Throughout these past eight terrible months, as story after story has been written about coaches taking pay cuts, the word "voluntary" was always included, one thought, as a mere formality. As if the quotation marks should have been included in the story.
Turns out, some of those cuts were more voluntary than others, and we know that because a few coaches turned them down.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Friday that eight Tennessee assistants turned down requests for voluntary pay cuts amid a projected $40 million budget shortfall for the Vols' athletics department. Wide receivers coach Tee Martin and running backs coach Jay Graham accepted the department's request, according to documents obtained by the paper, leaving the following who did not:
- Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney
- Defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley
- Offensive line coach Will Friend
- Quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke
- Inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer
- Outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton
- Tight ends coach Joe Osovet
- Strength and conditioning coach A.J. Artis
Chaney and Ansley both make $1 million or more. Friend is among the highest-paid offensive line coaches in the country.
Tennessee instituted pay cuts for all at-will employees earning $50,000 or more, but football coaches are exempt from such cuts due to being contracted employees. Still, in addition to Martin and Graham, head coach Jeremy Pruitt also declined a scheduled $400,000 raise as part of the contract extension he signed in September.
“I am very grateful to all the athletic department employees and families that have taken a salary reduction and are showing support to our department during such a difficult time,” Tennessee athletics director Phillip Fulmer said in a statement to the paper. “They have helped prevent the need to eliminate positions as we continue to battle this pandemic and its medical and financial implications.
“Unfortunately, there were some contract employees who did not agree to a reduction for their own reasons. But I am especially appreciative of all our head coaches and staff members who are doing their part for the greater good of the department.”
Fulmer himself took a 15 percent cut off his $900,000 salary effective Nov. 1, the largest in the department on a percentage basis.
Tennessee is not the only school where such a story has arisen, but they are part of a small group. Last month it was reported Texas will reimburse its assistant coaches who took pay cuts as part of its department-wide cuts.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.