Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Chad Morris finalizes employment contract with Arkansas
Chad Morris, Arkansas head coach, leads drills Thursday, March 1, 2018, during Arkansas spring football practice at the Fred W. Smith Football Center in Fayetteville.
The contract for Arkansas head football coach Chad Morris was finalized this week.
Morris, who was hired as the Razorbacks' coach last December, signed the contract last week, Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek said Saturday.
The principal terms of the 34-page contract, including addendum, are unchanged from the offer letter Morris signed in December. His annual salary will be $3.5 million from university and private funds, and his contract runs through Dec. 31, 2023.
Annual Salaries of New SEC Head Coaches in 2018
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M - $7.5 million
Dan Mullen, Florida - $6 million
Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee - $3.525 million
Chad Morris, Arkansas - $3.5 million
Matt Luke, Ole Miss - $3 million
Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State - $2.6 million
Salaries are based on reported figures and do not reflect available bonuses
Morris will be eligible for up to $1 million in competition-based bonuses and $200,000 in academic-based bonuses each year, and is eligible for three retention payments of $500,000 apiece, contingent that no "significant" NCAA violations have occurred and the program is not on NCAA probation at the time the payments are due in February of 2019, 2021 and 2023.
Yurachek said he signed the contract last Friday and it was executed with the signatures of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville chancellor Joseph Steinmetz and UA system president Donald Bobbitt this week.
Dates of the signatures were not listed on the contract, but a UA spokesperson said the contract was executed within the past 48 hours.
If Morris is fired for convenience on or before Dec. 31, 2022, he will be eligible to receive 70 percent of his $3.5 million annual salary for the duration of his contract. If he is fired on or after Jan. 1, 2023, he will be eligible to receive 100 percent of his remaining salary.
For example, if Morris is fired on Jan. 1, 2020, he would be owed a total of $9.8 million, or 70 percent of the $14 million value of the final four years of his contract. Those payments would be made monthly through the expiration of his contract in December 2023.
The buyout terms in Morris' contract are stated plainly and do not include any mathematical equations that were listed in the contract of his predecessor, Bret Bielema, who was fired last November. Morris' contract is also significantly shorter than Bielema's 70-page contract, including addendum, that was signed in August 2013. Bielema also signed a five-page extension offer in 2015.
Morris' contract lists 21 offenses that would prompt the university to fire him with cause. The offenses range from detrimental conduct to knowingly committing NCAA or Southeastern Conference violations, to not reporting known sexual assault or sexual harassment offenses by athletes or football employees to the university Title IX office. Other fireable offenses include betting on college or professional sports, arrests or convictions for crimes related to anything other than minor traffic violations, and the sale or possession of illegal drugs and narcotics.
The UA paid Morris' previous employer, Southern Methodist University, $2 million to hire him, according to the contract.
Morris, who graduated from Texas A&M University, does not have a no-compete clause in his contract that would prohibit from accepting another job within the SEC. Morris' predecessors, Bielema and Bobby Petrino, had such clauses, but both of those contracts were negotiated by former athletics director Jeff Long, who was fired three weeks prior to Morris being hired at Arkansas.
The no-compete clauses also were standard in the contracts of Bielema's assistant coaches, but are not present in the contracts for Morris assistants.
According to his contract, Morris would owe the UA $3 million if he accepts another job prior to Dec. 31, 2019; $2.5 million if he accepts another job in 2020; $2 million in 2021; $1.5 million in 2022; and would not owe the Razorbacks any money if he leaves for another job during the final year of his contract.
The contract stipulates Morris is eligible for two loaner vehicles, membership to The Blessings Golf Club and Fayetteville Country Club, and 32 complimentary game tickets to each home football game, including 12 in a sky box at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville and War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
The UA was responsible for up to $25,000 in moving expenses for Morris and for up to three months of complimentary housing, according to the contract. Morris purchased a home in Fayetteville in May, according to property records.
Morris is one of six new full-time coaches at SEC schools this year (Ole Miss removed the interim tag from head coach Matt Luke following the 2017 season). At least two coaches, Morris and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, took more than six months to have finalized contracts.
"You look at these contracts and they have become so cumbersome to protect both sides," Yurachek said. "I mean the language in these is very extensive.
"Both sides are going back and forth trying to protect the institution, trying to protect the coach. I think that's why these contracts now are taking so long, because there is so much at stake on both sides of the fence that there is a lot of negotiation back and forth, really on simple language, not necessarily the basic terms."
Yurachek, who was hired one day prior to Morris last December, said he has yet to finalize his own contract. He signed a six-page offer letter on Dec. 4, 2017, that will pay him $850,000 per year through December 2022.
"We're pretty close," Yurachek said of his contract. "I've got an offer letter and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the contract. I've got a family friend in Charlotte who is my attorney, who has been working through my contract with the university's legal counsel.
"You've got two busy attorneys working at it. The major points of it are finalized."
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