John Chavis exercises 2-year contract extension

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis watches during a game against Missouri on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Columbia, Mo.
( Ben Goff)
Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis watches during a game against Missouri on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Columbia, Mo.

— Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis has exercised a voluntary two-year employment extension that will keep him under contract with the Razorbacks through the 2020 season.

Chavis, 62, was under contract through February 2019 and had the option to extend his employment by two seasons if he requested it in writing prior to Dec. 1.

On Nov. 21, Chavis wrote to Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek, stating his intent to remain on head coach Chad Morris' staff, according to a letter obtained by WholeHogSports through an open records request. Morris was copied on the letter.

"I look forward to continuing my work with the University of Arkansas football program," Chavis wrote.

According to a contract that Chavis signed in January, his salary will increase from $995,000 annually to $1.5 million beginning March 1, 2019.

Chavis will receive another pay raise to $1.6 million on March 1, 2020. He is the first Arkansas assistant in any sport to make more than $1 million per year.

Chavis will be paid the line-item maximum of $400,000 through university funds. The remainder of his salary will be paid through revenue produced from Arkansas' multimedia and apparel contracts.

If Chavis is fired for convenience prior to the end of his contract on Feb. 28, 2021, he will be owed a severance pay equal to 70 percent of his salary through the end of the employment term. If Chavis leaves Arkansas for another job he would owe the university 70 percent of his remaining salary, but that fee would be waived if the new position is a head coaching job or a full-time job in the NFL.

Chavis' salary this year was subsidized by money owed to him by his former employer, Texas A&M, according to reports. Chavis made $1.608 million in 2017 at Texas A&M, which made him the third-highest paid assistant coach in college football at the time.

It is unclear where Chavis' updated salary ranks, but it is believed to be top 10 among all college assistants. At least three defensive coordinators - LSU's Dave Aranda, Auburn's Kevin Steele and Clemson's Brent Venables - are in line to make more than $2 million this year, according to USA Today.

Chavis' first defense at Arkansas was a slight improvement over then-defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads' unit the year before. The Razorbacks allowed 34.8 points this season, down from 36.2 points, and 413.2 yards per game, 35 yards per game fewer than in 2017.

Arkansas' rush defense improved significantly over the year before, allowing 4.2 yards per rush, down from 5.0 the year before.

The pass defense was about the same, slightly better or slightly worse depending on which statistic is used as a measuring stick. Arkansas allowed 8.4 yards per attempt as opposed to 8.5 in 2017, but the total passing yards increased by 3.1 yards per game to 245.3.

Arkansas also saw improvements in third-down defense (38.3 percent) and sacks (26), but forced one less turnover (16) than in 2017.

Although Arkansas improved in some areas, it struggled to keep Southeastern Conference teams from putting up several points. The defense was put in several short-field situations because of an SEC-worst 26 turnovers that opposing teams turned into 96 points. Opposing teams scored at least 34 points against the Razorbacks eight times.

Arkansas' defensive highlight was holding Auburn to 225 yards of total offense in September and shutting out Tulsa in October. But the Razorbacks also had two of the program's 10-worst performances in terms of yards allowed when Alabama gained 639 yards and Ole Miss gained 611 yards in consecutive weeks in October.

Mississippi State and Missouri combined to score 90 points against Arkansas in the final two games, both blowout losses for the Razorbacks.

"It bothers you when you don't get your best," Chavis said Nov. 19, two days following the 52-6 loss at Mississippi State. "That has to do with me and that has to do with preparation and has to do with everybody around. If you can go home and go to sleep then something is wrong.

"I'm not suggesting you have to kill yourself or anything like that, but you don't feel good."

Chavis' decision to remain at Arkansas is not surprising. In recent weeks he has spoken at length about the Razorbacks' future and his role in it.

"Really, I can't wait to when we get this thing where we pack that stadium," he said Nov. 12, two days following a 24-17 home loss to LSU. "I've been here when it has been packed on the other sideline. Certainly we've got to get this program back to that."

Discussing recruiting during the same news conference, Chavis said he was "Arkansas through and through. I'm excited about what we can do and excited about the direction we're going."

Chavis has been a defensive coordinator in the SEC each season since 1995 when he was promoted from a defensive position coach at Tennessee. In 2011 he was the winner of the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's most outstanding assistant coach while defensive coordinator at LSU, and he spent three seasons at Texas A&M prior to accepting the Arkansas job.


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