Saban pact won't affect UT ... yet

When Nick Saban got a $4 million a year contract at Alabama, it sent shocks way around the Southeastern Conference and the rest of the country. Saban became the 12th member of the $2 million fraternity in college football coaching – and the highest paid.

``I don't think it's necessarily good for college football, especially at a time when Congress is looking at tax-exempt gifts to NCAA schools,'' said Mike Hamilton, Tennessee men's athletic director.

``Will salaries ever be at that level at the University of Tennessee? Inflation would say maybe at some day it will. But we have no plans for it to be anywhere near that in the near future.''

The problem with paying a coach that much money is it could detract from other sports on campus.

``We're trying to build an entire athletic department and sponsor all of our sports at the highest level,'' Hamilton said. ``While football is the engine driving the train financially, I believe if you pay a head coach $4 million, maybe it means you won't be able to put any more dollars into softball and tennis. And we're trying to give all of our student athletes a championship experience.''

Hamilton also said there is a higher accountability for a coach when he makes that type money.

A few years ago, when Saban was at LSU, he had a clause in his contract that would pay him $1 more than the highest paid coach if he won a national championship. He did so in 2003, thus, moving ahead of Oklahoma's Bob Stoops on the pay scale by $1.

Is that in Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer's contract?

``No, and it won't be,'' Hamilton said.

While Saban's deal likely won't affect Fulmer – at least not this year – it could send ripples around other campuses.

``How does it affect Jim Tressell?'' Hamilton wondered. ``How does it affect Urban Meyer? How does it affect Charlie Weis or Pete Carroll? How does it affect some of the other guys that have played for or won a national championship in the recent past?

``It will be interesting to watch over the next couple of years.''


The NCAA recently rescinded a rule it passed last year allowing a student-athlete who had graduated to transfer and be immediately eligible at another four-year school.

Twenty-five athletes – mostly in college football – took advantage, including Ryan Smith, who started at cornerback for national champion Florida.

Tennessee voted to maintain the rule. The SEC vote was 6-6, Hamilton said. The NCAA vote was 75 percent in favor of rescinding the rule.

Why was it changed?

``When it was passed, we had a huge uproar of schools saying they didn't realize what we were passing,'' Hamilton said. ``That's an indictment on all of us to say that, but most school didn't realize it.''

Hamilton said UT didn't think it was a huge issue nationally and that it would reward student-athletes who graduated quickly but didn't attend a school that offered a graduate program in their field of study.


Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles created quite a stir last month when he meet with the disgruntled parents of three football players who apparently weren't happy with the offensive system being run by the Hogs.

They complained to Broyles and word got out about their concerns.

Would Hamilton meet with unhappy parents?

Yes, he said.

``It has to start with ironing it out with the coach,'' Hamilton said. ``But I'm always willing to meet with parents or student athletes because I'm part of the experience for their young son or daughter at UT, and I need to be in tune with those things.

``Typically I'd point it back to the head coach to solve if it were an issue, but I don't want a parent or a player to ever feel like he can't talk to me. I feel it's important to have that kind of open dialog.''

Hamilton said he has met with parents about concerns but none had ``major problems'' and none were about their kid's lack of playing time.


Under Hamilton, UT has upped the pay considerably for its offensive and defensive coordinators, giving David Cutcliffe and John Chavis $300,000 each.

Only about a dozen coordinators in the country make that much.

But if either has an offer to be a head coach or coach in the NFL, Tennessee would be hard pressed to keep them.

``We're not going to break the bank,'' Hamilton said. ``We're probably not going to be able to compete with an NFL team or against a head coaching salary.

``If David Cutcliffe has an opportunity to go somewhere as a head coach and make $1.2 million or $1.5 million, he's not going to stay at Tennessee because we're going to make him a higher paid coordinator. He's just not. That's a different decision to make.

``But as long as he's happy here and he has some things that make him feel comfortable and we can compensate him fairly as it relates to the market place, we're going to try to do that because we value David Cutcliffe and we value John Chavis.''

NOTES: Hamilton said if UT adds any sports in the future, it will be men's soccer and women's lacrosse. Only Kentucky and South Carolina offer men's soccer in the SEC after Vanderbilt recently dropped it. Hamilton said every high school in Tennessee has soccer. … When a player is dismissed from UT, such as safety Demetrice Morley, the athlete has a chance to re-gain eligibility in a year by earning credits at a community college or junior college. … The Vols basketball team is recruiting two power forwards from the junior college ranks: Rodney Alexander of College of Redlands (Okla.) and Justin Scott of Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College.

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