Assistants Agree To Contracts Aimed At Keeping Razorback Staff Intact For 2012

by Chris Bahn  on Saturday, Jun. 2, 2012 10:00 pm  

Jeff Long pauses during comments at the podium on the night he fired Bobby Petrino. (Photo by Ryan Miller)

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Arkansas has put its commitment to the current football staff and 2012 season in writing.

All nine assistant coaches and key football support staff were offered — and have signed — employment agreements securing their positions through the end of the 2012 season, including postseason games.

Deals include “longevity” bonuses for coaching until the Razorbacks’ final game this season. Coaches can reach the incentive by coaching through the season and are eligible for severance or reassignment if dismissed before the postseason.

It’s a unique approach that provides additional insight into the desire of the Arkansas administration and football staff to keep things unchanged for 2012. Former coach Bobby Petrino was fired in April, potentially impacting a team that is regarded as a SEC and BCS title contender.

Maintaining continuity within the football program was among the goals cited when John L. Smith was hired April 24. Work on deals for the assistants began shortly after his hiring and the final contract was signed May 24, Athletic Director Jeff Long said.

“These agreements were prompted by our desire to put our assurances to our coaching staff in writing, to keep the coaching staff together for the 2012 season, to allow our football student-athletes the best opportunity for success, and to protect the success and competitive level of our football program,” Long said in an email interview.

Documents obtained by through a Freedom of Information Act request filed May 25 include 11 such contracts. Defensive backs coach Bobby Allen, wide receivers coach Kris Cinkovich, defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell, defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, recruiting coordinator/running backs coach Tim Horton, linebackers coach/assistant head coach Taver Johnson, offensive line coach Chris Klenakis, defensive tackles coach Kevin Peoples and offensive coordinator Paul Petrino are all covered. Strength and conditioning coach Jason Veltkamp and director of football operations Mark Robinson have also signed agreements to remain through the bowl game.

Each staff member is entitled to “longevity incentive compensation” equal to 25 percent of his individual salary. It’s seen as a way to keep coaches from going elsewhere before the season begins or during the waiting period between the end of the regular season and postseason appearances.

Arkansas could pay out nearly $800,000 if there are no staff defections. Individual payouts would range from $141,667 to $25,960. Bonuses will be paid out from the Razorback Foundation or athletic department funds. No student fees or taxpayer money will be used, the contracts say.

If the Razorbacks don’t make it to a bowl game, employment would conclude with the end of the regular season. Coaches and football staff are also eligible to receive bowl bonuses if they remain at Arkansas and compete in the postseason.

Staff members don’t automatically forfeit their longevity compensation or bowl bonus money by leaving early, but payouts would be at the discretion of Long. Early departure could also result in an employee having to pay liquidated damages equal to 25 percent of his salary.

Also included in the 10-page documents — an unusual length for assistant coaching or staff contracts — is language waiving the right to sue the University of Arkansas for dismissal. No-compete clauses covering assistants leaving for SEC schools are included as well.



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