KNOXVILLE -- At least temporarily, financial priorities have drastically changed within the University of Tennessee athletic department.
The Volunteers' football coaching staff, typically one of the highest paid in the Southeastern Conference, will sit near the middle of the pack next season. First-year head coach Derek Dooley, at about $1.8 million, will make less money than UT men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl.
Salary figures for Dooley and his staff were released Tuesday by the university, though none of their official memorandums of understanding have been approved, according to athletic department spokesperson Tiffany Carpenter. Some memorandums have been signed but still await formal approval, while others have not been signed.
Official contracts will be finalized after the temporary memorandums are approved, Carpenter said.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who came to UT from Boise State, will be the Vols' highest-paid assistant next season. He agreed to a three-year contract starting at $600,000 annually.
Assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and linebackers coach Lance Thompson also have agreed to three-year deals. Chaney's compensation will start at $425,000 annually, while Baggett's and Thompson's each will start at $375,000.
UT's five other assistant coaches, as well as new head football strength coach Bennie Wylie, agreed to two-year deals. Wylie and defensive line coach Chuck Smith are scheduled to make $225,000 next season. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and tight ends and special teams coach Eric Russell are lined up to make $200,000. Defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator Terry Joseph is scheduled to make $175,000, while quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw is scheduled to make $150,000.
Carpenter didn't mention specific buyout figures being discussed in the coaches' contract negotiations, but athletic director Mike Hamilton has said several times that he and Dooley have a "clear understanding" on the matter.
Dooley, who hasn't spoken with local media since national signing day three weeks ago, was not available for comment Tuesday.
Hamilton was quoted in Tuesday's release.
"In the few short weeks working with Coach Dooley, it is evident that he is going to do a tremendous job as coach at the University of Tennessee," Hamilton's statement said. "A great deal of that anticipated success is due to the first-class staff he has assembled to assist him. I look forward to watching them work in the months and years ahead."
Former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's $300,000 retention bonus on Dec. 31 -- which he received just before bolting with son Lane Kiffin to Southern California -- pushed UT's total football coaching salary figure to more than $5,625,000 last year. That figure ranked fourth in the 12-team SEC, according to figures compiled by the Times Free Press and USA Today.
Including Wylie -- who, unlike his predecessors, will work exclusively with the football program -- the current UT staff will earn at least a combined $4.75 million next season. That $875,000 reduction (despite one extra position) would place the Vols seventh in the SEC, based on last season's salaries. Most of the league's schools are expected to pay more this season, so UT's ranking could dip even further.
Dooley said during last month's introductory news conference that his ideal coaching staff didn't necessarily mirror his predecessor's preferred path. Lane Kiffin often bragged -- and still brags, albeit on the West Coast -- about assembling the "best staff in the country."
"This whole 'putting together the best staff in the country' and all this ... well, every staff can't be a headliner to me to make a good staff," Dooley said the day he accepted UT's position. "A staff is a team, and each member of a staff brings strengths, and each member of a staff has things that maybe they don't do as well. It's no different than assembling a football team, and so what I'm more concerned with is who wants to be here? Who is going to believe in how we're going to run our organization, and how we're going to play offense, defense and special teams? What kind of team member are they going to be? How much are they going to believe in this institution?
"Hopefully, at the end of the day, we're going to have one heck of a team."
Other contacts for Wes Rucker are www.twitter.com/wesrucker and www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.