VALPARAISO | Questions as to whether Bryce Drew will ever leave Valparaiso for a bigger job will continue to follow the third-year coach as long as the Crusaders keep winning Horizon League championships.
Both Drew and Valparaiso director of athletics Mark LaBarbera hoped to put an end to those questions after it was announced Wednesday that Drew had agreed to a long-term contract extension.
The length is for an unprecedented 10 years and would keep Drew with the Crusaders until the 25-year anniversary of the Sweet Sixteen run that put Valparaiso on the map in 1998.
“We wanted people to understand our commitment to Bryce and our commitment to the basketball program,” LaBarbera said. “We really believe that Bryce is one of the top young coaches and we’re committed to him and committed to his efforts. We’re committed to getting back to the NCAA tournament and the Sweet Sixteen and even beyond.”
Neither Drew nor LaBarbera would comment on the specifics of the deal, which is thought to be the longest contract ever offered to a Valparaiso coach in any sport. LaBarbera wouldn’t confirm if there was a buyout in the deal should Drew be lured away.
As for Drew, the contract represents deeper roots to Northwest Indiana and will allow Drew and his wife Tara to begin raising their family in Valparaiso. Tara is due with their firstborn child in May.
“My wife and I are very comfortable living in Valparaiso,” Drew said. “We love it here, we have family here and we’re an hour away from Chicago. This is a great place for a family.”
Discussions surrounding the contract began in late spring following the completion of the NCAA tournament. Drew and LaBarbera came to a handshake agreement on several elements of the extension, but neither was worried about hurrying to complete the deal.
“I feel that with President (Mark) Heckler and Mark LaBarbera, we have great leadership at Valparaiso University,” Drew said. “We had excellent talks on the current status of the basketball program and I have complete trust in their leadership.”
When asked about what impact the deal represents, Drew mentioned recruiting and being able to tell prospective athletes that the coaching staff will be in place for the duration of their four years on campus.
“The commitment the school is making sends a message to recruits,” Drew said. “I’m a kid who grew up here; I watched my Dad and my brother coach here. I’ve seen the progression of the community and the campus. We’re in a top-12 league in the country right now. I’m really excited about the opportunity to keep improving our program.”