JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The man who said he’s committed to leading East Tennessee State University basketball back to the promised land will make the lowest starting salary ETSU has paid a men’s coach in years and 38% less than fired predecessor Desmond Oliver.

Brooks Savage’s “notice of appointment” spells out terms that will be in his five-year contract, including base pay of $202,000. ETSU announced Savage as its new coach on Monday.

Oliver, who posted a 27-37 record over two seasons, was making $325,000 a year in base pay and $375,000 with a standard stipend for additional community relations and engagement. Savage’s stipend will bring his total income, without potential bonuses, to $240,000.

Several of those potential bonuses also are lower than what was offered to Oliver, both for on-court performance by the team and for players’ academic progress rate performance.

Where Oliver would receive $15,000 for a regular season win over a major conference team, Savage will get $5,000. An NCAA tournament appearance will net Savage $15,000, compared to the $25,000 Oliver would have received. And academic progress rates above 980 will get Savage a $1,500 bonus compared to $2,500 for Oliver — with a rate above 1,000 bringing $3,000 for Savage compared to $5,000 for Oliver.

Savage will also earn less than Jason Shay, a fellow assistant under 2016-2020 coach Steve Forbes who ETSU tapped to replace Forbes when he took the Wake Forest job after ETSU’s 30-4 2020 campaign.

Shay — who resigned after a 13-12 season marred by a major controversy over players kneeling during the national anthem — earned $250,000 in base pay and a $50,000 stipend.

The last time a coach made less base pay came when ETSU hired Forbes in 2015. Forbes came in at $175,000 a year base pay, but that figure jumped substantially as he won an average of 26 games a year. He got a $30,000 raise following his first season, but by midway through his third year, he was earning a $400,000 base and a $200,000 annual retention bonus.

Current Athletic Director Richard Sander hired Forbes and Savage, but not Shay or Oliver, who were brought in when Scott Carter was AD. Sander said Savage’s initial compensation doesn’t mean his ceiling isn’t much higher.

“I want people to earn their compensation rather than just start out at a number that I think is inflated,” Sander told News Channel 11.

Sander said Savage’s $202,000 base is roughly in line with the total Forbes was making, including stipend, when he was hired in 2015. He said Forbes told him “I’ll get you on the back end,” and that Sander hoped that would be the case — which it was when Forbes went on to some of the most successful seasons in team history.

“When I talk to Brooks, he wants to be here and he’s willing to bet on himself and that’s why I like about people — ‘I’m willing to bet on myself that I’m going to do a good job and get there.’ In our conversations he was fine with that.”

Sander said he’s developed a track record as an AD of giving coaches the opportunity to prove themselves and rewarding them after they do. He did it after hiring Jeff Capel at Virginia Commonwealth in 2002, giving him raises after a good first season and again after an NCAA tournament bid the next year.

The same thing occurred with Forbes, who won 24 games his first year and 27 the following year, with an NCAA tournament appearance.

“He was earning it as he went. We weren’t just doing this because some agent negotiated a favorable deal with their coach.

“When we talked to Brooks it was, ‘here’s what it is.’ He was excited as could be about it.”

ETSU’s athletics department has taken on significant financial costs since 2021 paying former coaches who have resigned or been fired. All told, those payments have reached a total exceeding $1.5 million including remaining obligations, which total significantly less.

They include two agreements that deviate from standard practice.

Those are the payments to Shay ($450,000) and to Simon Harris, who coached the women’s team for one season.

On paper, Shay and Harris both resigned before the end of their contracts, which typically results in a coach paying the university, not the other way around.

Shay, though, was under pressure due to the kneeling. Harris, who had led the team to a 6-22 record, was the subject of a Title IX investigation and ETSU President Brian Noland had said Aug. 1, 2022 he would be fired for behavior that was “unconscionable.” Instead, Harris resigned one day before his scheduled termination and received a $150,000 payout.

ETSU is also paying $400,000 to the recently fired Oliver and about $350,000 to Brittney Ezell, who was fired as the women’s coach in March 2021 with two years left on her contract. Coaches’ contracts typically have protections if they are fired for losing records as opposed to more narrowly defined official “cause.”

The university is paying former athletic director Scott Carter $213,000, roughly a one-year salary, after Carter resigned on Aug. 1 when ETSU announced the Simon Harris investigation.