Eight U. of Tennessee Football Staffers Reject Pay Cuts

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Eight University of Tennessee football staff members rejected pay cuts that were proposed by the athletic department to help combat financial losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to documents obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel via a public records request.

The eight staff members — including the offensive and defensive coordinators, five position coaches and the team's strength and conditioning coach — are the only athletic department employees who were asked to accept a pay cut and declined, records show. Wide receivers coach Tee Martin and running backs coach Jay Graham are the only football assistants who have accepted pay cuts. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt was not asked to take a pay cut since his contract extension did not include a pay increase for 2020.

Tennessee’s athletic department expects a $40 million loss in revenue during this fiscal year, largely because of a pandemic-induced reduction in football revenue.

The athletic department has avoided layoffs, but in October, it announced tiered pay cuts would go into effect from Nov. 1 through June 30 for employees earning more than $50,000 annually.

As reported by the News Sentinel, the salary reduction plan was designed to save the athletic department about $1.6 million. Because eight football staff members rejected a pay cut, the savings will come to about $1.3 million, according to figures provided by the athletic department. About $280,000 of that savings will come from at-will employees; about $600,000 will come from contract employees; and $400,000 is from Pruitt forgoing a raise for the 2020 contract year.

Salaries of at-will employees can be freely altered, but the salaries of Tennessee’s head coaches and football assistants are protected by their contracts, according to the News Sentinel. For Tennessee to decrease a contract employee’s pay, the employee must voluntarily accept a cut and sign a contract amendment agreeing to the reduction.

Other than Pruitt, every Tennessee head coach signed a contract amendment agreeing to a salary reduction from Nov. 1 through June 30, which is the end of the fiscal year.

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