Line coach Brent Key shows loyalty to Georgia Tech in new contract

Georgia Tech offensive-line coach Brent Key. (Ken Sugiura/AJC)
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Georgia Tech offensive-line coach Brent Key. (Ken Sugiura/AJC)

How much is Georgia Tech offensive line coach Brent Key’s loyalty to his alma mater worth?

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At least $100,000 per year, apparently. Key turned down an offer from South Carolina and new coach Shane Beamer that would have paid him $750,000 annually, instead electing to stay with coach Geoff Collins, according to documents obtained in an open-records search. Further, Tech didn’t even match South Carolina’s offer.

After South Carolina made its offer in January, Key agreed to a new two-year contract with Tech worth $650,000, which followed his initial two-year contract for $600,000. A document received in the records request was an e-mail thread between Tech senior associate athletic director and chief financial officer Marvin Lewis and human-resources officials that provided details into the athletic department’s counteroffer to Key.

“Note that Brent Key’s situation is the most timely as an offer is currently on the table at another institution,” Lewis wrote in an Jan. 8 e-mail to Kim Harrington, the institute’s chief human-resources officer, below a chart noting the $750,000 offer from South Carolina.

Key was contracted to make $600,000 for 2020-21, which ranked him the 14th-highest paid assistant coach in the ACC among coaches included in USA Today’s assistant coach salary database, which does not include data for six schools due to their being exempted from open-records law. (Through a furlough program to reduce expenses within the athletic department, Key’s salary was reduced by 11.15%, or $66,900.)

Last year, there were nine ACC coaches in the database with contracts for more than $650,000 and two with deals for that exact amount. All 11 of those coaches are or were offensive or defensive coordinators.

Key also accepted a buyout provision in the new contract that was not a part of his initial two-year deal. Key will owe the athletic department half of his annual salary if he were to leave prior to Jan. 31, 2022 for “a comparable position at another university,” according to the contract, and 25% if he were to leave between Jan. 31, 2022 and the early signing period for the 2022-23 year. He would not owe anything after that, although his two-year contract would be all but complete at that point.

He evidently can leave for an offensive coordinator, head-coaching or NFL job at any point without owing Tech anything.

In April, Key expressed his pleasure in coaching the Jackets’ offensive line, which will return three starters and figures to be considerably improved in the 2021 season.

“I really like coaching this group,” Key said during spring practice. “I’m having a lot of fun with these guys. The guys come to work every day, and that’s what I’m most pleased with, is that they understand that it’s not a finished product.”

Key was not the only coach on Collins’ staff accepting a new two-year contract and a raise. Running backs coach Tashard Choice, wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon and defensive line coach Larry Knight have also signed two-year deals with salary bumps that also include buyout provisions similar to Key’s, indications of their potential to be hired away. It’s notable also in that, for Collins’ first two seasons, every assistant coach but Key was working on a one-year contract.

Knight was awarded a raise from $230,000 to $252,977 for 2021 and $278,249 for 2022. Choice’s salary jumped from $236,000 in 2020 to $300,000 for each of the next two years. Dixon’s contract was worth $235,000 in 2020 and was increased to $258,477 in 2021 and then $284,298 in 2022.

The contracts for Key, Choice, Dixon and Knight were the only four for assistant coaches to be returned from the open-records request.