Thoughts on Fuente’s Contract Offer

News just broke from Geoff Calkins at the CA that the University of Memphis weeks ago offered Justin Fuente a new deal that would offer a significant pay increase. Calkins’ sources now say the offer is in the $2.5m range (some had apparently said the offer was around $3m, but the CA article has been updated to reflect the $2.5 figure).

Reading between the lines of Fuente’s quote in Calkins’ article, it seems he’s basically saying: I’m considering the offer and I’m going to consider the other offers that will (inevitably) come along, and then we’ll see where we’re at. 

That’s an entirely reasonable and honorable way to deal with the situation – and consistent with what Fuente has said all along.

It’s a little mind blowing to consider that Memphis has possibly placed itself in a position to retain Fuente, but think about the various areas in which the administration at Memphis has narrowed the gap between itself and some P5 programs.

Facilities? Memphis is about to break ground on a new indoor practice facility and coaches offices on south campus. Will they be as nice as Alabama’s? Surely not, but they’ll be new and presumably more than adequate.

TV Exposure? Memphis Football has basically been on National TV for two months running. The American Athletic Conference has seen a 36-percent increase in the number of games that attracted at least one million television viewers. Memphis has been a part of 4 such games. That’s a lot of eyeballs and should enhance recruiting immediately.

Salary? $2.5m is a lot of cheese and it would put Fuente’s compensation on par with some of the best in the country. Consider that, according to USA Today’s coaches salary database, the head coaches at Nebraska, Utah, Boston College and Wisconsin all make in the range of $2.5m currently. So ultimately Memphis is prepared to pay its football coach what some legitimate P5 football schools are paying their head coaches.

So with all that being said, what now actually separates the Memphis job from those at Missouri, Virginia Tech and South Carolina?

The simple answer is 3-fold: tradition, fan support and better access to the CFB playoff.

But that’s about it at this point. The first 2 can be built and may be seen as a positive or a negative (with tradition comes expectations, sometimes unreasonable ones). The last one (access to playoff) is a serious consideration – and maybe that’s what compels Fuente to eventually move up.

Almost certainly, Fuente would jump at the opportunity to coach at a transcendent place like LSU, or Texas, or Georgia or Southern California.

He’d have to, wouldn’t he?

But perhaps this offer – and the other factors above, will make him think really hard about leaving the Bluff City for a place like Missouri, South Carolina or Virginia Tech.

After all, according to USA Today, outgoing legendary coach Frank Beamer himself made $2.7m this past year at Virginia Tech. Are they going to pony up $3.5m for Fuente?

And what Memphis also offers – and what Fuente has indicated he values – is the opportunity to become legend in the same way Beamer became a legend – by building his own program, in his own image – not taking over someone else’s.

Perhaps Fuente will see things the same way.