Fulmer due hefty raise

Sometime in the month of March, Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer is expected to reach an agreement on a raise.

Preliminary discussions took place a few weeks ago.

My guess is athletic director Mike Hamilton and Fulmer's agent, Jimmy Sexton, are far apart in the negotiations.

Fulmer makes $2.05 million. He hasn't had a raise in two years.

You probably aren't sympathetic to a coach making $2.05 million a year getting a raise after a 5-6 season or a nine-win season culminating with a loss to an average Penn State team in the Outback Bowl.

Maybe you don't think a coach who wins 10 games, captures the East Division title and wins the Outback Bowl should get much of a raise. After all, you point out, it's been nine seasons since UT's last SEC Championship.

But if you're in Fulmer's corner, which Sexton is, you're fighting for a substantial raise.

Sources told me in January that Fulmer likely would get a raise to $2.3-to-2.4 million a year.

Several years ago, when Fulmer went to $2.05 million, he was one of the two highest paid coaches in the SEC. Now, he's sixth, a distant sixth.

Nick Saban is at $4 million. Les Miles is at $3.4 million. Urban Meyer is at $3.25 million. Tommy Tuberville is right at $3 million. Bobby Petrino is at $2.85 million. Mark Richt makes$2.2 million.

For the top five SEC coaches, that's an average of more than $3.3 million.

Where should Fulmer rank? That's debatable. Based on recent success, you could argue that Saban, Miles, Meyer, Tuberville and Richt should make more than Fulmer. Each has won an SEC title since Fulmer's last one in 1998. Saban and Richt have won two.

So, if you argue Fulmer should be sixth on the salary totem poll, does that mean he should be $1 million below the average of the top five coaches in the SEC, or within $300,000?

If he's within $300,000, then he gets $3 million a year.

If he's within $800,000, that means he gets $2.5 million a year.

The average salary of an SEC head football coach has escalated about 100 percent over the past three years.

Fulmer's salary shouldn't escalate 100 percent, but if it escalates by only 20 percent, Fulmer goes to $2.45 million a year.

Fulmer was on the hot seat after the 2005 season. He seemed on the hot seat after blowout losses last season at Florida and at Alabama.

If you're Hamilton, do you make a heavy investment on a coach who isn't guaranteed to return with an SEC title in the next year or two? Do you pay market value, which could put you in a financial bind if he has 2005-type season and you have to fire him?

How do you balance loyalty with market value with recent production with fiscal responsibility?

It's not an easy call.

Had Fulmer been fired after the 2007 season, his buyout would have been over $4.6 million.

Here's the compromise: Pay Fulmer $2.5 million with a bonus of $100,000 if he wins the SEC, $200,000 if he wins a BCS bowl, and $250,000 if he wins the national championship, but reduce the buyout to $4 million over the next two seasons.

That's more than a fair price for a coach who hasn't had a top-10 team since 2001.

If Fulmer is indeed confident he can win another championship, then he should be willing to accept less for a buyout. That would be fair to the university – and to him.

And a reduced buyout keeps the athletic department from taking a huge financial bath if the coach doesn't succeed.


Hamilton said the report in a Richmond (Va.) newspaper that new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson got a three-year deal worth $400,000 annually is incorrect.

Hamilton wouldn't disclose the amount of the raise.

He did say the pool for assistants is going from about $1.72 million to over $1.9 million.

``The directive to Phillip was go out and hire the best coaches and pay them what you have to pay them and we'll manage it,'' Hamilton said. ``So he went out and did that and did it in a way he'll compensate some guys very fairly and he did it within reason financially.''

The announcement on the assistant's salaries should be forthcoming this month or next.

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