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Football: UNT to make Littrell a $1 million man under terms of new deal

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

Seth Littrell soon will become North Texas' first $1 million man in athletics. 

UNT's football coach agreed to a new five-year contract in February following a highly successful debut season with the Mean Green. Littrell and school officials hammered out a final agreement over the last few weeks and signed a contract this month.

The contract includes a base salary of $900,000 with incentives that will make Littrell one of the highest-paid coaches in Conference USA and push him past the $1 million mark in salary and incentives for the 2018 season.

The Denton Record-Chronicle obtained a copy of the finalized contract through an open-records request.

Littrell signed the contract May 15. His original five-year deal paid him $725,000 per year with incentives that pushed his total compensation to $882,800.

UNT athletic director Wren Baker said the school arrived at what he believes is an aggressive and fair contract after examining what schools in C-USA and similar leagues are paying head coaches.

"Certainly, we are investing in our football program and the momentum coach Littrell and his staff have created," Baker said. "Our goal is that all of our sports programs will be resourced in the top third of C-USA. No resource is more important than our people. I fully believe you win with people."

UNT hired Littrell after the Mean Green finished 1-11 in 2015. 

UNT showed immediate progress. The Mean Green finished 5-8 and earned a spot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, where UNT fell in overtime to Army. The bowl was just the ninth in program history.

School officials moved quickly to sign Littrell to an extension following the season, announcing that they would tear up Littrell's original five-year deal and sign him to a new five-year contract.

"It means a lot to me to move forward with this new deal and continue to work hard with my staff to transform this into the championship-caliber program that our tremendous university, fans and alumni deserve," Littrell said when the deal was originally announced.

Littrell and UNT quickly finalized the contract that includes several incentives.

UNT gave Littrell a $36,000 bonus for signing the deal that also includes a $7,800 automobile allowance, a $45,000 stipend for appearing on its radio and television programs and a $25,000 retention bonus to be paid at the end of the 2017 season.

Littrell will receive a $25,000 retention bonus at the end of the 2018 season. His original deal included a $45,000 retention bonus per year.

Littrell's original deal included a $45,000 payment per year for appearing on UNT's radio and television programs. That payment now will jump by $50,000 per year beginning in 2018.

Littrell now is among the top-paid coaches in C-USA. Rice coach David Bailiff made $903,556 and Texas-San Antonio's Frank Wilson $835,000 in total pay in 2016, according to USA Today's database of coaches' salaries.

UNT significantly adjusted the buyout provisions in Littrell's new contract. The original deal included set buyout amounts if UNT terminated Littrell's contract without cause. There were set buyout payments Littrell would have paid to UNT if he left the school before completing his contract.

UNT would have been required to pay Littrell $2.5 million if it terminated his employment before Jan. 31, 2016. The buyout sum dwindled in each subsequent year -- to $1.8 million in 2017, $1.1 million in 2018, $600,000 in 2019 and the remainder of his base pay in 2020.

Littrell's new contract includes a provision that would require UNT to pay 100 percent of his base salary for the first 36 months of his contract and 75 percent of the remaining 24 months, if the school elects to terminate him without case. UNT would be required to pay the full 100 percent for the final 24 months if the Mean Green win seven regular-season games in any season during the agreement.

The original contract also included set buyout amounts that dwindled over the life of the contract had he left the school. The amounts he would pay started at $1.5 million in 2016 and dropped to $1 million in 2017, $600,000 in 2018, $300,000 in 2019 and the remainder of his base salary in 2020.

Those amounts have been replaced. Under the new deal, Littrell would be required to pay a percentage of his remaining guaranteed compensation to UNT. Littrell would be required to pay 40 percent of his guaranteed salary and incentives if he leaves the school before Feb. 1, 2018. The percentage declines in each subsequent year -- 35 percent in 2019, 30 percent in 2020 and 20 percent after Feb. 1, 2020.

The deal includes a provision that would reduce the amount Littrell would be required to pay if he elects to leave the school by 50 percent if Baker or school President Neal Smatresk are no longer at the UNT at the time he leaves the program.

It's a program UNT officials say is on the rise, which led them to move to lock up Littrell long-term.

"We have made an investment in our head coach and staff compensation that keeps us in our desired range of C-USA and peer conferences," Baker said. "We are building something special, and this contract represents an aggressive move to keep coach Littrell, his staff and their positive momentum intact."

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

Littrell's new deal

Here are the highlights of Seth Littrell's new five-year contract with North Texas. The Denton Record-Chronicle obtained the deal that was signed this month on Tuesday.

-- $900,000 in base salary, up from $725,000.

-- $45,000 in the 2017 season for appearing on UNT's radio and television programs, a total that rises by $50,000 per year for the duration of the contract.

-- $36,000 bonus for signing the contract.

-- $25,000 retention bonuses in each of the first two years of the contract.