ATLANTA — The cost of running a championship caliber program at Georgia could be going up with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney expected to finalize a lucrative offer to take the same role at Tennessee.
Sources say Chaney has negotiated a deal with the Vols worth between $4.5 and $5 million over three years — a significant raise from the contract he has had in place that paid him $950,000 annually ($2.85 million over three years) through June of 2021 at Georgia.
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“This move is about money for Jim,” a source close to the situation said late Tuesday night. “Jim’s nearing retirement and it’s a chance for him to make a significant amount more than Kirby (Smart) was willing to pay him to stay.”
Chaney’s extension following the 2017 season was not publicized, but a University of Georgia spokesman confirmed the contract’s expiration date.
Terms of Chaney’s UGA extension beyond salary data — including the buyout – have not been made public, but have been requested through the FOIA process.
Smart publicly supported Chaney throughout this season, even as the veteran offensive coordinator struggled to manage the Bulldogs’ quarterback situation with Jake Fromm and Justin Fields.
Chaney said before the Sugar Bowl he felt he “did right” where Fields was concerned, but Fields announced last week he was transferring to Ohio State after filing the NCAA paperwork.
Freshman tight end Luke Ford, who Chaney recruited, also transferred out of Georgia and back to Illinois following the Bulldogs’ 28-21 Sugar Bowl loss to Texas.
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Smart was under the impression as late as Monday that Chaney would be staying, and the Bulldogs offered Chaney a raise to maintain his post.
Tennessee’s offer, however, grew too rich for Smart to match without disrupting his offensive staff’s financial harmony.
Georgia’s offensive coaches make considerably more than the defensive assistants, already.
Recently promoted co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach James Coley is at $850,000 a year, and celebrated offensive line coach Sam Pittman is making $825,000 annually.
In addition to their coaching prowess, Coley and Pittman are two of the top recruiters in the nation, as evidence by Georgia’s wealth of talent on the offensive line, and the talented prospects on the roster from South Florida.
Running backs coach Dell McGee is at $550,000, and receivers coach Cortez Hankton completed his first year on the staff at $375,000.
Smart has already been considering his options for a new defensive coordinator after Mel Tucker left the staff for the Colorado head coaching position.
Tucker had received the type of raise Chaney was seeking — $600,000 — following the 2017 season and was up to $1.5 million a year with the Bulldogs.
Defensive line coach Tray Scott made $420,000 last season and linebackers coaches Glenn Schumann and Dan Lanning were each making $325,000. Special teams coach Scott Fountain makes $300,000 a year.
Coley is expected to be a leading candidate for the UGA offensive coordinator position.
Coley replaced Chaney as the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach this season, with Chaney assigned to coach tight ends, and he sat next to Chaney in the coaching booth during the games the season.
Chaney’s three-year tenure at Georgia is his longest at any job since he spent four years at Tennessee between 2009-2012.
The position under second-year Vols’ coach Jeremy Pruitt will be Chaney’s fourth post in the past seven years.
Chaney coached under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley as the Vols went 23-27 with him calling plays.
Georgia was 32-10 with Chaney as offensive coordinator the past three seasons, winning the SEC East Division each of the past two years.