Jim Chaney

Jim Chaney meets with the media on March 29, 2019. 

Tennessee football did not play this past weekend, but there was a bit of news as pointed out in a report by Blake Toppmeyer of the Knoxville News Sentinel. Eight Tennessee assistant football coaches refused to accept a pay cut despite the rest of their Vols and Lady Vols counterparts agreeing to help the university in what is likely to be a very tough year financially.

The only Vols assistant coaches to accept a pay cut were wide receivers coach Tee Martin and running backs coach Jay Graham, who both went to Tennessee and have since returned to coach at their alma mater.

The eight individuals on this list include seven of the Vols’ nine assistant coaches, as well as new strength coach A.J. Artis. Coordinators Jim Chaney and Derrick Ansley, who rank 11th and 23rd in the nation for assistant coach salaries, are the most notable of the bunch. Others refusing a pay cut are offensive line coach Will Friend, quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke, inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer, outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton and tight ends coach Joe Osovet.

“Unfortunately,” Athletics Director Philip Fulmer told Knox News, “there were some contract employees who did not agree to a reduction for their own reasons. But I am especially appreciative of all our head coaches and staff members who are doing their part for the greater good of the department.”

According to the documents obtained by Knox News, the eight individuals were the only employees with the Volunteer athletic department who were both asked to and then declined to take a pay cut in the midst of a pandemic-based recession. This is expected to result in a $40 million dollar loss due to a lack of revenue from a variety of sources including football.

Tennessee Athletics has worked hard to avoid having to terminate staff, but it was decided that starting on Nov. 1 until June 30, there would be tiered pay cuts for Volunteer employers with an annual salary higher than $50,000.

The department can only force at-will employees to take such a reduction in salary without his or her consent. Contract employees, however, must agree to the reduction and sign amendments to agree to that lower salary.

The plan was projected to save the university roughly $1.6 million if everyone agreed but will now save about $1.3 million. The cuts include all head coaches, expect for Jeremy Pruitt who declined to accept a raise earlier in the year and as such was not asked to be take a cut. The head coaches also agreed to forgo any non-championship incentive compensation through next summer.

Included in the reductions is Fulmer, who originally was set to earn $900,000, and is taking the high percentage cut at 15% in addition to waiving any and all incentive compensation though this coming summer.

“I am very grateful,” Fulmer said to Knox News. “To all the athletic department employees and families that have taken a salary reduction and are showing support to our department during such a difficult time, they have helped prevent the need to eliminate positions as we continue to battle this pandemic and its medical and financial implications.”

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