LAS CRUCES — There has finally been movement on the football coaching contract front at New Mexico State, although head coach Doug Martin is hoping to re-visit his deal.
The university announced last week that former graduate assistant Chili Davis and former San Diego assistant Ronnie Pentz were hired as assistant coaches, giving the Aggies a complete staff of 10 assistant coaches for the 2018 season.
NMSU had eight of an allotted nine assistants in 2017.
Davis and Pentz will be paid approximately $50,000 for the upcoming season. The funding was included in the Board of Regents’ February decision to extend the athletic department’s debt repayment schedule.
“We are very grateful to have the ninth and 10th coaches,” said Martin, whose 10 assistant coaches are all under contract for the 2018 season. “For our regents to step in was huge. The negative thing is we are four months behind because we didn’t have them for spring practice. We curtailed spring practice and did not work on special teams very much, and there were some positions that were without a coach.”
The NMSU coaching staff was listed as the lowest-paid staff in the country for 2017, according to a USA Today database.
“These were two very good steps right here,” Martin said. “I think it’s just a class move when we can give our coaches a proper contract. It makes it easier to hire coaches and easier to keep coaches.”
In addition to hiring Davis and Pentz, the university signed off on changing the terms of the assistant coaching contracts for at least nine of the 10 assistants. Defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani signed a two-year deal in December.
Previous assistant coaching contracts began on Jan. 1 and terminated on Dec. 31, but the new coaching contracts expire on June 30, 2019.
“It gives our coaching staff great job security and it’s the same contract that just about every other quality FBS program is on,” Martin said. “The regents got it done and we are very grateful to them that they treated our coaches that way.”
Chancellor Garrey Carruthers signed off on the new contracts, but there were delays as the two sides negotiated through Martin’s agent.
The end result was that all football assistant coaching contracts are now identical. While the base salary differs from the highest paid (Spaziani at $150,000 per year) to $50,000, the other nine assistant coaches on one-year deals will have the same terms, stipends and incentives.
If Martin were to fire an assistant coach without cause, the university would owe the assistant coach his remaining base salary. If the assistant coach voluntarily terminates the contract without permission, he would owe the university roughly 50 percent of his salary for the remaining months of the contract. If the coach receives a higher paying offer and the university does not opt to match it, the assistant coach would have no further contractual obligations.
“The point was to get them all to match so they lined up with the head coach and the other assistant coaches,” Regents Chairwoman Debra Hicks said.
While his assistant coaches have some stability, Martin described his own contract discussions as “in limbo.”
The Board determined in February that all top-level personnel changes must be cleared by the board itself until a new chancellor is hired. Carruthers ultimately signed off on the contract for offensive line coach Andy Richman, whose salary is $107,000 for the 2018 season.
“We passed that resolution so there was a hangup,” Hicks said. “There were basically three iterations of the contracts. Anything over $100,000 falls to (Carruthers) to sign and it was taken to him and he signed it on the same day.”
Martin signed a three-year contract extension in September that had a university friendly buyout. Should NMSU terminate the new contract for cause prior to July 1, 2019, NMSU would owe Martin $180,000. NMSU would owe him $120,000 if the contract is terminated between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. The university would owe Martin $60,000 if the contract is terminated after June 30, 2020.
“It doesn’t guarantee half of a year for me,” Martin said. “At some point, I have to make future plans for myself and my family. Right now, I’m in total limbo.”
Hicks said contract talks are underway with Martin, who is expected to receive a $40,000 increase in base salary in Fiscal Year 2019 according to NMSU athletics director Mario Moccia. But Martin is hoping for a longer term deal with security similar to what NMSU accomplished with the assistant coaching contracts.
“They have told me that it wouldn’t be before a new president is there, but by the time someone gets here and settled, you are talking about August or September,” Martin said.