New Jacksonville State football coach Bill Clark is getting a modest raise from what the university paid former coach Jack Crowe, plus a series of incentives -- and one important potential golden parachute -- that were not included in the contract of his predecessor.
Clark signed a four-year contract Dec. 27 that will pay him a base salary of $175,000, making him the third-highest paid head football coach in the Ohio Valley Conference. It is a $13,000 bump from the base of the last contract Crowe signed in 2011 and was released from with two years remaining Nov. 30.
"When you look at numbers it's not going to be ... maybe what some guys are making as assistant coaches at Alabama and Auburn, but I feel really good about it," Clark said. "It's fair. There's a commitment there, and that's what anybody wants to see -- are you committed to me like I'm committed to you, the stability.
"Here's a coach with a four-year contract. ... I feel good about it from what I've seen. It's more than they've done in the past; that's good."
Clark, an Anniston native and JSU graduate, was formally introduced as the Gamecocks' head coach Dec. 19 -- the day the university closed for Christmas break -- after the speediest coaching search in school history. He succeeds Crowe, who became the program's second winningest coach (87-57) during the second-longest coaching tenure in its history (13 years).
His base salary may not be as lucrative as some other coaches in his league, but there are incentives in the contract that at their ultimate could net him another $67,500 per year.
On the field, he can earn bonuses of $5,000 for winning or sharing the regular-season title in whatever conference JSU competes during the term of the contract, anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000 for postseason success, and $5,000 (conference), $7,500 (regional) and $10,000 (national) for various Coach of the Year honors.
Off the field, there are bonuses of between $2,500 and $7,500 for multi-year academic progress rate (APR) scores above 940, $2,500 for each semester with a team grade point average of 3.0 or higher, and $2,500 for any year the team is recognized as its conference’s top academic award winner.
The only incentives in Crowe's final contract were a $10,000 bonus for winning or sharing the OVC regular-season title and a $25,000 bonus for winning the national championship.
"It didn't really take a lot of hammering from either side," Clark's agent, Dennis Cordell of Coaches Inc., said. "We were aware of the current financial situation. We wanted to make sure as long as Bill does everything he can to win games. ... he's going to have a chance to really get things going. They want to win a national championship.
"The length of the contract was important and we're happy with that. The salary's not the highest at the FCS level, but there are quite a few incentives in there. I'm always good with these type of things because I believe in my guys. I definitely believe in Bill and he has a chance for success. ... They've done everything they can to set Bill up for success."
Probably the biggest difference in the Clark and Crowe contracts, outside of the size — 15 pages for Clark to Crowe's nine — is a provision that gives Clark the right to negotiate a severance settlement in the event he’s let go without cause with time left on the contract.
Crowe’s deal called for him to be reassigned within the university at the same rate of pay -- just as Clark's does -- or walk away with nothing. It remains uncertain which option Crowe will be choosing.
"Let's say we are protected like most coaches are protected," Clark said.
The university also took steps to protect itself. When new inside linebackers coach Chuck Dunn, a longtime Clark associate, talked about joining the JSU coaching staff, he said he wouldn't be surprised in the future if the "big dogs" of college football came calling for Clark because of his record for success.
The Gamecocks have had five other coaches with tenures of seven years or longer. Their immediate successors lasted an average of 2.3 years, and none lasted longer than four years.
If another program pursues Clark, and he accepts, there's a hefty buyout. If Clark terminates the contract during its first year, it will cost him $500,000. The buyout becomes $400,000 during 2014 and $300,000 in either of the final two years of the deal. He would not be subject to the buyout only if he didn't take another job in athletics or its promotion during the term of the contract, but he can resign without penalty only between the end of the season and Feb. 1.
"It's a nice contract, a good contract; it's a fair contract," JSU athletics director Warren Koegel said. "Bill Clark and I are happy to be working together. He trusts me, I trust him; that's always good. When I met with him (Wednesday when the university reopened), he was excited to be here."
Not included in the head coach's contract, but very much tied to the committment he was seeking, is the salary pool for his assistants. Clark and Koegel both have said that funding has increased, but provided no specifics. The university paid out more than $430,000 in assistants' salaries in fiscal 2012. This contract gives Clark the authority to supplement those salaries he allocates through his summer camps and funds available from the JSU Foundation.
"It wasn't a ton, but it was a bump; anything that shows an improvement is what you're looking for," Clark said. "I-AA (FCS) football is not Division I (FBS) football; it doesn't have that kind of money. We just want to be comparable. We want to compare with the top teams in the country, not just the guys next door to you."
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.