Summitt envy?

Coaches, in general, are an envious lot. If you have a basketball practice facility, they need a practice facility. If you have an indoor football field, they need an indoor football field. If you have an airplane to make recruiting visits, they need an airplane to make recruiting visits.

But at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., you didn't find such envy when it came to one topic: Pat Summitt's salary.

Summitt, the highly success Lady Vols coach, was applauded – at least publicly—for becoming the first women's basketball coach to crack the $1 million salary mark. Summitt's new six-year deal will pay her an average of $1.3 million over six years. She'll make $1.125 million the first year, slightly more than UT men's coach Bruce Pearl.

Only two men's basketball coaches – Tubby Smith at Kentucky and Billy Donovan at Florida – will make more this season.

And based on last season's salaries, Summitt's $1.3 million average exceeds that of at least six SEC football coaches – Mike Shula at Alabama, Rich Brooks at Kentucky, Les Miles at LSU, Sly Croom at Mississippi State, Ed Oregeron at Ole Miss and Bobby Johnson at Vanderbilt.

But not one coach or athletic director that I spoke with in Destin had a complaint about Summitt's landmark deal.

``She has set the bar for a lot of different things,'' said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley.

Asked if Summitt's salary would make it difficult for Foley to negotiate future salaries for his coaches, Foley said no: ``When they do what she's done, they'll get what she gets.''

What Summitt has done is win six national championships in 32 years and serve as a great ambassador for women's basketball.

Georgia athletic director Damon Evans just bumped his women's basketball coach, Andy Landers, up to $525,000. Landers is one of about a half-dozen women's coaches making more than half a million.

``Pat Summitt is a great basketball coach,'' Evans said. ``She's done a lot for the (women's) game. She deserves the raise. I say, congrats to her.''

Mal Moore, athletic director at Alabama, said Summitt has ``earned what she's making.''

Summitt's salary exceeds what Shula made last year, which was less than $1 million per year. Shula has since signed a deal paying him almost $1.8 million per year, counting a retention bonus. For a year, Shula made less than Alabama men's basketball coach Mark Gottfried.

Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, who served 13 years as a Tennessee assistant/associate athletic director, was happy for Summitt.

``Pat is the icon in women's basketball,'' Barnhart said. ``She is one of the most deserving people as it relates to someone developing her sport that I've ever seen. I think certain people are set apart as different. There are very few of them and she's one. She deserves to be set apart.''

Barnhart doesn't see Summit's salary affecting the pay scale for coaches at Kentucky.

``The rest of the coaches must grow with the game as time goes on,'' Barnhart said. ``No one else is as deserving or will jump to that level because they haven't earned that right. She has.''

Summitt's new deal pays her almost the entire women's basketball budget at Mississippi State: $1.5 million. The Lady Vols basketball budget is more than double that.

Larry Templeton, Mississippi State athletic director, said he isn't worried with how one salary will impact negotiations with his coaches.

``I have concerns about where we're going with all coaches' salaries,'' Templeton said.

John Brady, LSU men's basketball coach, is fresh off a Final Four appearance. He has yet to reach an agreement on a new deal, which is expected to put him in the $1 million club.

Asked if Summitt's new pact would provide him with leverage, Brady said no.

But then he added with a smile: ``I wish she'd made $2 million.''

Perhaps that suggests why no coaches are jealous of Summitt's historic salary: It could help them make more money.

Summitt said she has received ``very favorable'' responses from her colleagues and she's hoping her contract will force administrators to take a closer look at the compensation being paid to ``the great coaches in this league and the great coaches around the country.''

Summitt laughed when told what Brady said.

``I think coaches, we're like a sorority/fraternity,'' Summitt said. ``We're all pulling for each other. Everybody has been, obviously, very happy and complimentary of the commitment made by the University of Tennessee.''


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