Six-year deal will pay coach $1.7M per

Updated: September 4, 2003, 4:30 PM ET
Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida agreed to a new six-year contract with Billy Donovan worth about $1.7 million a year Tuesday, yet another step to ensure he finishes his college coaching career with the Gators.

Billy Donovan has the pedigree, the respect, and now the SEC's second-richest contract. What's next?

The contract, still to be finalized, will keep Donovan as the second-highest paid coach in the Southeastern Conference, below only Tubby Smith. It gives him about a $500,000 raise and has all the apparel, TV and radio incentives that were in the old deal.

At 38, Donovan is considered one of the best young coaches in the country. He is thought to covet an NBA job someday, and has widely been considered a prime candidate to coach at Kentucky, where he worked as Rick Pitino's assistant, should Smith ever step aside.

"The NBA, nobody can control," athletic director Jeremy Foley said, "but we can control what happens in college. He has made great inroads here and we want to make it clear that this is where he needs to be."

Donovan took over a program that had experienced only limited success -- one that former coach Lon Kruger said could never regularly compete at the highest level -- and guided it to the NCAA Tournament for an unprecedented five straight seasons.

He gave Florida's recruiting program national scope and has routinely brought in one of the top-10 recruiting classes in the country.

In 2000, the Gators made the national finals for the first time. Last season, they reached No. 1 in The Associated Press poll for the first time, but failed to advance out of the first weekend of the tournament for the second straight year.

"I'm certainly very appreciative of the commitment that Florida has made to its basketball program, to me and my family," Donovan said in a statement. "I look forward to being head coach at University of Florida for many years to come."

The contract replaces an earlier deal that had four years remaining. Foley said it was time to tear the old one up and start over, because it had been reworked so many times to give him extensions and raises.

Donovan 149-73 (85-55 SEC) in seven seasons at Florida, and 184-93 overall, including his two years at Marshall.

"We're making him one of the highest paid, because we want him to know his value to the program," Foley said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press