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Tennessee football assistants were the athletic department's only staffers who didn't take pay cuts

Nick Bromberg
·2-min read

Most of the Tennessee athletic department took pay cuts. Most of the Tennessee football staff did not.

According to data obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel, eight Tennessee assistant coaches refused to accept coronavirus pandemic-induced pay cuts to help the university cut athletic department costs. The coaches had a choice regarding the pay cuts because contract employees are not subject to mandatory pay cuts like at-will employees.

Just two coaches — wide receivers coach and former UT QB Tee Martin and running backs coach Jay Graham — said they would take the voluntary pay cuts. Others, including offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, declined to save the athletic department some cash.

Here’s the list of the eight staffers who didn’t take pay cuts from the News Sentinel. Chaney is making $1.6 million this year.

Declining pay cuts were:

  • Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney

  • Defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley

  • Offensive line coach Will Friend

  • Quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke

  • Inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer

  • Outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton

  • Tight ends coach Joe Osovet

  • Strength and conditioning coach A.J. Artis

Tennessee’s athletic department expects a $40 million loss in revenue during this fiscal year, largely because of a pandemic-induced reduction in football revenue.

Additionally, Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt was the only head coach at the school who wasn’t asked to take a pay cut. Pruitt’s extension kept his 2020 salary at the same level as his 2019 salary of approximately $3.8 million.

Coaches’ choices cost the university $300,000

According to the report, the university was expecting to save approximately $1.6 million via salary reductions. Instead, that figure is approximately $1.3 million because of the football coaches’ refusal to take pay cuts.

In case you were wondering, $300,000 divided by eight is $37,500. While tens of thousands of dollars is obviously no small sum, the coaches who declined pay cuts have salaries in the hundreds of thousands. Or, in Chaney’s case, a salary that’s easily seven figures.

Tennessee is not the only school that has had coaches decline to take pay cuts, though the sheer number of coaches who refused — and the fact that no one else said no — is staggering.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy initially refused to take a pay cut when the pandemic began. But Gundy’s salary ended up being reduced “voluntarily” after an investigation into the team’s culture over the summer.

And at schools like Texas, the pay cuts coaches have taken will eventually be reimbursed.

The news of the Tennessee assistants’ refusal to take pay cuts comes as the Volunteers are on a four-game losing streak. Tennesee was 2-0 to start the season but is now 2-4 after losses to Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama and Arkansas.

KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 30: Tennessee Volunteers Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney on the field before a college football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Vanderbilt Commodores on November 30, 2019, at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. (Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney didn't take a pay cut. (Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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