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'Locked for life': Auburn announces long-term contract extension for men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 1/29/2022 Bennett Durando, Montgomery Advertiser
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AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn University and coach Bruce Pearl have agreed on an eight-year contract extension that likely makes Pearl a top-five highest-paid college basketball coach in the country.

The deal runs through 2030 and starts at $5.4 million with an annual pay increase of $250,000. That means Pearl's average salary for the next eight years will be $6.275 million, totaling $50.2 million.

Pearl will make more than Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin, who signed a six-year contract in 2021 with an average annual salary of $5.25 million.

"Auburn will be our family’s forever home," Pearl, 61, said Saturday in a school release.

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This is his eighth season at Auburn. He was previously the coach at Tennessee, Milwaukee and Division II Southern Indiana. From Boston, he began his coaching career with stints as an assistant at Stanford and Iowa.

"By leading Auburn’s men’s basketball program to unprecedented heights, Coach Bruce Pearl has earned this contract extension that’s commensurate with his level of achievement within the Southeastern Conference," athletics director Allen Greene said in the release. "We are thrilled to agree on terms that will keep BP on the Plains for many years to come while investing in his assistant coaches and support staff."

According to the most recently available contract, which was signed in July 2020, Pearl was on a five-year deal set to expire April 30, 2025.

He and the university agreed on an extension in April 2019, after Pearl led Auburn to the first Final Four in program history. Under that contract, Pearl made made $3.8 million during the first year followed by an annual increase of $125,000. His pay remained the same in the July 2020 update.

He was already likely one of the top-10 highest-paid men's basketball coaches in the country. According to the most recently available contract, his pay this season is $4.05 million.

According to the USA TODAY salary database, the top five highest-paid men's basketball coaches are John Calipari (Kentucky), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Jay Wright (Villanova), Chris Beard (Texas) and Rick Barnes (Tennessee). The starting salary of Pearl's new contract would make him fourth, behind Wright.

"I've got a big surprise for you," Greene said in a video posted Friday night. "We locked him up."

Then he panned over, revealing Pearl.

"Listen, it wasn't that hard," the coach said. "I'm grateful to Allen. I'm grateful to the administration: (University president Jay) Gogue, General Burgess and the folks that worked on this. My family and I are going to be able to stay and be your basketball coach for a long, long time. I'm grateful. I'm humbled. I'm blessed to be your coach. War Eagle."

Pearl's name was associated with the Louisville coaching job after the Cardinals fired Chris Mack this week. Auburn's board of trustees released its Feb. 4 meeting agenda Thursday: It includes approval of a basketball facilities upgrade, which Pearl has wanted for a number of years.

No. 2 Auburn (19-1, 8-0 SEC) is off to a historic start this season and earned the first Associated Press No. 1 ranking in program history this week. Pearl led the Tigers to their first-ever Final Four in 2019, and he brought in the program's highest-rated recruit last offseason: Jabari Smith, who is projected by many to be picked in the top five of the 2022 NBA draft.

Auburn hosts Oklahoma (13-7) on Saturday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Auburn Arena. The Tigers are protecting a 16-game winning streak. 

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: 'Locked for life': Auburn announces long-term contract extension for men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl

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