CHARLOTTE — Clemson University has agreed to give defensive coordinator Brent Venables the largest known contract in college football for an assistant coach. Clemson will extend Venables on Thursday morning to a five-year deal worth a total of $11.6 million dollars, according to multiple sources.
Venables will make $2 million per year in salary and earn a retention bonus of $200,000 per year the first two years of the deal. The final three years of the deal, Venables will be paid $400,000 per year in retention bonuses. The retention bonuses will be paid at the conclusion of the College Football Playoff Championship each season, and those retention bonuses will be paid in what’s essentially a life insurance investment policy.
The contract will be formally passed by Clemson’s Board of Trustees on Thursday morning, sources said. Clemson is also expected to announce a contract extension and raise for head basketball coach Brad Brownell.
In annual salary for assistant coaches, Venables will rank No. 2 in the country behind LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Aranda averages $2.5 million per year for four seasons. Venables will average $2.3 million, but his total of $11.6 surpasses Aranda’s $10 million contract total and makes it the largest in college football.
Venables is regarded as one of the elite coordinators in college football. For years he’s been extremely selective about head coaching opportunities, and this contract by Clemson is a proactive, strategic way to ensure that he’d only leave Clemson for a blue-blood head coaching job. The contract essentially prices Venables out of jobs in the Group of Five conferences and gives him incentive to be even more particular about Power Five head coaching jobs.
There’s no buyout for Venables to take a head coaching job, but if Venables were to leave for another assistant coaching position he’d have to pay 25 percent of the total remaining on the agreement.
Venables may have other incentives to stay at Clemson. One of his sons, Jake, is a scholarship linebacker who just enrolled at Clemson. The school has also reportedly offered his son, Tyler, who is a rising high school junior.
Venables is one of the most decorated assistant coaches in college football. He’s coached in five national championship games, won the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach and authored the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense (13.6 ppg) last year. Venables was a decorated coordinator at Oklahoma and assistant coach at Kansas State before coming to Clemson for the 2012 season. Venables is also known as a tenacious recruiter, as evidenced by a Clemson defensive line that’s regarded as the top in college football and could have three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.
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