Tennessee gives football, men's hoops coaches raises

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee signed football coach Phillip Fulmer and basketball coach Bruce Pearl to new deals Wednesday that will keep them with the Volunteers through 2014.

Fulmer's deal is worth an average of nearly $3 million over the next seven seasons, and the nearly $1 million raise makes him the fourth-highest paid coach in the Southeastern Conference.

He will get $2.4 million for the upcoming season and his salary escalates to $3.3 million in 2014 with automatic raises of $150,000 annually. Fulmer will also receive raises for achieving certain goals, such as an additional $350,000 for winning an SEC championship or an additional $850,000 raise for winning a national championship.

Fulmer would receive $1 million longevity bonus in December 2012, which would be his 20th anniversary as head coach.

"I am really proud of our university's commitment to myself and my staff and support group," he said. "I love my job, I love these kids and I love the University of Tennessee."

The pay increase keeps Fulmer, 57, in the middle of the Southeastern Conference coaching pack when it comes to salaries.

"It's an extremely competitive football league, and I am convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that in any given year ... we're capable of winning a national championship," Tennessee men's athletic director Mike Hamilton said.

Fulmer has a 147-45 record and is coming of an SEC Eastern Division title. His new contract includes several guaranteed raises and extensions based on his team's success.

An SEC Eastern Division title earns a $100,000 raise along with his annual $150,000 base pay increase. A BCS bowl appearance without winning the SEC would earn $150,000 more, an SEC title $350,000 more and a national championship $850,000. Those raises would not be combined in a single season; only the raise for the top achievement is given.

For every eight-win season, he'll receive an extra year on his contract.

Fulmer was on vacation and not immediately available for comment.

Hamilton indicated the built-in pay raises for reaching certain benchmarks might prevent the need to renegotiate Fulmer's contract every year as has become the expectation.

Fulmer's base salary is worth $375,000. The rest of his compensation comes from media commitments, equipment and apparel fees and product endorsements.

Should Fulmer remain at Tennessee through the end of 2012, he'll also be rewarded with a $1 million longevity bonus to celebrate his 20th anniversary as head coach.

Fulmer's staff of assistants also received raises totaling $250,000. Defensive coordinator John Chavis and new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson will each receive $340,000 -- a $40,000 boost over last year's coordinator salaries.

The athletic department increased football ticket prices for the upcoming season to help pay for both salary increases and the rising costs to do business in a tougher economy.

"The fans want championships, they expect championships and in essence they pay for it," Hamilton said.

Pearl was previously signed through 2013 and made $1.3 million last season. His new deal increases his salary to an average $2.3 million a year. It includes a $250,000 bonus and an upfront retention bonus of $1.5 million.

"We went to Bruce and talked about giving him some upfront money to incent him to feel even better about Tennessee than he already does," Hamilton said.

Should he chose to leave Tennessee in the next five years, Pearl would owe a buyout that starts at $2.5 million and decreases incrementally each season to $1 million.

Under Pearl, Tennessee experienced its best season with a 31-5 record, the first outright regular-season Southeastern Conference championship since 1967 and a second consecutive NCAA tournament regional semifinal appearance.

The Vols also achieved their first top ranking in The Associated Press basketball poll after toppling previously unbeaten Memphis.