Highest-Paid College Coaches

Top Earners in Division I Sports

Highest-Paid College Coaches
September 16, 2016

Do you live in a state where your college football coach is the highest-paid state employee? Chances are that you do. According to Deadspin, college coaches were recently the highest paid state employees in 39 of the 50 states — the football coach in 26, the basketball coach in 12, and a tie between the football and basketball coach in Minnesota.

It's no surprise that all of the leading salaries are in football and men's basketball, the so-called revenue sports that support many of the other intercollegiate programs. While football coaches have most of the top slots, a basketball coach tops them all. Here are the top twelve earners per USA Today, in arguable order as different sources list different income values.

Mike Krzyzewski, $7.3 million – The face of Duke University sports, "Coach K" has won five NCAA men's basketball titles, including one in 2015. (NOTE: Louisville Basketball coach Rick Pitino is not on this list after last year's self-imposed NCAA ban for a recruiting sex scandal.)

Nick Saban, $7.09 million – Roll Tide! The University of Alabama football coach won three national titles in a four-year span from 2009 to 2012 after winning one in 2003 with the SEC rival LSU Tigers. The Alabama Crimson Tide won their 16th national title last season.

Jim Harbaugh, $7 million – Harbaugh left the San Francisco 49ers in 2014 to try to revive the reeling football program at Michigan, his alma mater. Last season, the Michigan Wolverines crushed the Florida Gators in the Citrus Bowl.

John Calipari, $6.89 million – Coach Cal's "one-and-done" philosophy has brought Kentucky back to college basketball dominance and provided a pipeline of future stars to the NBA.

Urban Meyer, $5.86 million – Meyer guided Ohio State to the championship of the first NCAA football playoff in the 2014 season after years of success at Florida, Utah, and Bowling Green. He and Saban are the only two coaches to win national titles with two different teams.

Bob Stoops, $5.4 million – Leading football-crazed Oklahoma University nets Stoops $5.4 million annually.

Jimbo Fisher, $5.15 million – Bobby Bowden's successor has legendary shoes to fill as head coach of the Florida State Seminoles football team.

Charlie Strong, $5.1 million – Strong became the first black head coach of the Texas football program in 2014, and started this season with an overtime upset win over Notre Dame.

Kevin Sumlin, $5 million – After successfully coaching quarterback Johnny Manziel for two years, the Texas A&M football coach was rewarded with a six-year, $30-million contract extension.

Sean Miller, $4.9 million – Unlike other top coaches, the head coach for the University of Arizona Wildcats basketball team doesn't have an agent to negotiate his earnings. Despite his big pay, his team has never reached the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.

Bill Self, $4.9 million – Self has kept the strong tradition of Kansas basketball alive with regular NCAA appearances and a long string of Big 12 titles.

Hugh Freeze, $4.7 million – After turning around the program, Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze received a contract extension and a raise from his $4.3 million salary in 2015.

You can certainly argue that these coaches are overpaid, and especially so in light of the fact that student/athletes still do not receive any extra compensation for their efforts (as of this writing). However, take into account how much revenue winning football and basketball teams bring into a university. We are not saying it is right; we are just saying it is not so clear-cut.

Photo ©Lance King/Getty Images

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Jonathan | 09.16.16 @ 14:28
It's absurd to me how much these schools pay non teachers....
Nancy | 09.16.16 @ 14:28
These guys make a lot of money. I guess it cost alot to win championships.
Daniel | 09.16.16 @ 14:32
Education costs are insane and people struggle to get to school and we pay these people these crazy amounts... just unbelievable
Chrisitna | 09.16.16 @ 14:35
If coaches get these ridiculous salaries to coach players in a GAME, why in the world can teachers not get paid at least the same amount for actually teaching students how to succeed in LIFE?
Zanna | 09.16.16 @ 14:53
Universities are willing to pay for sports programs because they attract donors, sponsorships, and recruit new students just because their team wins. Winning sports programs also provide media coverage without the university having to pay for advertising. What's unfortunate is that many of the top sports programs do not turn out top students, the education becomes much less important than the sports.
Kyle | 09.16.16 @ 15:12
I have always found it to be rather weird... that college coaches get paid the amount that they do.
Jo Ann | 09.16.16 @ 19:28
It's all fine and good as long as they have winning teams, but when they loose what happens, They loose their jobs. Their success also depends on the quality of players, and assistant coaches. It is an awfully lot of money.
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 01.22.21 @ 15:31