This week, the University of Florida revealed the contracts for their coaching staff, including two that have Tennessee fans and some in the legal world raising suspicions that the Gator administration is trying to pull a fast one on the Vols.
Former Tennessee offensive coordinator Larry Scott and former secondary/special teams coordinator Charlton Warren were picked up by Dan Mullen for his new Gators regime. Since the two weren’t retained by new Vol head coach Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee owes the two buyouts for the rest of their contracts. At Tennessee, Scott was making $650,000 annually while Warren was making $450,000. A stipulation in Tennessee’s contracts with the coaches is that, once they’re bought-out, they make a good-faith effort to find a comparable job/salary, and Tennessee is required to pay the salary or the difference in the new and previous salary. There is specific language regarding the coaches taking a job that intentionally underpays to “avoid the reduction of liquidated damages owed by the University.”
This is where this situation gets dicey.
Florida seems to have almost certainly “back-end loaded” their contracts for the two ex-Vols coaches. Both Scott and Warren will each be paid $201,500 through the end of January 2019. Yes, that’s the day Tennessee’s obligation to pay them expires. The next day, their UF salaries more than double to over $400,000 for the 2019 season.
This is move is most certainly done by Florida to force Tennessee to cover the lion’s share of Scott and Warren’s salaries. And a sports attorney and professor at Marquette University believes UT should challenge those contracts.
Martin Greenberg, the aforementioned attorney, says the contracts are “an absolute attempt to income shift or back-end load” as reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Greenberg suggested that Tennessee could contest the new contracts, either by suggesting that they’re structured as a back-end deal with no attempt to mitigate in good-faith or that the new contracts are structured to avoid reduction of Tennessee’s buyout, which is a violation of the language that the coaches’ agreed to with the Vols.
“It probably is a good strategy for Tennessee to say, ‘Hey, this is bad faith. It’s a contractual breach of your affirmative obligation. We’re not paying you,'”Greenberg said.
Greenberg also praised Tennessee for their inclusion of the language to attempt to prevent such measures from happening. He called it an “excellent clause” and one he doesn’t see very often included in coaching contracts.
Tennessee currently owes former head coach Butch Jones and his entire coaching staff buyouts after none were retained after the 2017 season. On top of that, UT owes former Athletics Director John Currie a few million dollars in buyout money as well after he was relieved of his duties on December 1st of 2017.