KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee will pay outgoing athletic director Dave Hart $645,454 after his retirement begins at the end of June 2017.
According to an amended employment agreement between Hart and the university, obtained Sunday by the Times Free Press, Tennessee will pay Hart, in 12 equal monthly installments, 75 percent of the aggregate base salary he would have earned had he stayed until the end of his contract, which ran through September 2018.
Hart's total compensation package as Tennessee's athletic director is worth more than $800,000.
Tennessee is not precluded from hiring a new athletic director before Hart's retirement date, and if a replacement is tabbed Hart will be put on paid administrative leave until June 30, 2017. Should Hart decide voluntarily to cease active service as Tennessee's athletic director prior to his retirement date, he will forfeit all unaccrued compensation, payments and benefits.
Hart has the right to terminate the agreement and is free to pursue employment, including as an athletic director elsewhere, without owing Tennessee a separation payment.
"My focus is where I said it is, and that is on us, on Rocky Top, on the University of Tennessee and our athletes and coaches and fan base and donors," Hart said last week. "That time will come when I will decide what is next. I can't forecast the future — no human being can — but that moment, it will come. I want to enjoy this ride, because we've worked so hard to be where we are."
While on paid leave, the amendment states, Hart "agrees to fully cooperate in the transition of leadership and comply with reasonable requests" by the chancellor, the new athletic director or any athletic department executives to provide "information about matters Mr. Hart handled as Athletics Director."
As part of the amended agreement, Hart will refrain from making any public comments or publications "that could reasonably be construed as disparaging or negative" for the university. Senior administrators and media relations employees are asked to do the same regarding him and his employment.
Hart will not receive his sixth and seventh retention bonuses he was set to receive in the final two years of his contract after receiving $50,000 bonuses annually for each of his five years at Tennessee.
University chancellor Jimmy Cheek, interim treasurer and chief financial officer James Maples and Hart all signed the amended agreement Thursday, when Hart announced his retirement and cited the athletic department's progress under his watch as one of the reasons the time was right for him to step down.
"The things we wanted to get done and set in motion five years ago," he said, "a very high percentage of those are in place."
Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfree press.com.