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January 23, 2009 - Assistant football coaches salaries expand college sports financial arms race

A recent report in the Columbia State Herald looked at assistant football coaching salaries in the Southeastern Conference, and raised concerns that they are rapidly increasing at a rate similar to that of head coaches.  The concern of rising pay to assistant coaches has led to schools protecting themselves by creating buyout clauses similar to that of head football coaches.

According to the paper, the University of  Tennessee has offered multi-year deals to the assistants of first-year football coach Lane Kiffin, including a $1.2 million contract given to his father, assistant coach Monte Kiffin.  The University of Tennesse also will pay former University of Mississippi coach Ed Orgeron $650,000 a year as their recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach. The University of Tennessee assistants will make a combined $3.325 million this year.  According to Mike Hamilton, athletic director at the University of Tennessee, he predicted that the aggregate salaries for Kiffin and his staff would remain fourth in the Southeastern Conference -- behind the University of Alabama, Louisiana State University, and the University of Florida.

Stated Dutch Baughman, executive director of the Division I-A Athletic Directors' Association, "For the first time we're seeing coordinators receive multiple-year contracts and levels of compensation that have actually caused some schools in some conferences to be at a major disadvantage."

At the University of South Carolina, athletic director Eric Hyman stated that the Southeastern Conference was still an economic power despite the poor economy, as recognized by the conference's new television deals -- $2.25 billion from ESPN and a reported $825 million from CBS over 15 years.  "We don't play the Knight Commission and we don't compete against people that have that theory (arguing fiscal restraint). We compete in the SEC," Johnson said. "You get in the left lane and go slow in the SEC, they'll run over you."