ATHENS — It’s common knowledge that Georgia had to buy out Mark Richt’s contract for $4 million when he was fired as its football coach this past November. But the bucks didn’t stop there.
As the Bulldogs flip the page to 2016, they still have an additional six coaches with whom to make good before they can close their books on the previous coaching staff. Due to salary “offsets” created by former assistant coaches taking jobs for lesser pay, UGA still owes more than $2.2 million to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, tight ends coach John Lilly, offensive line coach Rob Sale and strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke, according to information obtained from UGA in compliance with an open records request from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
UGA’s employment agreements with assistant coaches call for them to be paid through June 30 of the current year unless they have a multiyear agreement. Georgia then agrees to make up the difference if the coaches’ new jobs pay less. However, if they are unable to find employment “despite good faith, diligent efforts,” UGA will pay the coaches through the end of the calendar year.
Both Schottenheimer, who has since taken a job with the Indianapolis Colts, and Pruitt, who is now defensive coordinator at Alabama, had two years remaining on their three-year contracts. So their monies will be paid over the remaining term, according to Andy Platt, the athletic association’s chief financial officer. That’s $1.2 million (or $600,000 a year) for Schottenheimer, and $600,000 total for Pruitt, records show.
Salary figures have not yet been publicized by these coaches’ new employers — and all of them haven’t gotten jobs yet. But based on the list of offsets that UGA is contractually obligated to pay, Schottenheimer is due to make $350,000 a year as the Colts’ quarterbacks coach. He was making $950,000 annually as the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator.
Likewise, it appears Pruitt is scheduled to make $1 million a year as Alabama’s new defensive coordinator. He succeeds Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, who made $1.5 million last year in the same role for the Crimson Tide. Pruitt made $1.3 million as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator last season.
Information released by UGA Wednesday indicates it still owes Sale, who took the offensive line job at Louisiana-Monroe $112,500. Ekeler, who is now defensive coordinator at North Texas, is owed $42,000. Lilly ($162,500) and Hocke ($105,000) are also owed money but that will be prorated if and when they secure employment elsewhere.
Ekeler, Sale and Schottenheimer were not offered the opportunity to remain at Georgia. Records show they received termination letters from Athletic Director Greg McGarity in mid-December. Pruitt also signed a general release on Dec. 11.
Of course, the biggest expense for Georgia’s changeover in leadership is Richt’s buyout. The Bulldogs still owe their 15-year head coach $4 million. They would have had to pay him $16 million had he stuck around since he still had four years remaining on his contract. But UGA negotiated a 25 percent buyout clause in Richt’s last extension, which came at the end of the 2014 season.
There are many other residual expenses to changing football coaches. By mid-January, Georgia already had spent more than $40,000 in construction and maintenance costs incurred with converting its football offices for the new coaching staff. That includes $26,660 renovation of the offensive coaches’ meeting room, according to expense invoices.
McGarity declined comment for this story pending discussion with the UGA Athletic Association’s Board of Directors at its quarterly meeting next week.