Wednesday, April 23, 2014 · 10:00 p.m.
Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. (Photo: Daniel Lewis)

KNOXVILLE – Tennessee finds itself in the middle of the SEC pack when it comes to spending on assistant football coaches.

The Vols came in eighth in the conference in that category, according to data released by USA Today on Wednesday night. Thirteen of the conference’s 14 schools are included with Vanderbilt, a private institution, excluded.

Head coach Butch Jones’ original memorandum of understanding with the school allots a minimum of $3 million annually that he can spend on his staff. UT’s 2013 staff was paid $3,170,000, according to the report.

Jones brought five members of his 2012 Cincinnati staff with him to Knoxville, added three assistants who had prior SEC experience and retained running back coach Jay Graham from the previous staff. Graham later departed for Florida State and was replaced by Robert Gillespie last winter.

Individually, the Vols didn’t have any assistants crack the top 50 nationally in pay, but offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian and defensive coordinator John Jancek were just outside that range with each bringing in $480,000 in 2013. Defensive line coach and assistant head coach Steve Stripling is the highest-paid position coach at $385,000.

Offensive line coach Don Mahoney made $355,000, linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen brought in $350,000 and wide receiver coach/recruiting coordinator Zach Azzanni and Gillespie both collected $305,000.

Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez made $285,000 and tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Mark Elder rounds out the group with a salary of $225,000.

Though the Vols on-field record (5-7) wasn’t impressive in 2013, the staff’s strong year on the recruiting trail could lead to some interest from other schools. Bajakian’s name has been linked to the head coaching vacancy at Bowling Green by at least one report and Thigpen, perhaps UT’s most successful recruiter in 2013, could be in line for a raise.

Full list of money spent on assistant football coaches in the SEC (excluding Vanderbilt):

LSU: $4,565,803

Alabama: $4,462,700

Auburn: $3,495,000

A&M: $3,392,250

Georgia: $3,294,000

Arkansas: $3,233,000

Florida: $3,211,400

Tennessee: $3,170,000

South Carolina: $2,744,600

Missouri: $2,642,500

Ole Miss: $2,429,092

Kentucky: $2,425,000

Mississippi State: $2,167,776

Other notes:

• Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris is the nation’s highest-paid assistant, bringing in just over $1.3 million – more than the salary of approximately half of all FBS head coaches in 2013. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, a former UT assistant, are the other two assistants to surpass the $1 million mark in 2013.

• Chavis isn’t the only former UT assistant doing well financially since moving on from Knoxville. Former UT assistants Justin Wilcox (Washington), Frank Wilson (LSU), Jim Chaney (Arkansas), Rodney Garner (Auburn) and Sam Pittman (Arkansas) are all among the top 50 highest paid, with each making at least $500,000.

Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga

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