So. Illinois coach Lowery agrees to 7-year deal

Updated: April 1, 2007, 7:54 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Chris Lowery will stay put at alma mater Southern Illinois University, agreeing to a seven-year contract extension that will pay him $750,000 a season to coach the Salukis.

Lowery's deal was first reported by ESPN.com's Andy Katz on Saturday.

The deal announced Sunday triples Lowery's salary this season, when he guided Southern Illinois to a school record 29 wins, and the program's highest ranking, No. 11, in the Associated Press men's basketball poll.

"I am flattered by the university's offer and its desire to keep me as head coach," Lowery said while attending the Final Four in Atlanta. "Southern Illinois is a special place, and our leaders have bold plans for the future. I feel there are no limits to what our men's basketball program can accomplish."

Southern Illinois was a fourth seed in the West Regional -- its highest seed in the tournament -- after winning its fifth Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title in the past six seasons. The Salukis pushed top-seeded Kansas to the brink before falling in the regional semifinal.

Southern Illinois' run through its league and to the school's third appearance in the NCAA Tournament's round of 16 triggered widespread interest in the 34-year-old Lowery, the youngest coach in the tourney.

Southern Illinois athletics director Mario Moccia said the contract underscores the Salukis' commitment to keeping Lowery, the reigning Missouri Valley coach of the year. He has won the award twice in his three seasons guiding Southern Illinois, where he has gone 78-26.

"Given Coach Lowery's track record as a head coach, we felt it was essential to retain him," Moccia said in a statement.

Moccia, who during the Missouri Valley tournament last month made clear his major goals included keeping Lowery "for a long time," said Lowery's success in the NCAA Tournament commanded attention from possible suitors.

Moccia said he hoped a competitive financial package and Lowery's ties to the school -- he played point guard for three Salukis teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament in the mid-1990s -- would persuade him to stick around.

In the school's statement Sunday, Lowery said the program had not yet peaked and credited Moccia for his leadership and vision, adding that both men share a belief the program can continue to grow.

"Chris and I have forged a special relationship," Moccia added. "We share a competitive desire to achieve success. And we feel the potential of Southern Illinois University is unlimited."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.