Sean Lewis’ contract worth $2.3 million over five years


Sean Lewis, 31, speaks at the podium after being introduced as Kent State’s 22nd head football coach in program history Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. Lewis signed a five-year, $2.3 million contract with the university.

Ben Orner

When Kent State introduced new head football coach Sean Lewis Thursday, the ink was barely dry on his contract.

The 22nd head coach in the program’s history signed a five-year, $2.3 million deal with the university. Through a public records request, KentWired obtained a copy of the contract.

Here’s how Lewis’ contract, which runs through 2023, breaks down: He will get $440,000 in each of his first two years, $460,000 in his third and fourth years and $480,000 in his fifth year. According to, the $2.3 million figure is “likely a pay cut” from his previous job as co-offensive coordinator at Syracuse.

Lewis’ first-year salary of $440,000 puts him near the bottom of the Mid-American Conference, according to USA Today’s FBS head coach salary database

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Lewis’ deal is worth close to half a million dollars more than previous head coach Paul Haynes’ five-year, $1.9 million contract he signed in 2012.

Lewis’ contract includes some specific duties off the field. He will be required to “(e)xtensively participate in the marketing and promotional activities for the football program,” including “regularly” speaking at Kent State Alumni Association events and helping raise awareness of and attendance at football events.


Lewis’ salary and his marketing obligations show Kent State is making a significant investment in its football program for the Lewis era. That investment also presents itself in the potential bonuses in his contract.

During Thursday’s press conference in which Kent State formally introduced him, Lewis included in his goals a MAC East title, a MAC championship and an appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Each accomplishment would earn him a bonus.

A division title would net him $10,000, while a conference title would instead give him $15,000. Lewis gets another $100,000 if his loftiest dream comes true and Kent State is still playing on New Year’s Day, like Western Michigan two seasons ago.

And just in case the most hopeful of Kent State fans are wondering, Lewis would get a $250,000 bonus if the Flashes win a national championship.

Lewis also receives a $10,000 bonus if Kent State wins seven games next season, something they have only done once in the past 30 years. Under Haynes, the Flashes never won more than four games.

Kent State will also award Lewis a bonus if ticket sales increase.

Other notable details

A section near the bottom of Lewis’ contract hints at possible renovations to the field house.

“Both parties agree to make best efforts to collaborate on the design, funding and installation of a new turf field in the Kent State University Fieldhouse,” the section reads. The field house, which opened in 1990, still has its original turf.

Lewis’ contract prevents him from leaving Kent State for another MAC school, saying he cannot “seek potential job prospects nor accept a position within the MAC during the term of this agreement.” If Lewis is instead sought out by another MAC program, his contract requires he get permission from Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen before responding.

Also, beginning in 2019, Lewis will get $15,000 annually from the athletic department budget to put toward assistant coach salaries.

Building his staff

With his contract finished, Lewis is busy building his coaching staff. The offensive-minded skipper already has someone to take care of the defensive holes left behind by Haynes. Tom Kaufman, who was the defensive coordinator at Chattanooga this year, will hold the same position at Kent State. The two coached together at Syracuse in 2016.

Joining Kaufman as defensive line coach will be Brian Cochran, who held the same position under Kaufman at Chattanooga.

On the offensive side of the ball, former San Jose State offensive coordinator Andrew Sowder will have the same duties at Kent State. He and Lewis worked together at Bowling Green.

Two more confirmed hires on offense are running backs coach Macky MacPherson, who worked with Lewis at Syracuse, and Matt Johnson, who will be a graduate assistant and help coach the quarterbacks.

Kent State fans may remember Johnson as the 2015 MAC Offensive Player of the Year who finished second in the nation in passing yards (4,946) and touchdowns (46), leading Bowling Green to a MAC Championship. Lewis was the quarterbacks coach for the Falcons that year.

Lewis will continue to build his staff, adding new recruits to form a team that feels more like his own.

The youngest head coach in FBS will have his work cut out for him, though, once the season begins in September. In three of his first four games at the helm, Lewis and his Flashes will face Power 5 conference opponents on the road, taking on Illinois, Penn State and Mississippi.

Ben Orner is the enterprise producer for KentWired. Contact him at [email protected].