Memorandums of understanding for assistant coaches
Tennessee’s assistant football coaches are scheduled to earn more than their SEC peers in 2009. That will likely be the case for the near future, too.
Multi-year contracts for UT’s assistant coaches include built-in raises for next season, according to copies of the agreements obtained by the News Sentinel through a state open records request.
UT’s new staff of nine assistants, which will earn $3.325 million in salary this year, is scheduled to earn $3.52 million in 2010. The combined salary for UT’s assistant coaches in 2009 is thought to be the highest in the nation. Meanwhile, first-year head coach Lane Kiffin will earn $2 million.
“We got in this mode where everybody was trying to speculate on were we going to increase, how much were we going to increase (salaries),” UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said. “This way we put in just what we believe to be reasonable increases, and it’s already spelled out. There’s not that speculation, particularly as we get out of the gate with a new staff.
“Hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity to give them other increases down the road, due to obviously winning some championships and winning at a high level.”
Five of UT’s coaches will receive $10,000 raises for the 2010 season. Wide receivers coach Frank Wilson is scheduled to receive a $20,000 raise for 2010, and linebackers coach Lance Thompson, the only position coach with a three-year contract, is due a $25,000 raise each of the next two seasons.
Ed Orgeron, who serves as assistant head coach, defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, is the only coach without a built-in raise. Orgeron is scheduled to earn $650,000 each year of his three-year deal.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will receive a $100,000 raise to $1.3 million in 2010, however Kiffin’s total compensation will remain at $1.5 million over the length of his three-year contact, factoring in retention bonuses due each December.
Kiffin will make $1.2 million this season, with the potential to collect a $300,000 retention bonus if he remains on staff through Dec. 31. His salary increases each year by $100,000, but his retention bonuses decrease by $100,000, leaving his total compensation at $1.5 million per year if he collects a retention bonus each year.
Orgeron and Kiffin also can earn more if they meet certain performance bonuses.
According to his memorandum of understanding, Kiffin could earn up to $100,000 in bonuses each season if the Vols finish in the top three in SEC or top 10 nationally in any one of five statistical categories.
Kiffin would receive $50,000 each if the Vols reach those benchmarks in scoring defense or total defense. He could earn $20,000 each if UT meets the criteria in pass efficiency defense, rushing defense or passing defense.
For Kiffin, who earned $2.2 million last season as defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, those bonuses are cumulative, although he cannot earn more than $100,000 in bonuses in a given season.
“It’s a way to help him with his compensation decrease he took from the Bucs, but at the same time putting some standards out there to achieve in order to get to that,” Hamilton said of Kiffin’s bonus structure.
Orgeron, meanwhile, has the potential to earn $50,000 in bonuses — $25,000 if the Vols finish with a consensus top five recruiting class and another $25,000 if UT’s defensive line leads the SEC in sacks.
No other coaches have bonuses in their deals beyond those for reaching postseason play or winning a championship, as was previously the case.
To protect UT’s investment in its assistant coaches, eight assistants have liquidated damages clauses that would require them to repay a portion of their salary should they leave for a similar position.
Coordinators who become a head coach in Division I or position coaches who leave for a coordinator job that includes play-calling duties would not be subject to the clause.
Kiffin’s contract is the only one that does not include a penalty should he leave Tennessee.
“We expect and hope that Monte will finish his career here, however long that is,” Hamilton said. “I think he wants to coach for quite some time. I think it’s more respect for what he’s accomplished in his career, and we’re proud that he decided to come here and serve as our defensive coordinator. Through discussions we decided that he would not have any liquidated damages.”
The penalty for most coaches is 50 percent of their 2009 salary, while quarterbacks coach David Reaves and tackles and tight ends coach James Cregg would each owe 33 percent of their 2009 salary if they leave for a similar position elsewhere.
“Those are younger guys who are just getting started in their career,” Hamilton said. “You’ve got to try to have balance in all this. You want to have a penalty for them leaving for a lateral job, but it was certainly something that needed to be thought about before they made a decision of that nature and also something that needed to be substantial enough that it would discourage that thought.”
Each of UT’s nine assistant coaches has a memorandum of understanding, which contains major items that will be included in their final contracts.
A memorandum of understanding is still a legally binding agreement, however final contracts are still in the process of being finalized.
Among items to be included in final employment agreements is a clause that requires coaches to notify Hamilton if they are contacted, either formally or informally, about joining the staff at another school or NFL team.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.