Arkansas paying price to secure top assistants

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, January 4, 2013
Former Washington running backs coach Joel Thomas will make $235,000 in the same role at Arkansas.
Photo by University of Washington
Former Washington running backs coach Joel Thomas will make $235,000 in the same role at Arkansas.

— Arkansas has opened up its checkbook to bring in topnotch assistant coaches for Coach Bret Bielema’s first staff.

The combined annual pay for eight Razorbacks assistant coaches is $2.8 million, an increase of nearly $200,000 from the aggregate salaries of $2.604 million of all nine on-field assistants in 2012. Bielema has one position left to fill, almost certainly on the offensive side, which is expected to push the salary pool to more than $3 million.

Additionally, new strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert will make $300,000 per year on a three-year deal, a raise of almost 50 percent from the salary of $200,450 made by Jason Veltkamp in that position last year.

University of Arkansas officials released the salaries Thursday for Herbert and onfield assistants Randy Shannon, George McDonald, Taver Johnson and Joel Thomas, all of whom have been hired since the school closed for the winter holidays.

Shannon’s annual salary of $315,000 trails only coordinators Jim Chaney and Chris Ash, who are making $550,000 each, and assistant head coach Charlie Partridge, who is making $350,000 while coaching the defensive line.

Shannon’s agreement, signed Dec. 30, includes a $50,000 buyout if the linebackers coach leaves of his own accord for a position other than head coach or defensive coordinator at the college or NFL level.

McDonald will coach receivers with an annual salary of $275,000, Johnson will coach cornerbacks and be paid $250,000, and Thomas will coach running backs and make $235,000.

Johnson, the only on-field holdover so far from Arkansas’ 2012 staff, will make $25,000 less than he did last year, when he also held the title of assistant head coach.

The agreements for Johnson, McDonald, Thomas and Herbert all include a $50,000 buyout if the coaches elect to leave before the end of their terms.

The agreements for Johnson, McDonald, Shannon and Thomas are all one-year deals that extend through the end of June 2014.

Arkansas’ pay for assistants in 2012 was $2,604,020 in salary, but the nine-man group also combined for $719,756 in incentive pay that Athletic Director Jeff Long initiated when the staff picked up the slack created by Coach Bobby Petrino’s firing in April.

Bielema is expected to complete his first nine-man staff as early as today.

Industry sources say Bielema is interested in reconnecting with Tampa Bay Bucs offensive line coach Bob Bostad, a Wisconsin offensive assistant in 2006-2011 who coached tight ends (2006-2007) and the offensive line (2008-2011) with the Badgers.

Tim Horton, Arkansas’ running backs coach since 2007 and recruiting coordinator since 2008, is also still in the mix. One of the jobs Horton reportedly had a shot at landing was filled Thursday when Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn announced the hiring of Rich Bisaccia away from the San Diego Chargers to coach special teams and running backs.

Sports, Pages 17 on 01/04/2013