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Samuel, school cite recruiting as reason why contract was delayed
Southeast Missouri State football coach Tony Samuel laughed off the idea of relief at a new five-year contract he signed Tuesday morning.
"I guess I didn't look at it as relief," he said. "I just figured we're moving on to the next phase of this thing. Tomorrow is the big thing. I can tell you more about relief when we get those kids signed. That's the relief right there."
Even after signing a five-year contract that includes a hefty pay raise, Samuel wanted to focus on today's national signing day. Even the news conference to announce his new deal cramped his plans to land the best recruits possible.
"I've got my phone in my pocket," he said. "I think it buzzed twice. The assistant coaches, we've been talking on the phone about recruits and all that. It's a little more difficult than people think."
The process of creating a new contract also proved more difficult. Both Samuel and Southeast athletic director John Shafer were reluctant to discuss Samuel's contract during the Redhawks' historic season that culminated with an Ohio Valley Conference title and first playoff appearance in the program's 104-year history.
"I don't want to affect what he is doing," Shafer said in November. "But by the same token, I wanted to at least talk in general terms about what I was thinking and give him some time to digest it. But it's fair to say we haven't had any negotiations or anything like that."
Samuel refused to tip his hand after his team's first appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in early December. When asked after the game about renewing his contract at Southeast, he said, "I don't know what the future brings. All I know is I'm very, very proud of what went on here today."
The expiration date of the original contract drew closer but neither the university nor Samuel offered a reason for the lack of an extension. Southeast president Ken Dobbins tried to provide a reason during Tuesday's announcement.
"When you say why haven't we done this before, why haven't we done this earlier? It's because Tony and the coaching staff ... you know they have been concentrating on recruitment," Dobbins said. "Recruitment, recruitment, recruitment. John and Tony have been working on this announcement today for, I don't know, five or six weeks. But Tony always put his priorities where I think they should be and where I think he thought they should be, and that's recruitment. I don't want people to think that we've been delaying this on purpose."
Shafer also quickly defended the length of time needed to draw up the extension.
"A lot of people have been concerned about the length of time this has taken, especially my friends in the media," Shafer said. "But I believe I learned a long time ago to do things right and to do them well takes time. And today is the fruit of that time."
Samuel declined to outline any other offers he received or how much he considered pursuing other jobs.
"I don't want to talk about all that," he said. "That's just normal year stuff. In our world, you get calls to get hired or you get fired if you don't do good."
Shafer said he knew from the start that he wanted Samuel back.
"We never thought about looking elsewhere," Shafer said as he introduced Samuel on Tuesday. "There was never a doubt about wanting to have you here."
Shafer said he didn't feel pressure to get a deal done before the original deal expired because of a conversation between he and Samuel early in the negotiating process.
"When we sat down we asked the very first time, we asked each other the same question," Shafer said. "I said, 'Tony, do you want to be here?' And he said, 'Absolutely, but I want to do it right.' And Tony said, 'And John, do you want me here?' And I said, 'Absolutely, but we want to do it right.'"
Shafer said part of the reason it took so long to iron out a deal is because he wanted to hold conversations face-to-face instead of over the phone. That proved difficult at times because Samuel was on the road recruiting. Plus the language in the contract needed to mirror what Shafer and Samuel agreed to in their chats.
"Tony has a vision and he has a plan and there's a lot of things involved in that, and he shared those with me," Shafer said. "We tried to agree on how to get there. It's like you and I talking now, we may agree on something, but then when we see it in legalese, it may not say what we think it should say to one side or the other."
Samuel shrugged off any concern about his original contract ending.
"I didn't know it was that big a deal, to tell you the truth," he said. "We were out recruiting and trying to get that done and we were trying to get a lot of things accomplished in a short amount of time."
He didn't see the importance of getting a deal done before Jan. 31 because it wasn't going to affect his commitment to recruiting.
"We still had work to do," he said. "It's not like everyone just stopped that particular day."
Shafer dispelled the theory that Dobbins meddled in the negotiations and that was a reason for the delay in an extension.
"Dr. Dobbins met with Tony and I last night to sign the contract," Shafer said. "But as far as on a regular basis, Dr. Dobbins was always informed. I kept him informed of our conversation and things that I was thinking and things that Tony was thinking. He really was a great counsel, but as far as involved on a day-to-day basis or interacting person-to-person, he didn't do that."