Coach firings add up for University of Tennessee

Nearly $10 million in buyouts in 6 years

Todd Raleigh

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Todd Raleigh

The University of Tennessee athletic department often prides itself on its business model. It's one of a few in the country that is not only self-sufficient, but can afford to give back to the institution.

Since 2005, and after a flurry of prominent dismissals that started with baseball coach Rod Delmonico's in June 2007 and reached its fourth casualty Monday with the firing of Delmonico's successor, Todd Raleigh, that model has required a fund reserved to make the department's hiring mistakes go away with money.

By December 2012, when former football coach Phillip Fulmer receives his final paycheck from a $6 million buyout, UT will have paid $9,100,385.53 in buyout money to the five high-profile coaches UT athletic director Mike Hamilton has fired. Tack on the $873,014 UT paid to the coaches' respective staffs, and the figure is close to $10 million.

Phillip Fulmer in a photo taken Jan. 6, 2010.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Phillip Fulmer in a photo taken Jan. 6, 2010.

Large buyouts for high-profile coaches, of course, aren't unique to just UT. University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino recently signed a contract that included a buyout of $18 million. According to the Chicago Tribune, Notre Dame paid former coach Charlie Weis $6,638,403 after his 2009 firing. Even SEC baseball coaches such as Louisiana State's Paul Mainieri have buyout clauses that could potentially reach into the millions.

What makes the Vols a notable case is how their buyouts have piled up and overlapped during the past six years.

Fulmer's buyout, the product of a contract extension he received one year before his dismissal, makes up for the lion's share of the total, but it hasn't burdened the department as much as the one UT owed former basketball coach Buzz Peterson in 2005.

UT was forced to take out a loan to pay Peterson the $1.39 million he was owed within 30 days of his firing. Because it was so late in the fiscal year and Peterson's predecessor, Jerry Green, was still owed $200,000, UT had no other choice, Hamilton said at the time. Subsequently, UT paid nearly $80,000 in interest on the short-notice loan.

Future Hamilton-drafted contracts have allowed UT to string out buyout payments, but that hasn't stopped the tabs from piling up.

Tennessee baseball coach Rod Delmonico gives instruction during the first practice of 2006 for UT's baseball team. Delmonico was fired following the 2007 season, finishing with 699 wins and three college world series appearances in 18 seasons.

Photo by News Sentinel

Tennessee baseball coach Rod Delmonico gives instruction during the first practice of 2006 for UT's baseball team. Delmonico was fired following the 2007 season, finishing with 699 wins and three college world series appearances in 18 seasons.

Delmonico, who logged 18 years with the Vols, and Raleigh, who failed to make the postseason in his four years at UT, received similar buyouts that will combine for $763,657.53 by the time Raleigh's contract expires June 30, 2012. Both coaches received their final year of base salary plus whatever they were owed in broadcast and shoe/apparel payments over a 13-month period.

University of Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton has fired five high-profile coaches since 2005. Here’s how much he paid them off, and how long it took to do so.

* BUZZ PETERSON, men’s basketball

Fired: March 2005; Owed: $1.39 million; Time allotted: 30 days

* ROD DELMONICO, baseball

Fired: June 2007; Owed: $430,000; Time allotted: One year

* PHILLIP FULMER, football

Fired: November 2008; Owed: $6 million; Time allotted: Four years

* BRUCE PEARL, men’s basketball

Fired: March 2011; Owed: $948,728; Time allotted: 15 months

* TODD RALEIGH, baseball

Fired: Monday; Owed: $331,657.53l; Time allotted: 13 months

Source: University of Tennessee

Bruce Pearl

Photo by Staff photo

Bruce Pearl

There was nothing in writing when UT opted to fire men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl, whose contract was torn up after his involvement with numerous NCAA violations came to light. Ultimately, UT and Pearl negotiated a settlement that will amount to $948,728 over a 15-month period.

Until June 30, Pearl will receive the same paychecks he received throughout his final season with the Vols, stemming from an annual salary of $1.45 million, which is 25 percent less than his original salary of $1.9 million because of self-imposed sanctions. Starting in July and ending June 30, 2012, Pearl will receive monthly payments of $50,000 and will also have his health insurance covered.

UT hasn't just been paying buyouts to the coaches it's fired. When it hired football coach Derek Dooley last year, it covered the $500,000 Dooley owed to his former employer, Louisiana Tech. It did the same with new men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, who owed Missouri State $200,000.

Buzz Peterson

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Buzz Peterson

Some money, though, has been recouped, as former football coach Lane Kiffin's abrupt departure to Southern Cal netted UT $800,000. Former Kiffin assistant Frank Wilson, who left for a job at Louisiana State before Kiffin's departure, owed UT $75,000 to escape from his contract.

Both Dooley's and Martin's contracts include hefty buyouts if UT opts to part ways before the end of their respective deals, but the department also has protected itself more than it did with Kiffin.

Dooley would be owed $5 million if UT fired him before Feb. 15, 2013, $4 million into 2014 and 2015 and $2.5 million after Feb. 15, 2015. If Dooley resigned before Feb. 15, 2012, he would owe UT $4 million; $3 million if he resigned the following year and $1 million after February 2014.

If Martin is fired without cause, he will receive 60 percent ($780,000) of his base salary for however many years remain on the contract. If Martin left for another job during the first three years of his contract, he would owe UT two times his base salary ($2.6 million). If he leaves during the fourth year and beyond, he would owe $1.3 million.

If Martin is fired with cause, UT does not owe him anything.

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble.

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Comments » 42

rustyvango#1397221 writes:

how about this,,fire mike hamilton.is this what they call a"good buisness model?"to hire and fire at will BUT at huge expense?can ut afford any more mistakes from mr hamilton?

Couchdummy writes:

Very well researched and well written report. The KNS has hired a really excellent journalist & reporter in Mr. Gribble. He and Mike Strange are both very professional and thorough in their reporting.

TNVol71 writes:

Hopefully the NCAA won't impose a fine for some of the NCAA violations. That would be another setback. Still that is an incredible amount of money we have spent on something that is just a game. Too bad that money couldn't have gone to teacher salaries and facilities.

rick4tn writes:

Yes Hammy, your mismanagement has cost UT dearly already. Let's see what the cost is when the NCAA "hammers" UT next month. I'm surprised Hammy hasn't caused the Intramural sports program to be investigated.

stumpyb writes:

Now what happens if Pat is fired or leaves???

VOLliven2it writes:

It all simply points to one thing UT NEEDS A NEW AD! All that extra money brought in had to be or else we couldn't pay the coaches he has canned. So I guess we just go on expecting more of the same thing because of his humanitarian efforts(commendable)and with the hope he will bring in enough future donor money to pay for other debacles. I just don't know!

FearlessFreep writes:

I've got to think Hamilton is essentially operating in a no-tolerance threshold, with one more mistake being his downfall.

Like I've said previously, Hamilton is a CFO-type, but not an AD/CEO. As such his mistakes in personnel and contract judgement have cost the department millions. Kind of negates the 'goodwill' from raising money and building 'things.'

collegegrad writes:

Well, if the fired coaches can not get jobs at other schools,then their careers are over. However, Then, they can get a job as a grill cook at McDonald's or other fast food restaurant, dishwasher, busser, or grill cook, for shoney's or other dine-in restaurant, door greeter, stock person, or sales clerk for Wal-Mart, bagger, stock person, or grocery clerk for Ingle's, assembly line associate for a factory, stock person for a warehouse, custodial engineer (janitor) for a local school, hospital, or business, luggage expeditor (bellhop) for Holiday Inn, sanitation specialist (garbage man) for the landfill/dump, used car salesman, gas station attendant, or ditch digger (utility worker) for the city/county. They'll have plenty of new career options ahead of them.

CFVolunteer writes:

As long as Hamilton shakes the right hands, pats the right backs and kisses the right butts, his job is safe.

shipperman#280095 writes:

First of all, you are paying Fulmer's buyout everytime you buy a gallon of Pilot gas. Haslem essentially fired Fulmer and agreed to pay his buyout. This article is rather misleading. The University is NOT paying most of these buyouts

AHoffman writes:

in response to shipperman#280095:

First of all, you are paying Fulmer's buyout everytime you buy a gallon of Pilot gas. Haslem essentially fired Fulmer and agreed to pay his buyout. This article is rather misleading. The University is NOT paying most of these buyouts

Do you have any proof to support your claim that Mr. Haslem is covering Fulmer's buyout?

brauhuff#295403 (Inactive) writes:

Stupid is as Stupid does

VOLS_SEC_RULES writes:

Fire Hamilton.

hallsguy writes:

How 'bout this for a business plan. Fire Mike Hamilton. I guarantee you AD's don't get buyout and if so, this would certainly fall within a "for cause" area.
Hammy needs to go after the NCAA hearings.Do not let him hire a baseball coach in the interim.Surely there is someone on staff who can run practices this summer and recruit.
For all the touted fund raising ability,Hammy doesn't have any.He has Big Jim.Not many people say no to a Big Jim phone call.

arkyvol writes:

ahh, the price of incompetence.

VolzsFan writes:

Ahhhh, soooooo. No one on here is paying anything. All coaches at every school on this level have buyouts. Tenn does not exist on an island. They have to offer comparable contracts or no one would come. Now, buyouts are generally paid by the money guys. It has no bearing on ticket prices. Therefore, why does the common fan whine when it has no affect on them? Just class envy. Pearl deserved much more. Fulmer also. Every big time coach in those two sports at schools like UT have similar buyouts. Why does some think Tenn should be different?

Phil was given his buyout, which is the same as most in the SEC, by Haslem because he knew that he would agree to get rid of him whenever possible to save his Coach's records even though they where from a joke era. What Phil did for UT he should get $1 mill per year for life. Pearl a little less based on length of tenure. Gribble makes about $40k per year so he has to whine. Stop hating non-player.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Let's say MH takes a walk. The next big question is this.......is there a lot of confidence U T will hire the right replacement?
If they don't hit a home run with the right hire to replace him, who knows what will happen to the athletic program?

We all can agree dramatic change has to occur one way or another.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to TNVol71:

Hopefully the NCAA won't impose a fine for some of the NCAA violations. That would be another setback. Still that is an incredible amount of money we have spent on something that is just a game. Too bad that money couldn't have gone to teacher salaries and facilities.

The money that was spent was generated by these coaches and the athletic department. As the story clearly states it is a self funding organization that does indeed make significant contributions to the academic side of the University yearly. I believe the last one was for $10 M. So in all honesty, without the UTAD UTK would actually have less money than it does today.

CrankE writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And they sure ain't workin'!

martinvol34 writes:

in response to FearlessFreep:

I've got to think Hamilton is essentially operating in a no-tolerance threshold, with one more mistake being his downfall.

Like I've said previously, Hamilton is a CFO-type, but not an AD/CEO. As such his mistakes in personnel and contract judgement have cost the department millions. Kind of negates the 'goodwill' from raising money and building 'things.'

You have no idea what a CFO does do you. They manage money and this article totally negates that skill as a quality of Mike Hamilton.

MikeAnderson writes:

in response to rustyvango#1397221:

how about this,,fire mike hamilton.is this what they call a"good buisness model?"to hire and fire at will BUT at huge expense?can ut afford any more mistakes from mr hamilton?

Well, why not fire the girl's softball coach? They just lost...

lafollette37766 writes:

Hamilton will not survive the NCAA hearing. There is way more dirt in that report than UT released.

1vavolfan writes:

The only hope for the University is that it is just hanging on to Hamilton until the NCCA process is wrapped up and then firing him. For the athletic department for a prestigious university to be ran in this manner makes UT look foolish and busch league.

GOJO writes:

in response to stumpyb:

Now what happens if Pat is fired or leaves???

***

The rapture will be here.

DocKJM writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

The only hope for the University is that it is just hanging on to Hamilton until the NCCA process is wrapped up and then firing him. For the athletic department for a prestigious university to be ran in this manner makes UT look foolish and busch league.

""Busch League" UT is ALREADY a BIG JOKE Nationally! I DO NOT see any reports of Championships or the signing of Five Star Top Recruits. Now what do we see, just reports of coaches being fired, contract buyouts, NCAA investigations, and new coaches coming and now going over the PAST EIGHT YEARS. Oh who has been the AD over those Eight Years, MIKE HAMILTON!!! The leadership starts at the top in the Mens Athletic Dept. that is in worse shape then when he was hired. Now we face the NCAA investigation report and punishment! More GOOD NEWS to report! All this under Mike's Leadership!

We are UT! We pour out money all the time, we support all of their teams, and coaches. The millions of us who bleed orange are just fed up. We need strong leadership in the AD! Stability is lacking and contract buyouts are now the top headllines. Where are the Top Recruit, stories? Where are the Championship contending stories? No all we get are all these other reports. The Men's Athletic Department is worse then Bush League! My Gosh, when will someone wake up and realize it is due to the lack of leadership at the TOP! What happen over the past Eight years has brought the Department to NEW LOWS! Some one at the top has to be accountable, and for some reason Mike has been able to avoid any responsibility. Anyone in the business world who continued to make such BIG screw-ups would be shown the door a lot sooner. Yes the Athletic Department has sunk to new lows. Eight years is ENOUGH!

FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE

Hey Mike don't let the door hit you in the rear on your way out. It is time to get the moving vans sent to Mike's House, he should be ready to HIT THE ROAD!!!

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to robbiestewart#492873:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That is soon to change. As soon as Joan retires, the men and women will have the same AD. That was in the news recently

trubleoj#657755 writes:

Pat is a VFL and NOBODY at the University of Tennessee has the authorization or power (or cajones) to fire her.(see Wooden, John; Smith, Dean; Paterno, Joe; Krzyzewski, Mike)

MusicCityVol writes:

What a sad state of affairs. All of these are hot button issues. The least controversial would have to be the Raleigh firing. The most debated would still be Fulmer. Go into any of several Vols message boards and the Fulmer debate could still be raging on any given day.

The Fulmer Debate
http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/20...

tikanique#439679 writes:

I wish somebody would fire ME like that. I'm not even as needy as they are; I'll settle for 25K a month. LOL!

1vavolfan writes:

in response to AF1A4:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

My 3rd grade soccer team faced a similar dilemma this season. A team in our league was using older players and lying about what grade they were in. They were a bigger and stronger team than ours and we had a pretty good idea we were going to get beat. We thought about not playing this team out of protest but the kids all voted to play so they wouldn't look like wimps and cowards.Too bad that our athletic department didn't have the courage of a 3rd grade soccer team.

us43137415#376444 writes:

Y'all are just ranting and railing against Mike Hamilton, as you have for the past 5 years.

Actually, I found the article on buyouts quite interesting. Very informative.

Hamilton's fate lies with Jimmy Cheek and the Athletics Board.

Quit yer yelling here. Direct your comments there, if you have the courage.

thetrollhunter writes:

in response to DocKJM:

""Busch League" UT is ALREADY a BIG JOKE Nationally! I DO NOT see any reports of Championships or the signing of Five Star Top Recruits. Now what do we see, just reports of coaches being fired, contract buyouts, NCAA investigations, and new coaches coming and now going over the PAST EIGHT YEARS. Oh who has been the AD over those Eight Years, MIKE HAMILTON!!! The leadership starts at the top in the Mens Athletic Dept. that is in worse shape then when he was hired. Now we face the NCAA investigation report and punishment! More GOOD NEWS to report! All this under Mike's Leadership!

We are UT! We pour out money all the time, we support all of their teams, and coaches. The millions of us who bleed orange are just fed up. We need strong leadership in the AD! Stability is lacking and contract buyouts are now the top headllines. Where are the Top Recruit, stories? Where are the Championship contending stories? No all we get are all these other reports. The Men's Athletic Department is worse then Bush League! My Gosh, when will someone wake up and realize it is due to the lack of leadership at the TOP! What happen over the past Eight years has brought the Department to NEW LOWS! Some one at the top has to be accountable, and for some reason Mike has been able to avoid any responsibility. Anyone in the business world who continued to make such BIG screw-ups would be shown the door a lot sooner. Yes the Athletic Department has sunk to new lows. Eight years is ENOUGH!

FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE FIRE MIKE

Hey Mike don't let the door hit you in the rear on your way out. It is time to get the moving vans sent to Mike's House, he should be ready to HIT THE ROAD!!!

Wow, tell us how you really feel lol

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to MusicCityVol:

What a sad state of affairs. All of these are hot button issues. The least controversial would have to be the Raleigh firing. The most debated would still be Fulmer. Go into any of several Vols message boards and the Fulmer debate could still be raging on any given day.

The Fulmer Debate
http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/20...

You sir are correct. Myself, I'm not for bashing Fulmer. HOWEVER, YOU DON'T LOSE TO WYOMING! Nuff said.

GerryOP writes:

in response to Couchdummy:

Very well researched and well written report. The KNS has hired a really excellent journalist & reporter in Mr. Gribble. He and Mike Strange are both very professional and thorough in their reporting.

Translation of Couchdummy's post:

"Mr. Strange and Mr. Gribble think the way I think, therefore they are professional and thorough in their reporting."

kdaff51 writes:

Hey Mike....hire me then fire me

Rockytop10c writes:

As we talk of firing Hamilton, who do we get to replace him? Ernie Grunfeld: Someone who is a former Vol, and knows how to manage people and operations.

Classof72 writes:

You can't spell buyout without UT.

dtennessee#235123 writes:

That's what UT deserves for hiring a Dickey lap dop as athletic director. What did you expect from a Clemson grad. The Atheletic Department is a joke and needs a major restructuring after a reputable management consultant like McKinsey comes in and sorts out all the old boy mismanagement. Hamilton hs to go. He's a fiscal nightmare.

Raleigh writes:

Anyone who continues to give money to the athletic department while Hamster is still in charge is throwing his money away.

utfutbolfan writes:

in response to bigorangegoon:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well said. I won't be attending.

utfutbolfan writes:

in response to kdaff51:

Hey Mike....hire me then fire me

HA! That's awesome!

utfutbolfan writes:

in response to GOJO:

***

The rapture will be here.

That's for sure.

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