Are college football coaches overpaid? This was a question posed over the Thanksgiving holiday by a casual fan who was trying to understand what “the hype was all about” surrounding the Michigan vs. Ohio State game. It was challenging to justify why some coaches who did not deliver the results expected get a golden parachute. It made me review the current list (pre Tom Herman/Texas) of the fifteen highest paid college football coaches, and their season records to date.
The Top 15 Highest Paid College Football Coaches
15. Jim McElwain – Florida – $4.268M – (8-3)
14. Mark D’Antonio – Michigan State – $4.3M – (3-9)
13. Les Miles – LSU – $4.3M – (Fired)
12. Dabo Swinney – Clemson – $4.4M – (11-1)
11. James Franklin – Penn State – $4.5M – (10-2)
The bottom of our list includes one of the most dynamic personalities in college football (Dabo Swinney), a coach who was fired halfway through this season (Les Miles), and a coach who has his team exceeding all expectations (James Franklin). This group of coaches are as solid as they come, and their salaries are in line with the time. IF any had a beef of being underpaid it would be Dabo at Clemson. A second consecutive birth in the College Football Playoff could change that.
10. Kirk Ferentz – Iowa – $4.5M (8-4)
9. Hugh Freeze – Ole Miss – $4.7M (5-7)
8. Gus Malzahn – Auburn – $4.725M (8-4
7. Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M – $5M (8-4)
6. Charlie Strong – Texas – $5.2M (5-7/FIRED)
This is where things get interesting. The combined 2016 record of these five coaches is 34-26, with all but Iowa not meeting expectations of their respective fanbase. Of course, we all know what happened to Charlie Strong at Texas. Kevin Sumlin and Hugh Freeze could be entering the 2017 campaigns on the hot seat.
5. Jimbo Fisher – FSU – $5.25M (9-3)
4. Bob Stoops – Oklahoma – $5.55M – (9-2)
3. Urban Meyer – Ohio State – $6.03M – (11-1)
2. Nick Saban – Alabama – $6.93M – (12-0)
1. Jim Harbaugh – Michigan – $9M – (10-2)
The best coach in college football history is underpaid. If you look at what Nick Saban is doing and has done for the Alabama program, the salary he receives is minimal. The fact Jim Harbaugh has reset the bar for big name coaches means guys like Saban and Urban Meyer will see raises to stay at their respective schools.
Who will be the first $10 million dollar man? Our guess is Nick Saban the next time he decides to field a phone call from another school or the NFL. Urban Meyer seems to be settled in Ohio State for the long haul. A national title this year may be enough to overtake Jim Harbaugh on this list too.
Six coaches featured above have a chance to make the college football playoff (Harbaugh, Saban, Meyer, Stoops, Franklin, and Swinney). It is likely the national champion will come out of this group, however Washington’s Chris Petersen abysmyl 3.6 million a year and 5th ranked Huskies may have something to say.