Ellis Johnson poised for healthy raise

Trustees to vote on deal for USC defensive boss

jperson@thestate.comFebruary 4, 2010 

Ellis Johnson has ranked among the SEC's best defensive coaches the past two seasons.

Johnson soon will rank among the highest-paid, as well.

Following a conference trend this offseason, USC has agreed to terms on a contract extension for Johnson that will add two years to his deal and double the salary of the Gamecocks' assistant head coach for defense.

Johnson is expected to receive a four-year contract worth around $700,000 a year when the board of trustees' executive committee meets next week.

USC president Harris Pastides said negotiations "concluded favorably" and he expects the board to approve the extension. The Gamecocks finished in the top four in the SEC in total defense and top 15 nationally in Johnson's first two seasons.

The 58-year-old Johnson, who made $350,000 last year plus an additional $20,000 in incentives, was mentioned as a candidate for defensive coordinator posts at Georgia and Tennessee and the head-coaching position at Louisiana Tech.

"I do want to be clear," Pastides said. "Even though I think (Johnson) had a great season, this was not a reward for a job well done only. This was a retention."

New Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham received a three-year deal worth $750,000 a year, while Alabama gave Kirby Smart an identical package to remain with the Crimson Tide after he was approached by Georgia.

USC coach Steve Spurrier said additional revenues from the SEC's new TV package have fueled the escalating salaries.

"Whatever's the going rate in the SEC is what we have to do," Spurrier said. "Some of those other schools, they set the rates."

Spurrier said he hopes to get smaller raises, in the 2 to 3 percent range, for his other assistants.

All apologies

For the third time, Spurrier apologized to fans for the Gamecocks' "lousy bowl game" - a 20-7 loss to Connecticut in the Papajohns.com Bowl in which the Gamecocks managed 205 yards against the Big East's worst defense.

Spurrier watched the game with his team for the first time Tuesday and was reminded of how poorly his team played.

"Hopefully we'll never have a game that will bring such embarrassment to our football team," Spurrier said. "It's hard to get over that one. I've coached a lot of games, and that's in my top three most embarrassing I've ever tried to coach."

Hoops helping out

Recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer said talk of the Gamecocks' 68-62 upset of No. 1 Kentucky last week followed him on the recruiting trail.

"I can't tell you how many high schools I went into the next day where the first thing a coach or a kid commented on was the basketball game the night before," Beamer said. "Devan Downey, the way he played. And just the fans, how loud it was and the atmosphere. So every little thing plays a big part."

Fine won't go to Haiti

SEC commissioner Mike Slive turned down USC's proposal to send its $25,000 fine for fans storming the court after beating Kentucky to the Red Cross relief fund for Haiti.

Pastides said Slive told him the conference puts the money in a scholarship fund and did not want to set a precedent. Slive was concerned students might not be discouraged from storming the court if they knew the money was going toward a good cause.

"He was very thoughtful about it," Pastides said. "And he gave me what I consider very good and defensible reasons why they didn't think this was appropriate to do."

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