For years the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's football coaches have been at or near the bottom of the Southern Conference in both wins and pay. The latter is no longer the case, and it's up to new coach Russ Huesman to change the former.
A memorandum of understanding - essentially a contract - was approved this week by UT system president John Petersen for Huesman to receive a base salary of $150,000 for six years. That is about $35,000 a year more than UTC paid Rodney Allison last year.
Athletic director Rick Hart said the salary puts Huesman in the middle of the pack in the SoCon. In addition, the pool of money for the assistant coaches' salaries was increased about $60,000 to $430,000.
Hart said Friday that none of the extra money came from state dollars, which are in short supply as budgets are being cut throughout the UT system. A significant portion of it, he said, came from private donations.
"We had some people step forward and make a commitment to the program before we hired (anyone)," Hart said. "It was early in the process and they were individuals who understood that regardless of who we hired, they just wanted to make sure that we could go out and get the best head coach, and that person could go out and hire a quality staff."
In addition to the base salary, Huesman, like Allison before him, will be paid $15,000 a year for his television/radio shows. There are also $5,000 bonuses available based on performance on the field, as well as the players' performances in the classroom.
Huesman will receive another $10,000 bonus if the average home attendance at Finley Stadium exceeds 10,000. The Mocs' largest crowd during their 1-11 season in 2008 was 8,240.
"That's kind of a reward to grow the program and be engaged in the community," Hart said.
Since he was hired on Dec. 21, Huesman has devoted all of his attention to hiring his staff and recruiting, which culminated Wednesday when 15 players signed letters of intent to play for the Mocs next season. Asked Thursday if he was satisfied with his contract, the 1983 UTC graduate said it hadn't crossed his mind since he accepted the job.
"To be honest with you, I haven't thought one minute about my contract," he said. "That was the furthest thing from my mind. They're stuck with me. ... They got me and I'm happy to be here."
Huesman will also receive a $12,000 moving allowance, but he doesn't know when that will be used. His family is still in Richmond, Va., and his wife, Amy, was in town this week looking at houses. Before they buy one in Chattanooga, however, he said they must sell their house in Richmond.
Huesman drove back to Richmond on Friday and will spend the weekend with his family.