Puff Daddy once sang "It's All About the Benjamins," and University of Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart is finding that out the hard way.
According to a report by the Sports Business Journal, the Tennessee athletic department is more than $200 million in dept, thanks to the $50 million Brenda Lawson Athletic Center, a major decrease in football attendance and buyouts to former coaches in all three major sports.
It was such a pressing issue that Hart convinced chancellor Jimmy Cheek to cancel an annual $7 million payment from the athletic department to the university's general fund for three years.
But as Kristi Dosh of ESPN.com points out, the hefty debt isn't that unusual in the SEC.
Despite that, Hart knows that it's important to get the financial situation straightened out.
“We need to stabilize,” Hart told the SBJ.
So how does this impact first-year head coach Butch Jones?
Since buyouts are part of the reason that Tennessee is in this mess to begin with, it will likely help Jones stay employed if the turnaround on Rocky Top takes longer than initially envisioned.
But that doesn't mean that there isn't pressure for Jones. In fact, it means that there will be even more pressure.
Football is a "win now" business, and nowhere is that more prevalent than at Tennessee—a program that has been desperate just to be in contention since the end of the 2007 season.
Not only is the pressure of Vol Nation on Jones' shoulders, but since football is a the moneymaker, the overall health of the athletic department is as well.
The combination of sub-par seasons over the past half-decade and a bottom line that is struggling has put Jones in a rather unique position. It would cost Tennessee $2 million to terminate Jones at any point prior to the end of his six-year contract. Certainly not the hefty $7 million that it owes former head coach Derek Dooley and his staff, but substantial nonetheless.
In other words, a lot of Tennessee's eggs are in Jones' basket.
That's not to say that he can't handle it.
Despite the fact that some may think Tennessee settled for Jones after swinging and missing at Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, he's still a really good coach. After all, you don't win 19 games in two years by accident—even in the Big East.
But he not only inherited a program in need of a boost, he was hired by an athletic department that desperately needs him to succeed in order to climb out of its financial hole.
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