After dispatching longtime University of Tennessee athletics department veteran administrator Carmen Tegano, as well as new hire Blair DeBoard, chief of staff to new athletics director John Currie, to Hoover, Ala., during the SEC Baseball Tournament, UT this week is conducting serious interviews for its baseball vacancy, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the Vols’ process.
So who’s on Tennessee’s list? Sounds like South Carolina’s Chad Holbrook is Currie & Co.’s top choice, if the Gamecocks decide to go in a different direction. Holbrook may be meeting this week with USC A.D. (and former CWS-winning head coach) Ray Tanner about the future direction of the program. Holbrook’s next win would be career win No. 200, and he’s 14 games above .500 (81-67) in SEC play, despite losing records in two of the past three league seasons. Holbrook had an annual salary of $400,000 just a couple years ago, well below what Tennessee had been paying the fired Dave Serrano.
Additional candidates per sources are said to be Southeastern Louisiana’s Matt Riser, South Alabama’s Mark Calvi, who has SEC experience; Michigan State’s Jake Boss Jr., Maryland’s John Szefc and West Virginia’s Randy Mazey, a former Vols’ assistant who played at Clemson and has set records with the Mountaineers. Also expected to interview are a pair of candidates with strong MLB ties: former Vols All-American Chris Burke is scheduled to interview this week, between calling games in the NCAA Regionals, and Ash Lawson, a special assignment scout for the New York Mets and former UT assistant coach who signed Mookie Betts to the Vols, as well as took Tennessee-Wesleyan deep into postseason play as its coach, also has been tabbed for an interview, per sources.
SPEAKING OF MONEY
Larry Scott has never been a full-time offensive coordinator, but UT finally released Scott’s salary figures last week, which reflect a two-year term worth $655,000. Tennessee’s Ryan Robinson had said the figures would be released in spring ball, as Scott signed the contract on in early-February and new Chancellor Beverly Davenport inked her stamp of approval at that month’s end, but instead UT chose not to disclose those figures until last week.
And speaking of figures, though not on contract, Steve Stripling is earning an annual salary of $150,000 for his role as Director of Football Program Development, a role created specifically to keep the incomparably respected Stripling, who’s an invaluable tool for Butch Jones — more so with Mike DeBord gone — around the program.
Speaking of DeBord, despite fans’ frustrations, DeBord turned in two of the most high-powered, high-scoring offenses in Tennessee Vols’ football history. In fact, in 26 games as UT’s offensive coordinator DeBord’s unit scored 930 points — a whopping 36-point-per-game average.
It will be interesting to see how DeBord fares at Indiana, which this year opens with powerhouse Ohio State in Bloomington. Folks at Indiana, which poached a number of UT assistants and personnel in the offseason, have relished the new “family-friendly” atmosphere and opportunities in front of them.
Likewise, it will be interesting to see how Scott fares here on Rocky Top. All indications, and I certainly believe so, are that Scott is primed for the role of running UT’s offense. While he won’t make wholesale changes, Scott will put his stamp on the offense.
One more item to ponder: in his two years atop the offense, DeBord earned salaries of $505,000 and $580,000. Regardless of performance, Scott will make a guaranteed salary of at least $225k more than DeBord.
But that’s part of Jones’ wish to get the Vols’ assistant coaches’ salaries more competitive and Dave Hart’s commitment to UT, Jones and the football program even after being shoved out the door.
Tennessee has a record salary outlay for the coming season, with Jones set to make near $4.5 million, plus Bob Shoop over $1 million. Scott is at $655 while Robert Gillespie’s new deal pays him $515k for each of the next two years. New addition Brady Hoke is making $500k per year, Mike Canales is making $300k/year, as is promoted OL coach Walt Wells. Newcomer Kevin Beard is making $280k to coach wide receivers, replacing Zach Azzanni after Azzanni got a huge boost to his career with a spot in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, and defensive backs coach Charlton Warren, expected by every college coach with whom I spoke this offseason to be a future defensive coordinator, is set to make $455,000 — a number UT released incorrectly upon first disclosure of Warren’s contract because it did not include his camp compensation.
New Director of Football Strength and Conditioning Rock Gullickson is set to make $375k/season for his two-year deal. Gullickson also was able to add John Krasinski at an annual salary of $70,000. Krasinski is not under contract.
Finally, UT vastly upgraded its investment into its analysts, graduate assistants and quality control staffers. Tennessee will dole out $350,000 in salary for its eight staffers classified as either analyst or quality control. Kort Shankweiler, a strong addition to the UT staff with an outstanding resume, has the top salary among the grouping with a figure identical to that of Krasinski.
I’ve heard in recent weeks from a number of donors and long-time season ticket holders who are livid with the Vols’ modifications to parking passes for the coming football season, especially long-time holders and donors with upper-level Tennessee Fund (VASF) rankings.
Two separate donors informed me that status for folks who typically had ranked inside UT’s top 1,200 list now had been co-mingled with folks up to rankings around 5,000 and also shifted around G10.
Multiple people also informed me that UT is allowing folks to make instant donations after learning of their parking situation in order to immediately gain better parking, therefore potentially bypassing people with years, in some instances decades, of contributions.
HUGE BOOST FOR UT MEDIA RELATIONS
The return of Zach Stipe to Big Orange Country is an absolute boon for the Vols’ media relations/sports information department. Not only does Stipe already understand a very unique, and at times frustrated and hostile market, but he’s been dealing with a program that’s won actual championships — ACC and BCS variety at Florida State. No one has ever said top-level football coaches are always easy to work with, but Stipe’s reputation is one of national acclaim. He’s a great hire for UT.
Similarly, Tennessee is expected to imminently name Tom Satkowiak as its Director of Sports Communication or some variation thereof, the senior-most spot and the instant boost to UT’s sports media department for that vacancy.
Satkowiak, as I’ve previously written, worked his way up from student-worker to baseball S.I.D. and then hoops S.I.D.
His devotion to UT is matched only by his devotion to his family and faith; he’s a huge promotion-in-the-making for UT athletics.