Fulmer, Pearl due raises

Tennessee men's athletic director Mike Hamilton said he will give Phillip Fulmer and Bruce Pearl raises, but just how much remains in question.

The situation with Fulmer is intriguing. He hasn't won an SEC Championship in nine years, but the escalation of salaries of SEC football coaches has gone spiraling upward. And Fulmer, who is the seventh-highest paid coach, is more than $1 million behind the average of the top six league coaches.

Pearl is the third highest-paid SEC men's basketball coach, but he makes half of what Florida's Billy Donovan makes. He has – and will continue to be – pursued by other schools and he has turned men's basketball into a very profitable venture. He's also created enough interest to help UT build a practice facility and luxury boxes.

What Hamilton does with Fulmer's contract bears watching. He has already said he will give Fulmer a one-year extension to keep his contract at seven years.

So, how much do you reward a coach for winning the East Division and 10 games? Or do you bump his pay because of a bump in the market?

``There are multiple factors,'' Hamilton said. ``You see what's happened on the football field in the last couple of years, what his peers are making in the league. But you don't just make your decision based on what others are doing.''

Hamilton said Fulmer shouldn't be penalized for his loyalty. At the same time, he said he won't give Fulmer the average of the top six SEC football coaches: $3.1 million a year.

``Just because somebody jumps off a bridge doesn't mean you have to jump off a bridge,'' Hamilton said. ``We're going to pay him competitively and fairly and recognize what Phillip has done, but we're not going to get crazy.''

Hamilton said he thinks some of the raises given in college football have been ``perhaps a little bit out of line,'' but he plans to give Fulmer ``a fairly significant raise … and something that he can be proud of, but it's not going to jump into the top three in the league. … We're not willing to go up to the $3 million range.''

Pearl just finished the first year of a six-year package that will average out to $1.72 million, counting annual raises of $100,000 and two $500,000 retention bonuses that come due in June of 2010 and June of 2013.

Yet, Hamilton said he will give Pearl a raise.

Why not? Pearl has been a godsend to the men's basketball program. He has made UT's program relevant on a national basis.

Pearl made $1.3 million this past season. His current contract escalates to $1.8 million in 2012-13.

How does that compare to Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt?

Summitt made $25,000 more than Pearl last year, but $75,000 less this year, not counting her State Farm Insurance commercial.

Summitt's deal goes through 2011-12, at which time she is set to make $1.5 million.

That year, Pearl is set to make $1.7 million.

So for those who think Pearl won't make more than Summitt, well, he already is.

Is that fair? It depends on your perspective.

If you think pay should be related to revenues derived by your program – which I do – then the answer is yes. The men's program had revenues of $5.9 million this season, the women $2.4 million. The men also raised considerable money through donations for sideline seats. The women also raised money for sideline seats, but not nearly as much as the men. That doesn't show up as revenue because it is earmarked for capital improvements.

On the slip side, Summitt is completing her 34th year, she has won seven national titles and she's been a great ambassador for women's basketball, not just at UT, but nationwide. It's hard to put a price tag on her value.

Now, for those that think Pearl should make more than Fulmer, it won't happen – at least, not in the near future.

Consider the market value difference: Fulmer is No. 7 on the football salary list at $2.05 million. Pearl is No. 3 in the SEC among men's basketball coaches at $1.3 million.

The revenue derived from football and the NFL help drive up football salaries.

Asked if Pearl could make more than Fulmer, Hamilton said: ``I don't think now, no.''

He pointed to Pearl's success but he also pointed to Fulmer's success, his two SEC titles, his national championship and his 15-year tenure.

Hamilton acknowledged there are intangibles that enter into the picture, such as national exposure and good will in the community.

``It all gets back to the partnership you have with your coach,'' Hamilton said. ``The business relationship side of it is, you can deal with the coach or you can deal with the agent. And it can be hard and cold and the coach says, `This is what I've got to have,' and you say, `This is what we're going to do,' and you decide that amount and that's the end.''

But at UT, Hamilton feels he has a ``partnership'' with Fulmer and Pearl. He wants to make sure those coaches feel they are getting not just fair contracts, but the right kind of support from a facilities and philosophy standpoint.

And it's hard to put a monetary value on that kind of support.

Hamilton expects Fulmer and Pearl to have new deals within a month.

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