STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) – Georgia Southern found the new leader of its football program Tuesday in former Southern California coach Clay Helton.
Athletic director Jared Benko promised in the wake of prior head coach Chad Lunsford’s dismissal to think big in search of his next head coach. New details from Helton’s contract reveal exactly how big Benko went.
Helton’s deal is for five years, starting Nov. 1, 2021, and running through 2026. It begins with a baseline salary of $700,000 and increases by $50,000 each year of the deal up to a $900,000 salary in year five.
The figures confirm reporting by Yahoo’s Pete Thamel, who reported Tuesday that Helton would earn an average of $800,000 per year over the deal’s length.
Helton’s average salary is more than a 15 percent raise over Lunsford’s base rate of $680,000. However, it is a significant downgrade from what he made at USC. The Trojans paid Helton more than $4.8 million in 2019-20 alone, per Los Angeles Times reporter Ryan Kartje.
Helton has the opportunity to earn more than his base salary through performance incentives. He would earn $25,000 for a Sun Belt championship game appearance or $50,000 if the Eagles actually won the game.
In addition, Helton would receive a bonus of $25,000 if Georgia Southern reached any kind of bowl game. A Sun Belt Coach of the Year Award would net him $10,000.
The incentives in Helton’s contract are much higher than those contained in the last year of Lunsford’s contract. Lunsford would have earned just $10,000 for a conference championship and $7,500 for a bowl appearance, although that figure would increase to $13,500 for a bowl win.
If Georgia Southern terminates Helton without cause at any point prior to the conclusion of the contract, the university will be responsible for paying the remainder of his salary. Georgia Southern is currently paying Lunsford’s buyout until the end of 2022, which is estimated at roughly $1 million.
In addition to his salary and incentives, Helton will receive other benefits, including a company car, membership at the Forest Heights Country Club in Statesboro and a $25,000 moving stipend.
Helton will be formally introduced at a press conference at 4:14 p.m. Thursday at Bishop Field House. There will be a pre-press conference Eagle Walk at 3:45 p.m.