KNOXVILLE — New University of Tennessee athletics director Danny White had already secured his football coach, when Josh Heupel followed him from Central Florida to East Tennessee. Now he has secured his basketball and baseball coaches, as well.
Tennessee on Tuesday announced a contract extension for Rick Barnes, on the heels of announcing a highly-anticipated raise and contract extension for baseball coach Tony Vitello.
The 66-year-old Barnes was given a two-year contract extension, with his deal now running through the 2025-2026 season.
Barnes has a 123-73 record in six seasons in Knoxville, since joining the Vols after being fired by Texas. Last year’s team finished with a record of 18-9, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Terms of Barnes’ new contract have not yet been announced. Barnes was one of nine Tennessee head coaches given a contact extension Monday. In addition to Vitello, women’s basketball coach Kellie Harper received an extension, as did softball coach Karen Weekly, and coaches for the rowing team, the swimming and diving team, the women’s tennis team, the men’s golf team and the men’s tennis team.
Barnes best season at Tennessee was in 2018-2019, when the Vols went 31-6 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, finishing within a breath of advancing to the Elite Eight. But Barnes’ real prowess has been on the recruiting trail. He has signed five 5-star prospects in the past three seasons, which is unprecedented recruiting success for the Tennessee program.
The Vols’ 2021 class was the SEC’s top recruiting class.
Barnes is one of college basketball’s highest-paid coaches. His old contract called for him to receive nearly $6 million per year by its end.
Meanwhile, Vitello is getting a massive pay raise that will make him one of college baseball’s highest-paid head coaches.
Vitello, who was considered a leading candidate for LSU’s coaching vacancy last month, will be paid $1.5 million per year in a deal that runs through 2026. He will also have a salary pool for his staff that is a minimum of $900,000.
Prior to inking his new contract on Monday, Vitello was making only $550,000 per year. His original salary was $600,000 but was reduced by $50,000 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vitello’s new contract makes him the highest paid coach of any team that was in this year’s College World Series. The closest is Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin, who makes $1.2 million per year. Mississippi State’s Chris Lemonis, whose team won the national championship this season, makes $750,000.
Reports emerged in early June, as LSU was flirting with Vitello, that Tennessee was set to make their coach one of the highest-paid in college baseball. It appears that Vitello’s new salary will make him the game’s highest-paid coach.