Earlier this month, USA Today revealed its salary list for all of the FBS college football head coaches. With 129 schools spread across ten conferences plus some independents, there’s a ton of money being poured into the sport.
But who are the highest-paid coaches in every college football conference? A quick analysis from Brett McMurphy of Stadium shows that the highest-paid coach in each conference is often the most successful. Often, but not always.
Coming in first overall and thus No. 1 in the SEC is Nick Saban at $9.3 million. He’s been worth every penny for Alabama and then some.
In third overall and first in the ACC is Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. Like Saban, Swinney has earned every dollar of his $8.3 million salary.
Fourth overall and top in the Big Ten is Jim Harbaugh with $8 million. While he isn’t the only coach in the top-10 who has a lot of work to do to justify that salary, the Michigan coach is the only one in the top-nine who hasn’t even won a conference title.
Coming in at eighth overall and first in the Big 12 is Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley. With three straight Big 12 titles and College Football Playoff trips under his belt, Riley is not only one of the top coaches in college football, but one of the most respected talents in the entire sport.
At 18th overall and first in the Pac-12 is Stanford’s David Shaw. Four New Year’s Six bowl appearances and three top-10 finishes in his first six years at the helm have established him as one of the Pac-12’s best. We’ll find out soon if last year’s 4-8 record was a fluke or the sign of bigger problems though.
It should come as no surprise that there’s a massive gap between the highest-paid college football coaches in the Power Five and the highest-paid ones in the Group of Five. Those five combined make less than Lincoln Riley.
Highest paid coaches by league w/overall rank via @USAToday
1. Saban SEC $9.3M
3. Swinney ACC $8.3M
4. Harbaugh Big Ten $8.0M
8. Riley Big 12 $6.2M
18. Shaw Pac-12 $4.8M
37. Holgorsen AAC $3.6M
66. Littrell C-USA $1.8M
68. Harsin MW $1.7M
79. Candle MAC $1.1M
81. Napier SB $1.0M
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) October 15, 2020
Houston paid Dana Holgorsen a small fortune after the success he had with West Virginia, giving him $3.6 million per year – more than any other Group of Five head coach.
But the top coaches in the Mountain West, Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt make half or less than that.
Seth Littrell of North Texas (C-USA) is earning $1.8 million despite never winning a conference title or bowl game.
Boise State’s Bryan Harsin (MWC) gets $1.7 million for seven wildly successful years with the Broncos.
Jason Candle of Toledo (MAC) makes $1.1 million and has been great for the Rockets.
Finally there’s Billy Napier for UL-Lafayette (Sun Belt), who’s coming off an 11-3 season in 2019 and is 3-1 to start 2020.
That’s a lot of money, much of it earned, some of it not so much.
Which coaches do you think are worth more? Which do you think should be making less?