The University of Tennessee does not yet have a plan for how it will finance a multimillion-dollar buyout of former football coach Derek Dooley, who was fired Sunday, Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said Monday.
The university is “keeping every possibility on the table,” Cheek said, but declined to say whether university funds could be used to bolster a struggling athletics department budget.
“We don’t want to talk about any plans yet because we don’t have a solution,” he said before Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting on campus. “Academics and athletics are both very important to this university, and we want to make sure both are very successful. But we don’t have a plan yet.”
When a faculty member asked during the meeting if the university would consider using general fund money to backstop the athletic budget in the midst of the coaching change, Cheek said there were no plans to do that “at this time.”
Firing Dooley, who coached three seasons to finish with a 15-21 record, will be expensive. Dooley’s contract stipulates UT will have to pay out roughly $5 million for the remainder of his contract, in monthly installments of about $102,000.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, if he is not retained by the new staff, is owed about $645,000 and seven other assistants working under multi-year contracts could be due as much as $3.71 million, depending on how quickly they find other jobs and how much those jobs pay.
The athletics department, meanwhile, finished its last fiscal year in June with a $4 million shortfall. It has about $2 million in reserve funds.
To cut costs, athletics announced 17 layoffs in April as part of the consolidation of the women’s and men’s athletic departments. The changes resulted in a $2.5 million savings. Athletics also gives about $5 million to the university each year for scholarships, graduate fellowships and discretionary funding.