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college football

UMass, Mark Whipple finalize contract

UMass-Amherst has finalized a five-year contract with football coach Mark Whipple that will guarantee him at least $450,000 annually in his bid to revive the struggling program.

Whipple, 57, who guided UMass to a Division 1-AA national title in 1998, agreed to return to Amherst in January and take over a team that has gone 2-22 since the Minutemen moved up to college football’s elite Bowl Subdivision.

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His contract calls for a base salary of $250,000, plus $200,000 a year in compensation for speaking engagements, media appearances, and various perks such as a car allowance.

Whipple can earn annual bonuses as high as $50,000 for the team’s academic performance and as high as $90,000 for the Minutemen’s success on the field.

UMass football is approaching a crossroads after the university announced it will withdraw from the Mid-Atlantic Conference after the 2015 season. Whipple’s mandate includes making the Minutemen more competitive as school officials explore joining a new conference, such as Conference USA, the American Athletic Conference, or the Sun Belt.

It will be no small challenge, since UMass opens the 2014 season against Boston College, Colorado, Vanderbilt, and Penn State.

Whipple coached the Minutemen from 1998-2003, going 49-26 and winning three Atlantic 10 Conference championships as well as the national title. He previously excelled at Brown and the University of New Haven.

After leaving Amherst in 2003, Whipple became quarterbacks coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and helped Ben Roethlisberger win a Super Bowl. He later served as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, and the University of Miami.

Whipple’s contract provides for a range of penalties should he quit before the agreement expires. The penalties decrease from $1.25 million if he quits before Jan. 14, 2015, to $250,000 if he departs in the final year of his contract.

Whipple replaced Charley Molnar, who was fired with three years remaining on his five-year deal after the team’s disappointing debut in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Molnar was paid about $300,000 a year.

BC is the only other FBS program in Massachusetts. Competing in the far richer Atlantic Coast Conference, BC paid former coach Frank Spaziani about $1.1 million in 2012, according to the school’s most recently available federal tax statement.

Bob Hohler can be reached at hohler@globe.com.
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