Mike Norvell is fresh off guiding Memphis to its first 10-win regular season since 1938. The Tigers are currently prepping for the American Athletic Conference title game Saturday.
All the while, many Power 5 coaching jobs are coming available. In particular, Norvell has been linked as a strong candidate to replace Bret Bielema at Arkansas.
The Commercial Appeal reported Saturday the Tigers are working through the details of a new contract for Norvell. The report did not state any specifics on what a new deal would include.
But Memphis has proven in recent years they are willing to commit as much money to a football coach as any Group of 5 school. In 2015, the Tigers reportedly offered former coach Justin Fuente a raise from $1.4 to $2.5 million annually. A week later he was hired by Virginia Tech on a $3.2 million a year deal. Conventional wisdom suggests Memphis’ willingness to offer such a raise helped Fuente negotiate more money with the Hokies.
Assuming the Tigers would make (or have made) a similar offer to Norvell, he would be in line to become the highest paid non-Power 5 coach in the country. A $2.5 million deal is also more than 14 current Power 5 coaches make annually.
Based on this recent history, it’s fair to speculate the reported negotiations with Memphis will help Norvell push his price tag at least into the area of $3 million per year. That’s a base salary that would’ve ranked in the top 40 nationally this season. That’s not small money for a coach with no SEC experience and only two seasons as a head coach.
It’s currently unknown exactly how much Arkansas would be willing to pay its next coach. That likely depends on exactly who the Hogs can get.
What is for certain is Arkansas must pay buyouts to former athletic director Jeff Long and Bielema, who were both recently fired. Long is set to be paid $4.2 million over the next four years. The exact figure of Bielema’s buyout is less clear.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported in October his buyout was $5.9 million. However, according to interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples, there is also an undisclosed buyout amount with the Razorbacks Foundation that will be paid to Bielema. It is not expected that figure will be made public.
Even in these circumstances, Arkansas would certainly still win any bidding war with Memphis. There’s also the obvious selling points that would help, such as the benefit of a larger pool to pay assistant coaches and the lure of coaching on college football’s biggest stage.
But the Tigers clearly aren’t going to let Norvell walk without at least first driving up the price. So, if the Razorbacks really want Norvell, they won’t be getting him at a discount.
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