KNOXVILLE – Tennessee coach Butch Jones is undertaking the difficult task of rebuilding a UT program that hasn’t been to a bowl game in two seasons and won only two conference games during that time period.
He’ll be well compensated for his efforts.
Jones signed a six-year agreement worth $2.95 million in base salary per season, according to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) released by the University shortly after his hiring on Friday.
His total compensation will be approximately doubled from the $1.57 million he would have received from Cincinnati in 2012.
“We are not going to let (finances) be a detriment to securing the best coach we can,” athletics director Dave Hart said on Nov. 18 as he began the search to replace former coach Derek Dooley. “I have talked to the chancellor at length about that.”
The MOU will serve as the binding agreement between Jones and Tennessee until his contract is legally finished.
In addition, Jones will also receive a one-time, $500,000 signing bonus that will be owed to him by Jan. 31, 2013. He also will have the opportunity to be compensated extra for reaching a variety of academic and athletic benchmarks.
The highest attainable bonus is a $500,000 award for winning a national title. He would receive $400,000 for appearing in the national title game, $300,000 for an appearance in a BCS Bowl game and either $100,000 or $200,000 for a bowl appearance, depending on which bowl selects the Vols.
Jones can also receive a bonus of up to $100,000 if the team’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) improves to certain levels. He will be penalized $50,000 for every year the team’s APR falls to less than 930, beginning with the APR calculation for the 2013-14 academic year.
Other bonuses can be obtained for winning coach of the year honors or the team finishing the season ranked in a major poll.
He and his family will receive $40,000 to cover moving expenses, two vehicles or an $800/month stipend for vehicles, eight season tickets as well as one suite at Neyland Stadium and two parking passes.
The university must supply him a minimum of $3 million a year to pay his assistant coaches.
If Jones is fired without cause, Tennessee will owe him as much as $2 million per year, payable in monthly installments. If terminated, Jones is required to make “reasonable best efforts to mitigate the university’s obligation to pay liquid damage,” meaning UT would be relieved of his buyout payment should he find another job that pays him $2 million or more after he leaves. Tennessee would owe him the difference if he gets a job that pays him less than $2 million per year.
If he is fired with cause, UT would owe him no further money.
Jones would owe Tennessee $4 million if he terminates the contract without cause prior to Feb. 28, 2014. That number drops to $3 million between March 1, 2014 and Feb. 29, 2016 and then $2 million for the rest of the contract.
Jones’ contract is worth approximately $1.2 million per year more than Dooley’s. Not only will UT have to account for that raise, it will also have to pay buyout money to Dooley and all of his assistants, with the exception of running backs coach Jay Graham, who will be retained on Jones’ staff.
Figures from the Knoxville News-Sentinel in October said that the total cost to buy out Dooley and his staff would range from $5.6 million to $9.3 million, depending on if assistant coaches were able to find jobs that helped offset some of the owed money.
Dooley is owed approximately $1.3 million per year of guaranteed money through 2016. That means UT will be paying a minimum of approximately $4.3 million a year for expenses related to the football head-coaching position through 2016.
The Tennessee athletics department had $18 million returned to it from the academic side of the university on Nov. 20. That sum had been donated from surpluses for athletics in the past, but chancellor Jimmy Cheek returned it as a sign of support and to help the athletics department with its current financial needs.
“As we begin our search for a new coach, I have assured Dave (Hart) that he will have the support and resources he needs to be successful,” Cheek said.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.