College Football: Florida coach gets big raise
GAINESVILLE, Fla. ó Florida coach Urban Meyer has two national championships in the last three years and the same number of raises.
Meyer signed a six-year contract Monday worth $4 million annually, up from $3.25 million, after leading the Gators to the national title in January. The new deal makes Meyer the highest-paid coach in the Southeastern Conference ó at least for now.
Alabama’s Nick Saban, scheduled to make $3.9 million this season, is reportedly negotiating a contract extension. And LSU’s Les Miles has a clause in his contract that guarantees him $1,000 more than any coach in the league if he leads the Tigers to a national championship.
“Coach Meyer has certainly proven to be one of the top college football coaches in the country and should be compensated as such,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. “We are proud he is our coach and we appreciate all that he has done for the Gators.”
Foley said in June he planned to work on a new contract for Meyer and acknowledged the “sensitivity” of giving the coach a hefty raise during an economic downturn. The university recently announced $42 million in budget cuts and layoffs of nine faculty members and 49 staff employees.
But the state-funded school doesn’t pay Meyer’s salary. The University Athletic Association, a separate entity that funds the school’s athletic department, does.
Nonetheless, Meyer decided to give some of his money back to the school. Meyer, the co-chairman of the university’s Florida Opportunity Scholars Program, committed $1 million to the program over the duration of his contract. School president Bernie Machen created the program to provide financial assistance to first-generation, financially disadvantaged students working toward bachelor’s degrees.
“I continue to be very thankful and appreciative for everything the University of Florida and the athletic program has done for me and my family,” Meyer said in a statement. “Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley and the community make this a special place and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Meyer came to Florida following the 2004 season and has led the Gators to a 44-9 record in four seasons. Maybe most telling, he’s had Florida at its best in big games. The Gators are 11-1 against their three main rivals ó Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State ó and won both national championships games in convincing fashion (41-14 over Ohio State in 2007 and 24-14 over Oklahoma in January).
Meyer signed his previous contract, worth $3.25 million annually, in 2007 after Florida won its first national title in a decade. He also earned $375,000 in bonuses last season: $75,000 for winning the Southeastern Conference championship, $250,000 for winning the national title and $50,000 for a top-10 finish in The Associated Press poll.
“I believe that Urban Meyer is the best at what he does,” Machen said in a statement. “He demands excellence of his players on the field and in the classroom. Not only did the University of Florida win a national championship in January, but all 13 seniors earned degrees and the 2008 football team tied an SEC league record with 37 players named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. We’re proud he’s a Gator.”
Meyer could be in Gainesville a while, too.
Speaking at a charity golf tournament last month, Meyer said he was floored when he returned from vacation and heard about another story linking him to Notre Dame.
“I’m not going to Notre Dame. Ever,” said Meyer, who chose Florida over Notre Dame in 2004. “I’m going to be the coach at Florida for a long time, as long as they want me.”