Cuonzo Martin patient for contract with Tennessee

Vols coach has been working with MOU

Sept. 23, 2011 passed by with little fanfare.

News Sentinel headlines were that of any another day. Tennessee football was heading into its bye week. Disputes over federal spending stirred fears of a government shutdown on Capitol Hill. Recovery efforts were underway in India, Tibet and Nepal following a string of earthquakes.

For Cuonzo Martin, the date marked the 180th day since he signed a memorandum of understanding to become Tennessee's men's basketball coach. The anniversary would be trivial, if not for an easily overlooked detail in the MOU.

"While these terms are contingent upon our executing an employment contract, we expect a formal employment agreement to be fully executed within 180 days."

Martin did not a have a formal contract in place on Sept. 23, 2011.

Nor does he have one in place on June 20, 2012.

Martin thinks, or at least hopes, that it could change this week.

"There just hasn't been a lot of time to sit down and talk about things," Martin said in his office last Friday morning. "I've been coming and going and (UT athletic director) Dave Hart has been coming and going. So now we're going to, hopefully, get something wrapped up here in the next week."

According to Martin, the primary hangup in finalizing a contract was UT's administrative switch from former AD Mike Hamilton to Hart, who was introduced in September. Hamilton hired Martin in March 2011 and subsequently resigned two months later.

Martin said last Friday that the timing of the "transition in administration," just a few months prior to the 2011-12 season, ultimately derailed chances of a deal being completed.

No thunderclap vibrated from September's passed-by soft deadline and, still today, the lack of a contract doesn't signal contention. Martin's MOU is a "binding agreement," per the wording in its opening paragraph, and "presents the material terms of (UT's) offer" for a five-year term with an option for a two-year extension.

The deal pays Martin a stout $1.3 million per year and includes incentives such as $25,000 for an NIT appearance, $50,000 for an NCAA appearance and $100,000 for an SEC regular-season title.

Nonetheless, the MOU is essentially an agreement to agree to a contract, not an actual contract.

"It doesn't cross my mind too much," Martin said. "It's just a matter of a few particulars and getting squared away to move forward."

Repeated requests for a comment from Hart on current contract negotiations went unanswered. Likewise, Martin's agent, Buddy Baker, did not respond to multiple calls from the News Sentinel.

Baker, a former classmate of Martin's at Purdue, negotiated the coach's contracts for his original head coaching job at Missouri State and the initial MOU at UT.

"It's just a matter of getting to it," said Martin, when asked if there are any sticking points in negotiations between he and Tennessee. "Obviously there are always points because you're dealing with a contract, but for the most part it's just a matter of getting to things and getting to the bottom line."

Martin left Missouri State for Tennessee following the 2010-11 season. He was one year into a five-year contract paying a base of $140,000 per season (total package worth $300,000 per year) before the Vols came calling.

According to Martin's MOU, UT paid $200,000 toward his contract buyout at Missouri State.

Entering his first season in Knoxville, Martin and a depleted roster of Vols were picked to finish 11th in the SEC. Instead, Tennessee finished in a second-place tie with Florida and Vanderbilt and posted a 19-15 season that ended in the second round of the NIT.

Martin's predecessor, Bruce Pearl, earned $1.9 million in his final season at UT.

"I think this is something that we can get wrapped up," Martin said. "This is something I want to move past so we can focus on the season."

According to David Williams II, Vanderbilt's vice chancellor for university affairs and athletics and a tenured professor in sports law, MOUs are essentially the scaffolding of a contract.

Williams calls the basic terms of an MOU "the essence of the deal." The major basic points are there: how much money, how many years, etc. In all, an MOU is no more than two to four pages.

The purpose of an MOU, according to Williams, is to lock in the employee and the employer to an agreement, allowing lawyers to take time carving out the legalese in the final 16- or 17-page contract.

The crux of an MOU is its simplicity. Simplicity can lead to ambiguity.

"You gain a little more power if after that first year (under an MOU) we have to sign a contract and you've done very well," Williams said. "Then you'd try to negotiate other things. It's really a matter of what's in there and what's not in there."

Bargaining power can be a two-way street, though.

Three years ago a prolonged MOU between a coach and university directly led to one of the uglier coach-university divorces in recent memory.

Ex-Kentucky coach Billy Gillespie lingered along with a MOU while going 40-27 through the first two years of a proposed seven-year contract with the Wildcats.

Then Gillespie was fired. Without cause, in his opinion, and without a formal signed contract.

Seven months of bickering, mediation and lawyer fees followed. Gillespie sued for breach of contract and fraud to the tune of at least $6 million — payment for four of the final five years of the contract — and the university countersued.

At the core of those suits? Kentucky considered Gillespie's MOU a year-to-year contract. Gillespie considered it a binding longterm agreement. He said during the lawsuit that UK never had intentions of honoring it.

Kentucky settled for a $2.98 million dollar settlement.

Considering Martin's early successes as Tennessee head coach, there are no questions surrounding his job security.

That doesn't mean, though, that job security isn't something he wants.

"I plan on being here for a long time and I don't think it's a case of who has the leverage or whatever," Martin said. "It's just a matter of us getting this thing squared away."

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. He may be reached at brendan.quinn@knoxnews.com and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 80

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say pay the man! Witch Doctor say also give Houston Fancher a raise he beat my Bucs a few years back and Witch Doctor lost ton of money! Witch Doctor say he owes me! lol.
Bones never lie.

PHAT_VOL writes:

YES Pay the MAN!!!
Theres something about this that just dosent smell right.
GO VOLS !!!

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

Quinn did some research for this story and called up the Vanderbilt "AD" or the Vandy Vice Chancellor of Athletics David Williams II. Not used to seeing a KNS writer go outside of Knoxville for sources. That's impressive and Williams is about as credible as anybody when it comes to college athletics if you ask me. He's done a pretty impressive job at Vanderbilt. Good first story here.

born2ride writes:

Give Conzo Martin 2 more years then bring back BRUCE PEARL!!!

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

in response to born2ride:

Give Conzo Martin 2 more years then bring back BRUCE PEARL!!!

+1

tennrich1 writes:

in response to born2ride:

Give Conzo Martin 2 more years then bring back BRUCE PEARL!!!

Still roaring around there huh born2ride trying to find something to devour....you are cute though...

keepitreal4vols writes:

UT will pay mens bball coach a $100,000 bonus for an SEC title.
UK pays mens bball coach $6 million just to coach.
I like Coach Martin, but does UT like Coach Martin???

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

UT will pay mens bball coach a $100,000 bonus for an SEC title.
UK pays mens bball coach $6 million just to coach.
I like Coach Martin, but does UT like Coach Martin???

Maybe when we have eight national championships in basketball like UK we will pay a coach "$6 million just to coach?" That's kind of like going to a UK message board and saying Tennessee just built a $40 million dollar football facility and UK just spent $160,000 to paint their dated facilty and add some pictures. Both of which are true. UK doesn't have six national championships in football. That's kind of like apples to oranges.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

UT will pay mens bball coach a $100,000 bonus for an SEC title.
UK pays mens bball coach $6 million just to coach.
I like Coach Martin, but does UT like Coach Martin???

I think they like him Ok. They gave him a $1.16M/year raise on day one, just to coach.

ROCKYTOPBRAD writes:

I thought Buddy Baker was a Nascar driver?

RoadTrip writes:

in response to born2ride:

Give Conzo Martin 2 more years then bring back BRUCE PEARL!!!

Your opinions never cease to amaze me.

FAIL!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

mocsandvolsfan writes:

btw btr you're still an idiot. KNS can remove this I don't care. HE's an IDIOT!

RockyTop1_old writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

btw btr you're still an idiot. KNS can remove this I don't care. HE's an IDIOT!

+1

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

Maybe Dave Hart thinks that "Cuonzo" is a woman's name and he's trying to figure out a way to have Martin terminated.

GONAVY writes:

I truly think this is all simply a string of bad timing...I don't feel any deception.Martin's job last year with UT was remarkable and they would be foolish not to now find time to sign his contract.June historically has been a slow month for most coaches in all sports, vacation time and a step away from the pressures. This winter will be a down one for SEC Men's basketball...I think UT led by Martin will have a shot at the regular season title. I can't see UK making it 2 years in a row, UF lost players, and VU was/is wiped out by graduation. Sign the man...

IdahoVol writes:

If Hart likes Martin this needs to get done fast (as in, it should have been done months ago). If he doesn't, move on. Regardless whether Hart and Martin were "coming and going", the lawyers are the ones that are going to hammer out the details. Then if everything is good, it should only take one meeting between Hart and Martin to get it signed. Personally I hope they get it done so Martin can focus on coaching.
No matter what anyone says, if you don't have a contract signed, there will always be that concern in the back of Martin's mind that he shouldn't have to worry about. Get this done Hart!

CrankE writes:

In other words, if another program decided to make a serious run at Martin after seeing what he did with UT, if they thought he might be unhappy in the least, then they could sign him quickly, not have to pay a buyout, and UT would once again be up the creek.

westknoxrepub writes:

Maybe Hart sees that's he going to have to fire Martin in a year or two when the total number of NCAA tournament bids is still zero and we've managed to kill all the momentum Pearl had built for us and he's just trying to figure out the cheapest way to terminate his contract.

volsfan74 writes:

First of all if this does not seem like a big deal to Coach Martin then I don't see why this is a relevant story. Secondly to the person who compared UK and UT Basketball coaches salary very poor example. Plus UK has to pay HC that kind of $$$ cause you can not have the players making more than the HC! Thirdly the Bruce Pearl comments about coming back, VERY DUMB POST! Coach Martin is a great coach and is a great asset to UT.

Big_Orange_Aide writes:

THis guy can flat out coach basketball; he had a tremendous year when you consider where we were picked to finish. CCM is simply letting Hart know that, and he is letting it be known he is worth every dime he's getting paid. The deal will get done and Martin will be here for a long time. It's obvious to everyone who's not a troll that SEC titles and deep runs in the NCAA tournament are expected from Martin's teams.

VOL7 writes:

When Stokes leaves after this season, as he surely will, our UT basketball program will drop off dramatically in talent, because Martin hasn't signed a single top player other than him. Thus, Martin's 3rd year will be a disaster. I'm all for bringing back Pearl at that point, since we will have a real AD this time who will keep him in line.

voloffaith writes:

in response to VOL7:

When Stokes leaves after this season, as he surely will, our UT basketball program will drop off dramatically in talent, because Martin hasn't signed a single top player other than him. Thus, Martin's 3rd year will be a disaster. I'm all for bringing back Pearl at that point, since we will have a real AD this time who will keep him in line.

You know this post of yours cannot be taking seriously.....Yeah Tennessee is going to bring back a coach under nc2A microscope for prior bad boy behavior....yeah recruits are jus gonna knock the door down to play for a coach who lied...yeah the parents are gonna let their sons play for a man who lied and told a parent to do so as well....forget the AD keeping said person in line...ain't gonna happen...here or any other school anytime soon....ENOUGH...ewe knew what you typed wouldn't stand the test, but......

Rookie2 writes:

I would guess the main sticking point to iron out is buyouts. They were VERY coach friendly under the Hamilton regime. I suspect Hart wants to dial those back considerably. The Dooley buyout is so ridiculous you can't hardly afford to get rid of him.

JCJ1986 writes:

in response to VOL7:

When Stokes leaves after this season, as he surely will, our UT basketball program will drop off dramatically in talent, because Martin hasn't signed a single top player other than him. Thus, Martin's 3rd year will be a disaster. I'm all for bringing back Pearl at that point, since we will have a real AD this time who will keep him in line.

Bingo! Let's face it, Stokes was sold on UT by Bruce. But Martin will get the credit for closing the deal. Other than that he hasn't brought in one elite player. Once Bruce's players are all gone, Tennessee basketball will be horrible if we're playing with the low-quality players Martin brought in. Hart is playing it smart. Let Martin finish out this year and bring in a top coach who can actually recruit. Martin seems likeable, but likeable doesn't win games, and unfortunately I don't think he has realized he isn't at SEMSU anymore and those 2-3 star players won't cut it. Same with Dooley and his unranked, no offer guys.

madrigal writes:

Come on, Hart, get on the stick already. Cuonzo Martin has proved that he can bring in recruits of character and make them into a team. If you're waiting for some star-power coach to come along so you can shove coach Zo aside, you need to stop and re-evaluate your behavior.

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

in response to born2ride:

Give Conzo Martin 2 more years then bring back BRUCE PEARL!!!

Dude, Pearl couldn't get hired for the Charlotte Bobcats. He may land on his feet somewhere in the collegiate ranks once the show cause is expired, but it won't be on the hill. He's not coming back to UT. Move on!

luvmatersoup writes:

I don't get it...Has Coach M. not been paid since coming to UT? I wonder how much we owe hiim just in back pay and how he can afford to go this long without a paycheck. Come on, pay the dude already! It tells you about the guys commitment to UT after going this long and not getting a dime. This doesn't look good for UT!!! Work for Free?????

Rookie2 writes:

in response to luvmatersoup:

I don't get it...Has Coach M. not been paid since coming to UT? I wonder how much we owe hiim just in back pay and how he can afford to go this long without a paycheck. Come on, pay the dude already! It tells you about the guys commitment to UT after going this long and not getting a dime. This doesn't look good for UT!!! Work for Free?????

Don't be stupid. Of course he's getting paid. Did you read the article? The MOU is a contract that spells out the main points of the deal.., compensation, length of contract etc.. It is a binding contract until the final contract gets ironed out with all the specifics.., termination clauses, leaving for another job etc..

budd#207344 writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Maybe Hart sees that's he going to have to fire Martin in a year or two when the total number of NCAA tournament bids is still zero and we've managed to kill all the momentum Pearl had built for us and he's just trying to figure out the cheapest way to terminate his contract.

Don't you ever get embarrassed when you say such stupid things in public? Think of your family.The kids at school can be so mean and what about when your wife is at the market. People sniggering and laughing when she goes by. Think before you continue to hurt the ones you love.

voloffaith writes:

in response to budd#207344:

Don't you ever get embarrassed when you say such stupid things in public? Think of your family.The kids at school can be so mean and what about when your wife is at the market. People sniggering and laughing when she goes by. Think before you continue to hurt the ones you love.

Now you had to spoil it by asking said party to think ......Say nothing and let the world think a fool....speak and remove all doubt....As Dr. Smith used to say,"oh the pain of it all..."

BigBadVol writes:

in response to andforhisnexttune:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

As much as I hate to say this but you may be right. Coach Martin has shown in one year, to be a outstanding individual, coach, mentor, and ambassador to UT. He requires his players to represent themselves and UT only in a positive and mature manner. Pay the man and get the contract done. If UT drags their feet, then an AD will see coach Martin's abilities and will hire him away. I believe if CM is given some time he will take UT to the Final Four within five years. VFL!

tovolny writes:

Look, who are we to tell the University of Tennessee that they should have presented the contract months ago? I hear those folks over there are pretty smart. As Rhett Butler might say "frankly Scarlet, I don't give a __ __ __ .
This is one item that is way down on my list of things about which to worry.

I like Martin. Even though I was lobbying for Bird (or Byrd) from Belmont. Martin has performed way above my expectations. When another school hires Martin away from us,then and only then do I think we should bring back the Pearl. Pearl is still my favorite coach, but I am willing to sit back and just observe what is going on. Folks, Coach Martin has a lot of integrity, common sense, and special leadership abilities needed at this time. I hope we all can show our basketball coach that be accept him and will back him all the way to basketball glory.

DonK37920 writes:

There should be a 1-2 Million bonus for winning the NCAA Tourney! There should also be a 5 Million Bonus for winning the NC in Football! They are both hard to come by and would bring 10X that in added revenue to the UTAD

mocsandvolsfan writes:

KNS please remove the other idiot comment as I sorta feel guilty calling btr names. It is funny though that you left one. btr understands I'm sure since the only reason he's on here is to antagonize. He's really good at what he does.

Snapshot writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Maybe Hart sees that's he going to have to fire Martin in a year or two when the total number of NCAA tournament bids is still zero and we've managed to kill all the momentum Pearl had built for us and he's just trying to figure out the cheapest way to terminate his contract.

Just another one of your stupid, moronic posts. But thanks for the POSITIVE vibe you always seem to be able to exude in your comments.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Snapshot:

Just another one of your stupid, moronic posts. But thanks for the POSITIVE vibe you always seem to be able to exude in your comments.

OK if you can call wkr idiotic and moronic then why couldn't I call btr idiot?? OH wait I see now!!
Westknox really is those things!

brod writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Maybe Hart sees that's he going to have to fire Martin in a year or two when the total number of NCAA tournament bids is still zero and we've managed to kill all the momentum Pearl had built for us and he's just trying to figure out the cheapest way to terminate his contract.

westknox, are you a fan of ut basketball, or are you a fan of bruce pearl? real fans don't act like this.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

This is a formal apology to all the morons and idiots on here. Please forgive me for name calling. I should have just yelled it at my computer instead of typing it. I see now. The written word is powerful and should never be used to degrade stuff...or people. EVER!
What was the article about?

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to brod:

westknox, are you a fan of ut basketball, or are you a fan of bruce pearl? real fans don't act like this.

I'm a fan of UT Basketball, which is why i don't want to see it return to the pre-Pearl standing of being a meaningless lower level SEC program. The recruits he has brought in here on his own (Stokes was a Pearl recruit) can't compete with the guys Florida, Vandy, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky are bringing in. I'm not going to be one of those UT fans who praises Martin for being a "great coach" despite turning in the worst Men's Basketball season since 2005. We had gone to the NCAA six years in a row, landing in the NIT and getting tossed in the second round by MTSU is NOT a good season. Can you HONESTLY say that after this year you have no concerns about the talent level based on Martin's recruiting?

BigBadVol writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

I'm a fan of UT Basketball, which is why i don't want to see it return to the pre-Pearl standing of being a meaningless lower level SEC program. The recruits he has brought in here on his own (Stokes was a Pearl recruit) can't compete with the guys Florida, Vandy, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky are bringing in. I'm not going to be one of those UT fans who praises Martin for being a "great coach" despite turning in the worst Men's Basketball season since 2005. We had gone to the NCAA six years in a row, landing in the NIT and getting tossed in the second round by MTSU is NOT a good season. Can you HONESTLY say that after this year you have no concerns about the talent level based on Martin's recruiting?

Yes. I can also say I don't see any of the recruits getting arrested for guns, alcohol, and etc.. Martin is a class act and for anyone on here to think he can't get the job done obviously isn't paying attention. I would rather build the program a little slower with players of character than to rise to prominence with a bunch of prima donna's.

voloffaith writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

I'm a fan of UT Basketball, which is why i don't want to see it return to the pre-Pearl standing of being a meaningless lower level SEC program. The recruits he has brought in here on his own (Stokes was a Pearl recruit) can't compete with the guys Florida, Vandy, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky are bringing in. I'm not going to be one of those UT fans who praises Martin for being a "great coach" despite turning in the worst Men's Basketball season since 2005. We had gone to the NCAA six years in a row, landing in the NIT and getting tossed in the second round by MTSU is NOT a good season. Can you HONESTLY say that after this year you have no concerns about the talent level based on Martin's recruiting?

Oh Skippy Rome was not built in a day....Must reestablish contacts with state coaches and also put good, fundamental club on the court as the building blocks. I'm looking at recruiting and we are at least for now in the mix for some 4* recruits. Signem and coachem and we all feel better. Just wondering if you are willing to be realistic in expectations in the aftermath of the Pearl debacle....

brod writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

I'm a fan of UT Basketball, which is why i don't want to see it return to the pre-Pearl standing of being a meaningless lower level SEC program. The recruits he has brought in here on his own (Stokes was a Pearl recruit) can't compete with the guys Florida, Vandy, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky are bringing in. I'm not going to be one of those UT fans who praises Martin for being a "great coach" despite turning in the worst Men's Basketball season since 2005. We had gone to the NCAA six years in a row, landing in the NIT and getting tossed in the second round by MTSU is NOT a good season. Can you HONESTLY say that after this year you have no concerns about the talent level based on Martin's recruiting?

i'm concerned that chris jones wasn't signed. but who else do you think that martin should have signed? alex poythress didn't even have ut in his final 5 schools. you can't just talk about who he has recruited, without giving some specifics on who he missed out on. pearl did not crack into memphis that much, so where are you coming from?

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Maybe Hart sees that's he going to have to fire Martin in a year or two when the total number of NCAA tournament bids is still zero and we've managed to kill all the momentum Pearl had built for us and he's just trying to figure out the cheapest way to terminate his contract.

Witch Doctor say wheeeww. Witch Doctor say since you voiced what you think..now we all know Martin is safe forever! lol. Witch Doctor say where you been hiding after some of your last picks? hehee. Witch Doctor know you just here for the "rise" since Viagra so high! lol
Bones never lie.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to voloffaith:

Oh Skippy Rome was not built in a day....Must reestablish contacts with state coaches and also put good, fundamental club on the court as the building blocks. I'm looking at recruiting and we are at least for now in the mix for some 4* recruits. Signem and coachem and we all feel better. Just wondering if you are willing to be realistic in expectations in the aftermath of the Pearl debacle....

Rebuilding after a six year run in the NCAA tournament? Shouldn't he be able to sell THAT to recruits? My expectations are to make the NCAA tournament, we did it the past six years, continuing off of that momentum isn't unrealistic. . settling for a NIT bit, getting tossed my MTSU on your home floor and calling it a successful season is just sad.

UT-on-3 writes:

in response to brod:

i'm concerned that chris jones wasn't signed. but who else do you think that martin should have signed? alex poythress didn't even have ut in his final 5 schools. you can't just talk about who he has recruited, without giving some specifics on who he missed out on. pearl did not crack into memphis that much, so where are you coming from?

he should still pursue Chris Jones......
Coach Zo needs this guy & this guy needs Coach Zo!
Have a sick feeling he's gonna sign with Memphis.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Maybe Dave Hart thought Maritn was a bad hire. . .and given the results thus far he's probably right.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Maybe Dave Hart thought Maritn was a bad hire. . .and given the results thus far he's probably right.

Witch Doctor say hes made every prediction you made make you look bad! lol. Witch Doctor say why does all your post scream "Please look at me!" haha
Bones never lie.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say hes made every prediction you made make you look bad! lol. Witch Doctor say why does all your post scream "Please look at me!" haha
Bones never lie.

The irony of that statement isn't lost on me. . .third person references never lie. Still, it be nice to have a coach who can sit in a recruits living room and talk about his accomplishments, like NCAA tournament bids We don't have a coach who can do that.

underthehill writes:

in response to BigBadVol:

Yes. I can also say I don't see any of the recruits getting arrested for guns, alcohol, and etc.. Martin is a class act and for anyone on here to think he can't get the job done obviously isn't paying attention. I would rather build the program a little slower with players of character than to rise to prominence with a bunch of prima donna's.

Martin appears to be recruiting character and talent..and the way he deals with player problems is unprecented at UT

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