Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte speaks with head coach Tom Herman before a Big 12 Conference football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Football

Texas reverses course, stops giving football assistants guaranteed multi-year deals

Longhorns going back to old-school business tactics by giving football staffers one-year assignment letters

Posted February 22nd, 2019

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Story highlights
  • Asked whether he would keep the football staff intact for 2019, Herman said, “Yeah, I hope so.”
  • Former AD Steve Patterson changed all of UT's business tactics for Charlie Strong.
  • Longhorns had to pay out $7.26 million in football severance money in 2017-18.

One of Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte’s goals is to streamline UT’s balance sheet and clean up what he believes are perceived mistakes by his predecessors.

In that vein, Texas is no longer actively giving out guaranteed multi-year contracts.

It’s not a new policy and it’s not a dealbreaker. If football coach Tom Herman wanted to hire the right person who requested a multi-year deal, that would be approved. Call it a course correction, according to one person familiar with Del Conte’s thinking.

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Orangebloods first reported this week that seven members of Herman’s staff recently received one-year contract renewals after their initial multi-year deals expired.

Asked in January whether he would keep the football staff intact for the 2019 season, Herman said, “Yeah, I hope so. Unless they don’t want to sign it.”

Oscar Giles, defensive line coach, was one of seven assistant coaches who had their contracts renewed for the 2019 season. AMANDA VOISARD / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Historically, that’s how Texas did business for decades. Assistant coaches, like other athletics employees, received their one-year appointment letters and were thus “renewed” for the next academic year. The salaries ranged based on position, tenure and overall experience.

“We are absolutely ecstatic with the job coach Tom Herman and our coaching staff is doing for the University of Texas,” Del Conte told the American-Statesman on Friday. “This appointment letter is just a continuation of that effort.”

Former athletic director Steve Patterson changed all that. In 2014, he gave then-coach Charlie Strong and his nine assistants guaranteed multi-year contracts. It was a first in UT history for assistants to get multiple years and unheard of that they’d all be guaranteed. Longtime athletic director DeLoss Dodds never gave blanket multi-year contracts to assistant coaches. He was never given that authority.

At UT, all multi-year contracts or anything worth more than $1 million annually must be approved by the UT System Board of Regents.

Del Conte’s own deal is a good example. UT President Gregory L. Fenves wants to give him a $200,000 raise for a job well done, bringing his annual salary up to about $1.5 million. Even that must be approved at next week’s regents meeting.

But Patterson changed everything for Strong.

“I just hope my football team can come out and play a game like this right here,” Strong said at a men’s basketball game in February 2014 where he introduced the staff to the crowd. “I know with the best coaching staff in college football, that will happen.”

It didn’t. Strong had a whirlwind of assistant coaching changes, leaving UT on the hook for all the guaranteed money that piled up in the process. Each new assistant also got a guaranteed multi-year deal.

When Strong was fired after the 2016 season, the staff alone was projected to cost $4.5 million in 2017. Patterson was also gone by that point, but his replacement Mike Perrin ran business in a similar fashion in giving out guaranteed multi-year deals.

Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando calls timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock before the final West Virginia play in the second half of a Big 12 Conference football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Audited figures show that Texas football had to pay out $7.26 million in severance payments to various former football employees during the 2017-18 athletic year.

Herman’s agent, Trace Armstrong, saw what Strong got and asked for something better, as would be expected. Herman received a five-year guaranteed contract with at least $25 million in guaranteed money, which was somewhat expected as he was the new head coach in 2017.

Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando got a three-year guaranteed deal worth $1.09 million annually, the highest contract ever given to a UT assistant coach. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck received a three-year deal in his first season worth $790,000 annually. But everyone else received two-year deals.

After all, these were similar to deals to what former defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert had under Strong.

Herman filled out his staff with coaches who got two-year deals. Knowing how staff turnover helped fuel Strong’s ouster, Herman has been cognizant to keep the staff intact no matter the cost. Orlando got a pay bump after the 2017 season when it appeared other schools wanted to pry him away. Del Conte has said numerous times that “I won’t lose somebody over money.”

Stan Drayton (running backs), Corby Meekins (receivers), Drew Mehringer (receivers), Derek Warehime (tight ends, special teams), Oscar Giles (defensive line), Jason Washington (corners), Craig Naivar (safeties) were all part of the group that helped Texas reach the Big 12 championship game and win the Sugar Bowl. They were all given the standard one-year assignment renewal for 2019.

Offensive line coach Herb Hand joined the staff prior to the 2018 season when the NCAA allowed for an 10th assistant coach. His three-year deal will come up for renewal after the 2020 season.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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