CLEMSON — After dealing with serious health complications, Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips is back his corner office, gaining strength and nearing full speed, which will be required to deal with an assortment of issues.
In a State of the Tigers-type conversation Tuesday, Phillips spoke to several media members about his health, Dabo Swinney and Kevin Steele's contracts, Oliver Purnell's status and the athletic department's economic situation.
Phillips entered what he thought was routine "clean-up" surgery Dec. 31 to deal with scar tissue. The surgery related to residual effects of a lower-back injury sustained nearly 40 years ago during his football playing days.
However, additional surgery followed days later when it was discovered he was losing spinal fluid. His situation worsened as blood clots and pneumonia followed. Phillips was on bed rest for several weeks in January, which placed him further behind in his rehabilitation from surgery. Phillips said he is feeling fine and has begun recently to work full days.
Defensive coordinator Steele and offensive coordinator Billy Napier's contracts were obtained Tuesday.
Steele signed a three-year deal — as opposed to a typical two-year contract — to lure him from Alabama, according to Phillips. Steele's base salary is $375,000, a slight raise from his Alabama salary ($365,000). He is the highest- paid assistant on the staff.
The 29-year-old Napier has a two-year deal with a $200,000 base salary.
Phillips said Swinney and his agent have a contract in hand. The five-year contract is incentive-laden, with a low base salary.
"As someone achieves success, then you balance it off because they want more of a guarantee," Phillips said. "(Swinney) is going to be compensated as he has success; the bonuses he hits will grow into guarantees."
Purnell's status/growth of basketball program
Phillips said he has not received permission from any programs to speak with Purnell.
"I haven't talked to any athletic directors," Phillips said.
Since midseason, Clemson and Purnell have been working toward an amendment (basically, an increase in pay) to the six-year contract Purnell signed last year.
The deal is worth a little more than $1 million per season.
North Carolina's Roy Williams, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Maryland's Gary Williams all make at least $1.6 million. Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt makes $1.3 million.
"We've already told Oliver what we we're going to do," Phillips said. "We signed a six-year contract last year. … It is always being negotiated. It never stops.
"We are very fortunate Oliver has come in and done a very good job for us. He has come in and taken a program that was substantially down and built it.. … The thing about our program, now people are disappointed we (struggled at the finish and) lost in the first round, and that is a very healthy sign. It shows expectations have been enhanced."
Financial standing of athletic department
Because of possible budget shortfalls, Phillips has asked each athletic program to come up with a plan to cut 10 percent of expenses.
Football season-ticket renewals will start coming in this month, which is the best predictor of revenues, according to Clemson CFO Katie Hill.
Phillips is optimistic ticket sales will remain strong.
"People are excited about Dabo's leadership," Phillips said. "TCU improves the home schedule."
Phillips expects sponsorships to be down 10 to 20 percent. Corporate sponsorships accounted for $1.2 million in the 2008-09 budget.
The university also accelerated the athletic department's contribution to the general fund. Last year, athletics was required to give $1.3 million. Phillips said this year the contribution will be $2.8 million.
There will be no help from media revenues, which will remain flat for the next two years, until various television contracts come up for bid.