UF had hoped to announce the new deal soon

Even if Florida had completed the new Donovan contract, it likely wouldn't have kept the coach in Gainesville anyway.

Originally Published: May 31, 2007
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

DESTIN, Fla. -- Even if University of Florida officials had formally finalized a new contract for men's basketball coach Billy Donovan, the Gators couldn't have prevented him from bolting for the NBA's Orlando Magic.

Florida president Dr. J. Bernard Machen said Thursday that Donovan's new contract with the Gators had been agreed to "for a while." Florida officials had hoped to announce the new contract -- a seven-year deal that would have paid Donovan an average of about $3.5 million per season -- as early as next Monday.

Schlabach: Meyer contract
Florida football coach Urban Meyer, who last season led the school to its second national championship in football, indicated he is close to formalizing a new contract with the Gators.

Meyer might be on the verge of joining the ranks of the highest-paid coaches in college football.

Meyer's current six-year contract, which he signed in April 2005, pays him about $1.5 million in guaranteed income, including base salary, TV/radio compensation, appearance fees, apparel endorsements, expense accounts and educational stipends for the coach's family. It also included a $500,000 signing bonus and $750,000 in annuity contributions, which Meyer would collect if he were still the Gators' coach at the end of the 2011 season. Meyer already has been paid $750,000 in longevity bonuses and would collect an additional $1.35 million in longevity bonuses if he remains at Florida through the 2011 regular season.

With incentives, the entire financial package is worth more than $2 million per season.

Alabama's Nick Saban is the highest-paid coach in college football with an annual salary of about $4 million. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops earns about $3.45 million per year, and Notre Dame's Charlie Weis is paid a reported $3.45 million.

Before Saban was hired at Alabama, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville was the SEC's highest-paid coach, earning about $2.2 million per season in guaranteed income. Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer was second at $2.05 million, followed by Georgia's Mark Richt at $2 million and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier at $1.75 million.

--Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com

But Donovan, who led the Gators to consecutive national championships the past two seasons, agreed to a five-year contract with the Magic on Thursday, multiple sources told ESPN.com. He will be formally introduced as Orlando's new coach at a news conference Friday, according to the sources.

"It's done. It's been done," Machen said of Donovan's pending contract with Florida. "Billy will tell you the contract has been done for a while."

Asked why the school hadn't formally announced the contract, Machen said: "You don't know how Florida works."

Even if the contract between Florida and Donovan had been finalized, it probably would have included a buyout of no more than $1 million. In fact, football coach Urban Meyer's current contract with the Gators includes a $150,000 buyout, which he would owe if he leaves the school before the end of the 2011 season.

Donovan, 42, also had been linked to openings with the Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat and Houston Rockets. Donovan said he met earlier this month with Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley in the Orlando area. But Donovan said the meeting wasn't a job interview to replace interim coach Tony Barone, who took over for fired Mike Fratello after 30 games last season.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week at the SEC spring meetings at the Sandestin Resort, Donovan said he wasn't concerned his new contract with the Gators hadn't been announced.

"I have trust in [athletics director] Jeremy [Foley] and Dr. Machen, so really it's not in my hands," Donovan said. "It's really in the University of Florida's hands. I understand there is a process they're going to have to go through."

At the time, Donovan also said he wouldn't be anxious about going to the NBA after his mentor, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, and former Florida football coach Steve Spurrier struggled when they left college coaching jobs for the pros.

Donovan said Pitino and former Florida basketball coach Lon Kruger, who was fired as coach of the Atlanta Hawks after only 2 1/2 seasons, were only guilty of inheriting teams with little talent.

"Every experience means something, but I just don't believe the idea that Rick Pitino or Steve Spurrier can't be successful at the professional level," Donovan said. "I think it has more to do with the kind of teams they have taken over. Did guys like Lon Kruger and Leonard Hamilton really have a chance to win? Were those situations where they really had a chance? Could they really win there?

"Remember that coach Pitino was very successful with the Knicks before he went to Kentucky. Rick Pitino and Steve Spurrier can coach at any level. I really believe that."

Mark Schlabach covers college football and basketball for ESPN.com. He can be reached at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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