus of $7,000 for one year. 

Thomas coached the program to win a conference championship, and the team made its first NCAA appearance since 2001.

Football coach Chris Wilkerson’s contract will extend by 11 months and five days, ending on Dec. 31, 2028. The annual salary of $200,000 will become effective at the beginning of February. 

Wilkerson led the football team from a 2-9 record in 2022 to 8-3 in 2023. 

Athletic director Tom Michael said he wanted to restructure the contracts now to retain coaches. 

At the meeting, the board also approved three new academic programs: a masters in special education and two applied arts and sciences bachelor’s degrees in applied engineering and emergency management. 

These programs will start in the fall, and they are designed to enable students to work in their field while pursuing higher education, interim Provost Ryan Hendrickson said. 

Students will be able to achieve a one-year online masters in teaching for special education. 

Hendrickson predicted the program will have around 15 students, and he said the program allows for a much easier and efficient path for those pursuing special education. 

The 36-credit-hour residency places students in local communities with a curriculum based around classroom management, legal implications in special education and interpersonal communication with families and students. 

Hendrickson said this program is to help combat the constant need for educators all across America but especially in the special education field. 

The emergency management degree will be 45 credit hours and will replace the current bachelors in science in public health, emergency management and disaster preparedness program. 

The need for this degree is in response to the profession’s increasing educational requirements. 

The applied engineering degree will be 34 credit hours and will offer students flexible courses. The program is catered toward those who have prior college or military credit.

Hendrickson said both programs are expected to see around 20 students. 

During Faculty Senate Chairperson Todd Bruns’ report, he said the group will be discussing this semester a potential change in the grade-lettering system.

The proposed change will add pluses and minuses to grades and a pass/fail option. The pass/fail option allows students to take a completion grade instead of a letter grade for certain classes. 

Bruns said he favored the change because the proposal can reward students who work toward higher grades. 

Bruns said he hopes this will be the subject of a forum this semester.

The board filled all its seats during this meeting welcoming two new members: Dr. Bernie Ranchero and alum Timi Ngoboh.

Ranchero graduated from Xavier University School of Medicine in Oranjestad, Aruba, and he has several other graduate degrees from University of Illinois, a master of science in molecular and integrative physiology and a master of business administration with a concentration in public health administration from Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. 

He is an independent healthcare provider with Hospital Sisters Health System Multispecialty Clinic in Mattoon. 

Ngoboh graduated from Eastern in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems and has a doctorate in business administration from the University of Liverpool in England.

The trustees will meet again on April 19 for their last meeting of the semester. 


Rob Le Cates can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].

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Rob Le Cates
Rob Le Cates, Editor-in-Chief
Rob Le Cates is a junior journalism major. He previously served as summer editor-in-chief, photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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