UT Vols coach Butch Jones gets big raise, contract extension

photo Vols head coach Butch Jones raises his arms while walking off the field to celebrate his team's 24-17 win over the Commodores in Nashville.

SEC salariesTennessee announced on Monday that football coach Butch Jones would receive a $650,000 raise to bump his annual salary to $3.6 million, which would put the Vols' second-year coach only in the middle of the pack in the Southeastern Conference.• Nick Saban (Alabama): $6.9 million• Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M): $5 million• Les Miles (LSU): $4.3 million• Steve Spurrier (South Carolina): $4 million• Gus Malzahn (Auburn): $3.85 million• Butch Jones (Tennessee): $3.6 million• Jim McElwain (Florida): $3.5 million*• Mark Richt (Georgia): $3.2 million• Gary Pinkel (Missouri): $3.1 million• Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss): $3 million * * • Dan Mullen (Mississippi State): $3 million• Bret Bielema (Arkansas): $2.95 million• Mark Stoops (Kentucky): $2.7 million* * *NOTE: As a private university, Vanderbilt does not have to release salary information for employees, including coach Derek Mason.*Hired on Friday, former Colorado State coach McElwain's salary will average $3.5 million annually over six years.* * Freeze agreed to a contract extension with Ole Miss last week with a raise that reportedly will pay him $4.5 million.* * *Kentucky awarded Stoops a one-year extension and raise in October that will pay him $3.25 million next season.

KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee reaffirmed its belief in head football coach Butch Jones on Monday, and it did so in a big way.

Athletic director Dave Hart announced at a news conference Monday morning that Tennessee was handing Jones a two-year extension to his contract, which now will run through the 2020 season, in addition to a raise that bumps his annual salary up to $3.6 million.

"When you're rebuilding a program, you face a lot of challenges in an effort to change the culture," Hart said. "It takes a tireless effort from everybody in the organization in order to make that fruition. But clearly the most critical is always leadership, and we have the right man leading our football program at the University of Tennessee.

"Butch Jones has clearly re-energized our fan base. He is an outstanding ambassador for our university, which transcends his role as head football coach. He and his staff have recruited at a very, very high level, and in an effort to restock our talent base, you see that unfolding."

When he was hired from Cincinnati to replace Derek Dooley two years ago, Jones signed a six-year deal at $2.95 million a year before incentives.

Jones is 11-13 overall and 5-11 in the SEC in his two years in Knoxville, but the Volunteers are playing in the program's first bowl game since 2010 on Jan. 2. The Vols will play Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville after going 6-6 this season.

Tennessee signed a top-five recruiting class in February and now ranks in the top five of the national class rankings for the 2015 class.

Attendance at Neyland Stadium is up roughly 10,000 from where it was two seasons ago.

"There are special things going on here, and I hope everyone realizes that," Jones said. "We have concrete evidence surrounding those statements."

Hart said the details of Jones's new deal would be made available at a later date, and while part of the agreement includes an increase in the salary pool for Tennessee's coaches, Hart did not disclose the amount.

Tennessee kept its staff entirely intact from last season to this one, and each assistant coach's original two-year deal was rolled over through the 2016 season. Only linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who was named the Rivals.com national recruiter of the year, received a raise. A $25,000 increase bumped his salary to $370,000 per year.

For 2014, the combined salaries for the Vols' 10 assistant coaches totaled $3.35 million.

"Butch knows what that number is, and he's an important person that needs to know what the number is," Hart said. "He'll allocate it as he sees fit at the appropriate time. It keeps us in a very competitive position."

Jones saw his name linked to the University of Michigan job before it even came open, and one report last week after the Wolverines fired Brady Hoke suggested Michigan reached out to Tennessee for permission to speak with Jones.

"It was never a distraction," Jones said. "It's nice to be able to focus on preparing on our football team, developing our players and going out on the recruiting end. I think it's just closure to a lot of things, and now we're able to focus on the things that we need to focus on."

Hart said Michigan never reached out to him or Jones. He and Jones first spoke about revising his contract the Sunday after Tennessee's bowl-clinching win at Vanderbilt. The two, Hart said, reached a "handshake agreement" on Friday.

"It's always been my philosophy to reward people for performance and the job that they're doing, and not reward them because you think somebody else might come and get them," Hart said. "This is about that."

Jones is the third Southeastern Conference coach to receive a raise and extension this season. Kentucky gave one to second-year coach Mark Stoops in October, and Ole Miss announced one for Hugh Freeze last week. Florida hired Colorado State's Jim McElwain on Friday, and his initial deal will pay him $3.5 million on average over the course of its six years.

Asked what message the new agreement sent, Hart was straightforward.

"That Butch Jones is our coach," he said, "and will be our coach for a long time, and that we're appreciative that he is our coach."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.