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West Extension All For Show?

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

September 17, 1999 CLEMSON - Bowing to outside pressure, Clemson athletic director Bobby Robinson announced that head football coach Tommy West had received a new four-year contract.

The contract runs through 2001, and West received a $5,000 raise to bump his annual base salary to $131,000.

Clemson insiders told the Sports Journal that the West extension was as much for appearances as anything else. The program will look stable, the recruits will see the four-year contract, the fans will take their focus off of contract matters.

And, in case things don't work out with West, the Tigers won't be stuck with a multimillion contract. "The downside to the extension was minimal, and that's why it was done," the Clemson insider said. "What's another $130,000 in the broader scheme of things? "If at the end of this season, (Robinson) doesn't think the program is going in the right direction, I can guarantee you that an extra $130,000 isn't going to prevent him from sending Tommy West on his way." Clemson also extended the contracts of the team's assistant coaches. "It wasn't about money," West said. "I make more money than I ever thought I would make anyway. This was about our staff and recruiting; (money) never entered into it. I never asked for it. "I did want the extension. I'm excited about the extension for our staff. I think it shows a commitment and support for the direction this program is moving. "It allows us now to go into a recruit's home without a negative going in. I never questioned that it would not be done, but it's something that can't be done in a 30-minute meeting or one-day meeting. This has been done the right way." Several national and regional publications speculated this summer that West was in trouble. After the school lost three straight bowl games, the leading passer in school history (Nealon Greene), and the leading rusher in school history (Raymond Priester), it was easy to see why many observers believe the Tigers will be a 7-4 team at best this season.

In a prepared statement, Robinson said he was pleased with the "level of consistent accomplishment" shown by the football program. He cited the progress on the field, recruiting, the academic performance of the team, and the team's increased graduation rate. But Robinson also made it clear that the heat was not off of West.

"We expect our football program to continue to reach a higher and more competitive level, with the goal of winning a conference championship and to participate in the Bowl Championship Series," Robinson said in the statement.

West is just the second Clemson coach to lead the Tigers to three consecutive bowl games. He has directed the Tigers to five victories over top-25 teams and 10 victories in their last 13 ACC road games.

"We're committed to Clemson," West said. "I love Clemson. I love coaching here. This is where I want to coach. This is where I want to be. I want to see it happen here." Most observers considered the timing of the announcement somewhat curious. If the Clemson administration was pleased with West's performance, why did it let him dangle for almost seven months and let him take his case to the media before redoing the contract? One thing is clear. West may have gotten the extension he desired, but the heat still isn't off. Eight victories is still the mandate this fall. Expectations always run high at Clemson. Another thing is for certain. After the 1998 season, West will be back in the same situation he was in before the recent extension Ü three years remaining and trying to recruit.

    "It (the contract) could become an annual thing," West said, "but I'm really not concerned about it right now."