After returning to a bowl game for the first time since the 2010 season, Tennessee has announced raises for Butch Jones’ eight returning assistants.
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and running backs coach Robert Gillespie earned the biggest bumps – $50,000 apiece – but both still rank on the low end of the staff at $350,000 a year. (Think about that statement for a moment.) Azzanni earned a promotion to passing game coordinator following the departure of offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the hiring of Mike DeBord as his replacement. Gillespie replaces Azzanni as the Vols’ recruiting coordinator. Both coaches also received a contract extension through the 2016 season.
Bajakian’s departure also means defensive coordinator John Jancek, he of a $40,000 raise, is now Tennessee’s highest-paid assistant at $515,000 a year, just outpacing DeBord’s $500,000 salary.
“Coach Gillespie is doing a tremendous job with the recruiting aspect of things and the overall organization and really the focus and the details that’s required day to day,” Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Coach Azzanni’s done a great job with the passing game. He’s worked hand in hand with Coach DeBord.
Defensive line coach Steve Stripling follows at $405,000 a year, then linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen ($400,000), defensive backs coach Willie Martinez ($375,000), offensive line coach Don Mahoney ($360,000) and then special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Mark Elder at $240,000 a year.
All told, Jones’ assistants will earn $3.495 million before incentives in 2015. Jones also received a $650,000 raise up from the reported $2.96 million he made in 2014.
“I’m very grateful to our administration,” Jones added. “They’ve been very, very supportive, not only of myself, but our entire coaching staff. It was great to be able to reward them, and we still have a long ways to go. They all understand that, but we’re very fortunate to have a very good coaching staff. I know they have great relationships with our community and with our players, so I’m very thankful to our administration for showing the support like they have.”