UA digs deep for assistants

Staff salaries increase 15%

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Jim Chaney, who spent the last four seasons at Tennessee, will earn $550,000 annually at Arkansas.
Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Jim Chaney, who spent the last four seasons at Tennessee, will earn $550,000 annually at Arkansas.

— Arkansas football assistants are signed on for $3 million in yearly salaries in 2013, an increase of more than 15 percent over the pay for John L. Smith’s staff last season.

The 10-man staff’s cumulative pay - including Coach Bret Bielema’s $3.2 million annual salary - is $6.2 million, a one-season high for the Arkansas football program.

Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long said in December the salary pool for football assistants would be up from previous years, and Bielema cited assistants’ pay as one of the key reasons he left his successful program at Wisconsin to take the Razorbacks’ job.

Bielema related a story on the day he was introduced as Arkansas’ coach about three assistants approaching him the day after Wisconsin’s 70-31 victory over Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game to say they had been contacted by other schools.

“They were talking money that I can’t bring them at Wisconsin,” Bielema said. “Wisconsin isn’t wired to do that at this point. I just felt for me and for my future and my life and what I want to accomplish in the world of college football, I needed to have that ability to do that and thankfully I’ve found that here at Arkansas.”

The UA released the salaries Tuesday for Bielema’s final hires last week, veteran receivers coach Michael Smith and tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr., who is reentering the college game after spending the past eight years on his father’s staff at Bentonville High School.

Michael Smith has signed an offer letter for $275,000 per year, tying him with offensive line coach Sam Pittman for the third-highest salary among assistants who are not coordinators, behind assistant head coach Charlie Partridge ($350,000) and linebackers coach Randy Shannon ($315,000).

Both coordinators, Jim Chaney on offense and Chris Ash on defense, are making $550,000 for 2013.

Lunney has signed on for $200,000 per year, making him the lowest-paid of Bielema’s nine-man staff.

Both of the coaches agreed to a $50,000 buyout if they were to leave early, a clause that came into play when Syracuse University hired receivers coach George McDonald from Bielema’s staff last week to be its offensive coordinator. The Orange will pay Arkansas $50,000.

Bielema has said on numerous occasions that salary issues cost him coaching talent during his seven-year run as head coach at Wisconsin. Now that shouldn’t be as much of an issue.

Long said he thought Arkansas’ five-year fundraising efforts were influential in landing Bielema and a quality staff.

“Financial resources were key to this recruiting effort,” Long said after hiring Bielema. “We knew it would be key to attracting an assistant coach group as well. So resources are obviously very important, because you heard Coach Bielema talk about some of the things he wasn’t able to do at Wisconsin, and so this provided him an opportunity to do that. So we’re excited to be able to do that.”

The nine-man assistant coaching staff ’s combined yearly salary of $3 million represents a 15.2 percent increase over the aggregate $2.604 million paid to the assistants under John L. Smith in 2012. That group also combined to make a little more than $719,000 in incentive pay based on increased workloads after Bobby Petrino’s firing in April, pushing their total pay past $3.3 million.

Other positions on the football staff are seeing increased salaries in 2013 as well, led by strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert’s $300,000 salary, an increase of nearly 50 percent from the $200,450 made in that position by Jason Veltkamp last year.

New high school relations director Bobby Allen will be making $150,000 per year beginning July 1, an increase of 47 percent from the $102,000 made by Jason Shumaker in that position last year. Allen will be paid through June based on his 2012 salary of $235,000 as per his agreement made last summer.

Additionally, director of football operations Mark Taurisani ($150,000) will be making substantially more than Mark Robinson ($103,800) did in that post last season, and on-campus recruiting director Chris Hauser ($80,000) is making more than Nick Holt ($55,735) did in 2012.

Sports, Pages 17 on 01/23/2013