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UT’s Martin Angles For A Raise? That’s Quite The PR Blunder

Cuonzo-martin-tight-all-orangeThe Knoxville News-Sentinel reported yesterday afternoon that “a source with knowledge of the situation” told the paper that Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and his agent “will pursue an extension and possible renegotiation of his current contract when or if Tennessee reaches out this offseason.”

A tip for Martin and his agent: You don’t let it leak that you want a raise just one week after losing a first-round NIT game to Mercer in front of 4,000 fans in your home arena.

Let’s repeat that: You don’t let it leak that you want a raise just one week after losing a first-round NIT game to Mercer in front of 4,000 fans in your home arena.

Martin currently makes $1.3 million which ranks 10th in the Southeastern Conference among basketball coaches.  Only Johnny Jones (LSU), Rick Ray (Mississippi State), and Billy Kennedy (Texas A&M) make less per year than Tennessee’s coach.

But aside from Tony Barbee — who’s stealing $1.5 million at Auburn — who should Martin be moved ahead of on the league’s salary chart?  He just finished his fifth year as a head coach, his second at Tennessee.  He’s never reached an NCAA Tournament.  He’s still an unproven commodity.

John Calipari and Billy Donovan deserve to be at the top of the conference in pay.  Mike Anderson hasn’t reached an NCAA tourney with Arkansas yet, but he certainly did at Missouri and UAB.  Anthony Grant has been to the Big Dance.  So have Mark Fox, Frank Haith, Kevin Stallings, and now Andy Kennedy.  Frank Martin just finished a horrible first season at South Carolina, but his NCAA Tournament record at Kansas State suggests the Gamecocks will improve on his watch.

So what’s the argument for Martin to get a raise?  Well, it’s threefold:


1.  In two years, Martin has led UT to a ho-hum 39-28 overall record, but he inherited a bigger mess than most Volunteer fans are willing to admit.  His first team was picked to finish 11th in the then-12 team SEC.  A late run actually landed Tennessee the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament and put them on the NCAA bubble.

This past year, first-team All-SEC preseason selection Jeronne Maymon — truly the leader of UT’s team — was lost for the entire season due to complications from offseason knee surgery.  But Martin led the Vols to another strong finish and back to the NCAA tourney bubble.

All things considered, that’s not bad work.


2.  It’s believed that if Martin isn’t extended, rivals will use it against him in recruiting battles.  That may be true, but negative recruiting will always exist.  If it’s not Martin’s contract, rivals will focus on something else.  Still, it’s a possible reason to renegotiate and extend.


3.  Tennessee might need to quiet the “Bring Back Bruce” chants before they begin.  (Technically, they already appear to be a little late on that front.)  Ex-coach Bruce Pearl will be eligible for NCAA “parole” when his show-cause penalty expires after next season.  There is a segment of the Vol fanbase that wants the highly-successful, affable showman to return to Thompson-Boling Arena.

While we’ve been told the only way Pearl would get another shot would be if the school replaced it’s president, chancellor, AD, board of trustees, and several key donors — in other words, it ain’t happenin’ — there will be a groundswell of fan support for Pearl should Martin and his team struggle at all next season.  Hey, UT fans never gave up on the Jon Gruden dream, did they?  So you better believe the Bruce Brigade will champion the return of their ex-coach regardless of how unrealistic that option might be.


As you can see, there are some reasons for giving Martin a raise.  Additionally, he inherited a program that had an NCAA cloud hanging over it.  He’s posted a solid 21-13 SEC record in his first two seasons (only Calipari and Donovan have been better the last two years).  And he’s been unfairly compared to Pearl.

UT’s last coach had 13 seasons of head coaching experience under his belt when he arrived in Knoxville.  Martin had just three.  A decade’s worth of experience can make a difference.  Pearl was a finished product upon his arrival at the foot of the Smokies.  Martin is still — it appears — growing as a head coach.

But whether Martin deserves a new deal… whether Tennessee needs to protect itself in recruiting circles… whether the Pearl-ites need to be silenced… or whether Martin is slotted exactly where he should be pay-wise doesn’t matter one bit.  If you’ve just been bounced out of the NIT by Mercer, you don’t immediately let it leak that you’d like a raise.

If another school sniffs around, you flirt with them (as Pearl once did with Memphis) and that’s how you get your raise.  Perhaps you walk over to athletic director Dave Hart’s office and have a one-on-one in which you mention your desire for a raise.

What you can’t do is give upset fans any other reason to be upset with you.  Asking for a raise does just that.

Whoever in Martin’s camp decided to release this particular trial balloon did the coach no favors.  None at all.





@MrSEC Great article! Coach Martin is asking us to judge him on the last 10 games of each season. He needs to start like he finishes.


I think that Martin is doing a good job building his foundation for the program and recruiting well. However I do think it is a bit early to be handing out raises. I don't think his first two teams lived up to expectations for the program. I will admit the team was not stocked that he took over, and the team was weaker than most Vol fans want to admit. However in both of his seasons, you can look at the season and see a lot of what ifs, plus add in the tournaments flame outs and I believe that he has not earned a raise yet. If Hart wants to offer him and extension and increase in bonuses - go right ahead, but I would hold off on a raise unless it was absolutely needed to avoid going through another coaching search.  

As for bringing Pearl back. NO. I would not have much of an issue with bring Pearl back if it had only been a "I don't recognize anything in that photo" and a call the next morning to correct it. I would have handled one lie. What burned the bridge with Pearl for me was the fact that he called the recruits and their parents to help him cover up the lie. When he knew he was caught, That was when he fessed up about the photo. A basketball coach is a teacher and leader of youth. I do not want someone who (so publicly) lied, and someone that would ask others to cover up that lie, being a teacher and leader at my university.


"While we’ve been told the only way Pearl would get another shot would be if the school replaced it’s president, chancellor, AD, board of trustees, and several key donors — in other words, it ain’t happenin’"   With his record, why in the world wouldn't UT want Pearl back?  Especially since if they don't take him, he may very likely end up at another SEC school coaching against UT.


John, Are you for sure that the"Martin camp" leaked this? It doesn"t seem like CMM is behind this.


@MrSEC Tennessee and bad PR...I've associated those two before


@jshmrt20 @MrSEC  I don't see he's done anything to get a raise. i want pearl.


@OOreo To answer your question, I would guess UT doesn't want Pearl back because he embarrassed the university and put the athletic department at serious risk with his actions.  He conspired with his staff to lie to his boss and the NCAA, and tried to get recruits and their families to go along with the lies and help him cover his tracks.  The fact that he lied about something so trivial just makes him look that much less trustworthy.  If you or I lied both to our boss and the regulatory agency overseeing the industry we're involved in and put our company at serious financial and competitive risk because of this, do you think the company would ever hire us back?

After the Deon Thomas incident many years ago, Pearl put himself in a position where he had to be cleaner than any other coach, because the coaching fraternity would jump on him and report ANY potential violations he might have committed.  He failed, and going forward, things will only get tougher for him on the recruiting trail should he land a D-1 job in the next few years.  Just my opinion.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



I'm just going by the wording of The Sentinel's piece.  Martin and his agent were mentioned as ready to move for a renegotiated deal.  For what reason would UT leak that information?  It seems more likely that someone in Martin's camp has decided to let UT officials know they'd like to sit down and talk.


If a Tennessee source did leak the story, I would be surprised.  Again, there would be nothing to gain from doing so.  Aside from agitating some already upset fans.


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