Pending approval by the LSU Board of Supervisors during its meeting Friday, gymnastics associate head coach Jay Clark will become co-head coach of the program.
According to a copy of the contract obtained by The Advocate, Clark, whose previous contract was to expire next month, will get a five-year deal and significant bump in pay to serve as co-head coach with longtime coach D-D Breaux.
Clark, 50, has been viewed as a head coach in waiting since being hired by Breaux in the summer of 2012.
Breaux recently completed her 42nd season, making her the longest-tenured coach in any sport in Southeastern Conference history.
“I’m not sure what the functionality of it means, how it really works, but I don’t think it changes our day-to-day operations much,” Clark said while on vacation in Destin, Florida. “We’ve been pretty much working as partners the past seven seasons, so I’m sure it’ll still be that way.”
New athletic director Scott Woodward has already signed off on Clark’s contract, which will go before the board Friday.
Clark earned $165,000 this season along with postseason incentives.
The new deal calls for him to receive $200,000 in 2020 with increases to $205,000 in 2021; $210,000 in 2022; $215,000 in 2023; and $225,000 in 2024.
Additionally, he can earn up to $100,000 each season in postseason incentives.
The contract was actually negotiated by former athletic director Joe Alleva, senior associate A.D. Mark Ewing and Breaux prior to LSU's second-place finish at the NCAA championships — its third runner-up finish in the past four seasons.
“Of course, I have the utmost respect and admiration for D-D and whatever she wants to do going forward. … She’s earned that," Woodward said at the SEC Spring Meeting. “Whatever she’s going to recommend is going to have a high, high value and weight of how I determine things.
"Frankly, I don’t want to screw up a good thing.”
Breaux said Thursday discussions started shortly after the SEC championships in New Orleans in late March, when Arkansas became the latest school to try to poach the highly regarded assistant and master recruiter.
“Really, it was the only way I could get Jay’s salary to where I wanted it to be,” she said.
Breaux said Clark, a longtime assistant at Georgia and head coach there for four seasons, has also been wooed in recent years by Stanford, Arizona State, Missouri and Florida twice.
Breaux said Florida talked to Clark about its head coaching position, then hired an assistant coach from Auburn, who called a day later asking Clark to be an assistant on her staff.
“Everybody was coming after him,” Breaux said. “I was getting tired every year after nationals having to fight off people who wanted to get a piece of what we’ve got.”
Breaux said she couldn’t elevate Clark’s salary as an assistant, so she had to go to “Plan B,” which was to add the co-head coach title.
“It was easy because we already share so much of the responsibilities,” she said. “It’s not exactly what Jay wanted, but it was the only way I could do it to get what I wanted and keep everything on an even keel.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of success and we’ve shared in the success,” Breaux said. “Jay is a great coach and a great recruiter, and it shows in the product we put out there.”
Breaux said Clark, who coaches uneven bars and is the recruiting coordinator, had to be sold on the idea by Alleva, Ewing and herself.
She said he agreed after they called him in and said, “This is what we’re going to do.”
“He said, ‘OK,’ so he was pretty good with it,” Breaux said. “It was an opportunity for Jay to advance his salary and get a promotion.”
“I understand it’s a promotion, but to me there’s one person the buck stops with: This is D-D Breaux’s program until she decides it’s not,” Clark said. “I wasn’t crazy about the idea, so they had to convince me this was the only way to get it done.”
Breaux said she also wanted to elevate Clark’s salary because of the unprecedented success the program has enjoyed since he's been on her staff.
In addition to NCAA runner-up finishes in 2016, 2017 and 2019, LSU has won three consecutive SEC championship meets to go with regular-season titles in 2017 and ’18 — going undefeated in the league both times.
The 2017 SEC postseason title was the first for the Tigers since 1981.
Since Clark’s arrival, LSU gymnasts have earned 30 All-American honors on bars. He has also coached an NCAA-record nine national champions in the event — seven at Georgia and two at LSU.
As for the energetic 66-year-old Breaux, Clark’s promotion isn’t an indication she’s planning to retire anytime soon.
“Not right now … not today,” she said with a laugh. “I just got back from a recruiting trip.”
Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.