College Athletics, without a doubt, is big business, and universities stand to make huge sums of money every year on successful programs (the NCAA as a whole reported revenue of $989 million in the 2014 fiscal year). But it takes money to make money, and big universities are willing to write big paychecks for top-notch coaches who can get the gold (literally and figuratively).
While the median annual salary for an average head football coach might be $60,049, looking at coaches across the board, when you start looking at head coaches at top schools in the NCAA, those numbers skyrocket, surpassing the salaries of everyone else in the university multiple times over.
Moreover, the “big money” in college coaching is concentrated in the two sports with the biggest draw: football takes the cake, with men’s basketball right behind it. In fact, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, your state’s highest-paid public employee is most likely a college football or men’s basketball coach!
Infrographic by Deadspin.
With that in mind, we have assembled a list of the top 25 highest paid coaches in college sports, ranked by annual salary in 2016.
Note that this not a list of the top 25 “highest-earning” coaches, but of the “highest-paid.” We are focusing solely on what universities pay their coaches as their base salary, and are not including bonuses, or any outside income. The numbers shown are drawn from a reliable and accurate annual poll performed by USA today, based on provided contract information by the schools, and/or publically available tax return information.
We have chosen to focus on base salary numbers alone in order to better assess how much money universities are putting into their coaches as a fundamental part of budget and funds distribution. If we were to look at the overall incomes of these coaches, (meaning “highest-earning” coaches) including numbers like bonuses, prize money, and outside income such as endorsement deals or other sources, the rankings would certainly shift, and the numbers would be higher across the board.
To ensure accuracy in the rankings, the figures shown all reflect pay for the 2015–16 athletic season. Some of these coaches can expect raises in the 2016-17 season, but because it is not yet over (and taxes have yet to be reported by the schools), it would be difficult to accurately determine who ranks where in the current season for both football and men’s basketball. So, ranked below are the 25 highest-paid coaches in the 2016 season. We can safely say, however, that we expect these rankings to shift again after the 2017 season draws to a close.
The Highest Paid College Coaches of 2017
1. Jim HarbaughUniversity of Michigan
Football – $9,004,000
Jim Harbaugh is currently the head coach of Football at the University of Michigan, now in his second season after having taken the position in 2015.
All of the coaches on this list are former players of their particular sport, and some of them have had decent college playing careers, and even short professional careers. Harbaugh is unique (though not alone) in that he had a significantly long professional career in the NFL (1987-2001), starting with the Chicago Bears, and moved around quite a bit, until ending his career with the Carolina Panthers. During this time, he began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant coach at Western Kentucky in 1994, under his father Jack Harbaugh, who was then the head coach.
After the end of his playing career, Harbaugh became an assistant coach to the Oakland Raiders in 2002, before taking his first head coaching position at the University of San Diego in 2004, then to Stanford University in 2007 where he achieved moderate success, winning the Orange Bowl in 2011. In this time, he was also awarded a Woody Hayes Coach of the Year Award (2010). Harbaugh then went back to the NFL, coaching the San Francisco 49ers (and taking them to Super Bowl XLVII in 2013), before coming to Michigan. So far, Michigan has won the 2016 Citrus Bowl under Harbaugh.
Recently, there has been some speculation that Harbaugh may return to coaching the NFL, filling the post of the recently-fired Jeff Fisher at the Los Angeles Rams. Harbaugh, however, has dispelled this speculation as nothing more than nasty rumors, and claims he will stay with Michigan. Time will tell…
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Harbaugh’s overall coaching record in the NCAA is 49-26, with a record of 20-5 at Michigan.
2. Mike KrzyzewskiDuke University
Men’s Basketball – $7,299,666
Mike Krzyzewski (pronounced “sha-shef-ski”), also known as “Coach K,” (pronounced “Coach K”) has been the head coach of men’s basketball at Duke University since 1980. Prior to coaching at Duke, Krzyzewski played basketball under Coach Bob Knight at the United States Military Academy, and began his career as an assistant coach under Knight with the Indiana Hoosiers in the 1974-75 season. Krzyzewski became the head coach at Army from 1975–1980, before taking his current position as head coach of Duke immediately thereafter.
Krzyzewski has an impressive resume with Duke, having lead the Blue Devils to five NCAA Championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, and 2015), 12 Final Fours, 12 ACC regular season titles, and 13 ACC Tournament Championships. In addition to his day job at Duke, Krzyzewski also had a side-job as head coach of the US Men’s national basketball team. As head coach, Krzyzewski has 6 gold medals to his name, earned from the last three consecutive Summer Olympics games, the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Championships, and the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship. If you include gold medals acquired through assistant coaching, this number extends to 9 total.
Krzyzewski has received many awards and honors, including Basketball Times National Coach of the Year (1986 and 1997), Naismith College Coach of the Year (1989, 1992, and 1999), NABC Coach of the Year (1991 and 1993), ACC Coach of the Year (1984, 1986, 1997, 1999, and 2000), and has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame twice: individually in 2001, and in 2010 as part of the 1992 Olympic “dream team.”
Oh, and Coach K holds the record for most career wins in college basketball history. Entering the 2016-17 season Krzyzewski’s overall record as head coach in the NCAA is 1043–321, with a record of 970-262 at Duke.
3. Nick SabanUniversity of Alabama
Football – $6,939,395
Now wrapping up his 10th season, Nick Saban has been the head coach of football at the University of Alabama since 2007. Saban has had a successful, but varied career, with assistant coaching positions in college football in numerous places, beginning with Kent State in 1973 and later Louisiana State University from 2000-2004. He has also held assistant coaching positions in the NFL with the Houston Oilers and the Cleveland Browns, as well as a head coaching position from 2005-06 with the Miami Dolphins, where he was most recently employed prior to coming to Alabama.
Saban has five national championship titles to his name, including three Bowl Championship Series titles in 2009, 2011, and 2012, and the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2015, all with Alabama, and a BCS championship with LSU in 2003. Together, these make him the first coach in football history to win a National Championship with two different Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools.
In addition to that, Saban has 7 SEC championship titles to his name, which puts him second only to Paul “Bear” Bryant, the legendary Alabama coach who had 14. They share the distinction of being the only two coaches to win SEC championships at two different schools in their career.
There are a whole slew of “Coach of the Year” awards in Saban’s trophy room, including those from the AP (2003 and 2008) and from the SEC (2003, 2008, and 2009), as well as the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award (2003 and 2008), the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award (2008), and the bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award (2014), just to name a few. In 2003, Saban received the Paul “Bear” Bryant award, and in 2008, Forbes magazine named Saban “The Most Powerful Coach in Sports.”
However, due to NCAA violations with the Alabama Athletics programs involving athletes among several sports, the football team’s 2007 record was vacated of most of its wins.
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Saban’s overall official coaching record in the NCAA is 204–60–1, with a record of 113-18 at Alabama.
4. John CalipariUniversity of Kentucky
Men’s Basketball – $6,580,000
John Calipari is the head coach of men’s basketball at the University of Kentucky, where he has held the position since 2009. Calipari began his coaching career as an assistant coach in 1982 at the University of Kansas, and then went to the University of Pittsburgh before landing his first head coaching position at the University of Massachusetts in 1988. In 1996, Calipari went to the NBA to coach the New Jersey Nets, and then became an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1999, before returning to the NCAA, and head coaching, at the University of Memphis in 2000. In 2011 and 2012, he was also the head coach of the Dominican Republic national basketball team.
Calipari has had great success as a college coach throughout his career, most notably as the coach of Kentucky men’s basketball, where he has achieved his only NCAA championship title (2012), and four NCAA Final Four appearances (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015), as well as tying the record for most wins in a single season, with a record of 38-2 in the 2012 season. And by the way, the record he tied was his own, which he set with Memphis in 2008. With the Dominican Republic, Calipari has also earned a gold medal from the 2012 Centrobasket tournament.
Numerous coaching honors are attached to Calipari’s name, including Naismith College Coach of the Year (1996, 2008, and 2015), Associated Press Coach of the Year (2015), NABC Coach of the Year (1996, 2009, and 2015), Basketball Times Coach of the Year (1996) and has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Calipari received the Adolph Rupp Cup in 2010, and again in 2015.
Looking at his college head-coaching career as a whole, Calipari has actually been to six Final Fours, including a 2008 appearance with Memphis, and a 1996 appearance with UMass. However, Calipari has been followed by some amount of controversy. In 1996, the NCAA vacated UMass of their tournament wins, and in 2008 the NCAA vacated Memphis of their entire season. Because of this, those two Final Four appearances, as well as Calipari’s first 38-win record setting season, have been wiped from his official record. He was not, however, personally implicated in either of these scandals.
Entering the 2016-17 season, Calipari’s official overall coaching record in the NCAA is 620-185, with a record of 217-47 at Kentucky.
5. Urban MeyerOhio State University
Football – $6,003,000
Urban Meyer has been the head coach of football at Ohio State University since 2012. Prior to that, he was the head coach at the University of Florida, the University of Utah, and Bowling Green State University. Meyers began his coaching career as an assistant coach, starting with St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1985 before taking college assistant coaching positions at Ohio State, Illinois State, Colorado State, and Notre Dame.
Meyer has coached his way to three national titles, with two BCS National Championship wins while at the University of Florida (2006 and 2008), as well as a College Football Playoff Championship with OSU in 2014, making him one of three coaches to win a major national championship at two different universities (the others being Nick Saban, and Pop Warner). Meyer has accumulated numerous other titles as well, including two SEC championships (2006 and 2008, with Florida).
In addition to his wins, Meyer has received many coaching honors and awards, including Sports Illustrated Coach of the Decade (2009), the George Munger Award (2004), the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award (2004), the Woody Hayes Trophy (2004) and The Sporting News National Coach of the Year (2003).
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Meyer’s overall coaching record is 165-28, with a record of 61-5 at OSU.
6. Bob StoopsUniversity of Oklahoma
Football – $5,550,000
Bob Stoops began his coaching career as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa in 1983, but the entirety of his time as a head coach has been spent at the University of Oklahoma, where he has been since 1999. He also spent time as an assistant coach at Kent State University, Kansas State University, and the University of Florida.
With his long tenure heading the Sooners, Stoops is credited with having turned the program around, holding the record for most wins by a coach at Oklahoma. He has lead the team to a BCS National Championship title in 2000, as well as ten Big Twelve Conference championship titles, making Oklahoma the leading team in the Big Twelve Conference. This is partly why, in 2012, Oklahoma was named the top program of the BCS era by ESPN magazine.
Stoops has numerous coaching awards to his name, including two Walter Camp Coach of the Year awards (2000 and 2003), AP Coach of the Year (2000), a Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award (2003), and six Big Twelve Coach of the Year awards, (2000, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2015 and 2016). In 2000, Stoops received the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award.
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Stoops’ overall record is 189-48, all at Oklahoma.
7. Jimbo FisherFlorida State University
Football – $5,250,000
The entirety of Jimbo Fisher’s career as a head coach has been spent at Florida State University, a position he has held since 2010. In that time, Fisher has lead the team to a BCS National Championship title (2013), three ACC championship titles (2012, 2013, and 2014) and four ACC Atlantic Division Titles (2010, 2012-2014). That’s impressive for his first six seasons coaching.
Fisher began his career as an assistant coach at Samford University in 1988, and went on to Auburn, the University of Cincinnati, and Louisiana State University before arriving at FSU. Initially Fisher coached the Quarterbacks and was the Offensive coordinator under the previous head coach, Bobby Bowden. Fisher was announced as “head coach in waiting,” and when Bowden announced his retirement at the end of the 2009-10 season, Fisher was quickly moved into the position.
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Fisher’s coaching record is 77-17, all of it at Florida State.
8. Charlie StrongUniversity of Texas
Football – $5,200,000
Starting in 2014, Charlie Strong became the head coach of football at the University of Texas. However, at the end of the 2016-17 season, Strong was fired from Texas. He will begin a position as head coach at the University of South Florida in 2017.
Strong began his career as an assistant coach at the University of Florida in 1983, before going on to Texas A&M and Southern Illinois, among others. Though Strong served as interim head coach with Florida for the December 2004 Peach Bowl game, he did not become a full-time head coach until arriving at Louisville in 2010.
Strong is probably best known for his success at Louisville, garnering attention for turning the program around from a slump that developed under its previous coach. In four seasons, Strong lead the team to two Big East Championship titles (2011 and 2012), as well as a BCS bowl win at the 2012 Sugar Bowl, with a surprising 33-23 upset over the Florida Gators. In this time, he was awarded Big East coach of the year twice, in 2010 and 2012.
After the 2013-14 season, Strong left Louisville with a 37-15 record for Texas. However he did not enjoy the same success at his new position, and was fired after three consecutive losing seasons.
The salary displayed above reflects how much Strong was making at Texas. Strong has signed a five-year contract with the University of South Florida worth $9.8 million, and he can expect to be taking a pay cut. However, considering that his release from Texas comes with a severance pay package, he likely won’t be hurting too badly. South Florida will pay him $1,000,000 annually for the first two years of his contract, while Texas will be expected to make up the difference, paying him $4.7 million for each of those years (taking $500,000 off the top). That makes a W for Strong and South Florida, and another big fat L for Texas.
Strong has an overall coaching record of 53-37, with a record of 16-21 at Texas.
9. Kevin SumlinTexas A&M University
Football – $5,000,000
Kevin Sumlin has five seasons under his belt as the head coach of Football at Texas A&M University, where he has held the position since 2012, replacing Mike Sherman. Previously, Sumlin saw success as the head coach at the University of Houston.
Sumlin began his career as an assistant coach at Washington State University in 1989, before going on to the University of Wyoming, the University of Minnesota, Purdue University, Texas A&M (still as an assistant coach), and the University of Oklahoma, before landing his first head coaching position at Houston in 2008.
While at Houston, Sumlin lead the team to two C-USA West Division titles. In his final season at Houston (2011-12), Sumlin saw a perfect 12-0 season, before losing to Southern Mississippi in the C-USA Conference Championship. At Texas A&M, Sumlin has yet to enjoy quite the same success, but has still managed to win the 2012 Cotton Bowl, the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl, and the 2014 Liberty Bowl. Also, in his five seasons at Texas A&M, the school has seen its most overall wins in the last two decades of the program, currently tallied at 44.
Sumlin has been awarded C-USA Coach of the Year twice (2009 and 2011), as well as SEC Coach of the Year in 2012. In 2009, 2011, and 2012, he was a finalist for the Paul “Bear” Bryant aware,
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Sumlin has an overall coaching record of 79-37, with a record of 44-20 at Texas A&M.
10. Bill SelfUniversity of Kansas
Men’s Basketball – $4,748,776
Bill Self has been the head coach of men’s basketball at the University of Kansas since 2003. Self began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Kansas in 1985, before going on to Oklahoma State. In 1993 he became head coach at Oral Roberts University, going on to the University of Tulsa and the University of Illinois, before arriving at his current position with Kansas.
Now entering his 13th season with the Jayhawks, Self has lead the team to Big Twelve regular season championship titles for the last 12 consecutive seasons, as well as seven Big Twelve tournament championships, two Final Four appearances (2008 and 2012), and to top it off, an NCAA championship title in 2008. Additionally, Self lead the US national team (primarily composed of Kansas players) to gold at the World University Games in 2015.
Self is a winning coach. Between 2009-2013, Kansas had four consecutive 30-win seasons, the most in NCAA history (tying only with Memphis, who has since been disqualified of this record due to the vacated 2008 season). Self is known for taking the team on long win streaks, with the longest being a 69 home game win streak that ended in 2011. Currently they are working on a 46 home game win streak. In his first 10 seasons with Kansas, the team achieved 300 wins, more than any other NCAA team in the previous 10 years.
Self has many awards and honors to his name, including NABC Coach of the Year (2016), USA Today National Coach of the Year (2016), AP College Coach of the Year (2009 and 2016), Naismith College Coach of the Year (2012), the Adolph Rupp Cup (2012), and Big Twelve Coach of the Year (2006, 2009, 2011, 2012).
Entering the 2016-17 season, Self’s overall record is 592–188, with a record of 385-83 at Kansas.
11. Sean MillerUniversity of Arizona
Men’s Basketball – $4,535,664
Sean Miller is currently the head coach of the Arizona men’s basketball team, where he took the position in 2009. Miller began his career as an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin in 1992, before going to Miami University, the University of Pittsburgh, and North Carolina State University. In 2001 Miller came to Xavier University, still as an assistant coach, before landing his first head-coaching job there in 2004. Also, since 2015, Miller is currently the head coach of the US Men’s Under-19 basketball team.
Though he hasn’t yet won an NCAA championship at Arizona, his team is on the rise as a tournament contender, with three Elite Eight appearances (2011, 2014, and 2015,) and four Sweet Sixteen appearances (2011, 2013-15) in his time there. Also while at Arizona, Miller has lead the team to three Pac-12 Regular Season Championships (2011, 2014, and 2015) as well as a Pac-12 Tournament Championship (2015). This mirrors the success Miller enjoyed at Xavier, where he lead the team to three A-10 Regular Season Championships (2007-2009), and an A-10 Tournament Championship (2006).
For his efforts as head coach at Arizona and Xavier, Miller has been awarded as A-10 Coach of the Year (2008), as well as Pac-12 Coach of the Year (2011 and 2014).
Entering the 2016-17 season, Miller’s overall NCAA coaching record is 308-108, with a record of 188-61 at Arizona.
12. Gus MalzahnAuburn University
Football – $4,725,000
Gus Malzahn is currently the head coach of football at Auburn University, where he has held the position since 2013. Malzahn began his career as an assistant coach at Hughes High School in Hughes, Arkansas in 1991, going to two other high schools before coming to college ball at the University of Arkansas in 2006. He then worked as an assistant coach at the University of Tulsa, and even Auburn, before landing his first head coaching job at Arkansas State University in 2012 (for only one season), where he lead the team to a Sun Belt Conference Championship title.
Malzahn became famous in his first year at Auburn for pulling off a huge single-season team turnaround. Malzahn had inherited a losing team from the previous coach, Gene Chizik, who in their 2012-13 season saw the team’s worst results in 60 years, finishing 3-9, with a perfect 0-8 in SEC conference play. After Malzahn took over in 2013, the team showed remarkable improvement. In his first season there, Malzahn’s Tigers finished with a 12-2 record that included an Iron Bowl upset victory over Alabama, which ended in one of the most memorable game-winning plays in recent years. That same year, Malzahn lead the team to an SEC Championship victory over Missouri. The team also made it to the BCS National Championship that year, though lost to Florida State.
In his brief time as a head coach (six season total, including 2016-17) Malzahn has accumulated an impressive clutch of awards. All of them, actually, were awarded to him in 2013. The list includes: SEC Coach of the Year, Home Depot Coach of the Year, Sporting News Coach of the Year, Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, AP College Football Coach of the Year, Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year, and to top it all off, the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award. In addition to that, Malzahn received a Broyles Award for his efforts as an assistant coach at Auburn in 2010, the same year they won the BCS National Championship.
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Malzahn has an overall coaching record of 44-20, with a 35-17 record at Auburn.
(Tie)13. Hugh FreezeUniversity of Mississippi
Football – $4,700,000
Hugh Freeze has been the head coach of football at the University of Mississippi, “Ole Miss,” since 2012. Freeze began his career in 1992 as an assistant coach at Briarcrest Christian High School, a private high school in Eads, Tennessee. He became the head coach there in 1995, before coming to the NCAA as an assistant coach at Ole Miss in 2006. In 2008, Freeze became the head coach at Lambuth University. From there, Freeze went on to work as an assistant coach at Arkansas State University before taking the position as head coach there in 2011, and finally arriving at Ole Miss after that.
The 2015 Sugar Bowl with Ole Miss has been Freeze’s most high profile win to date, though he has won several other bowls with the team, and previously won titles with Lambuth at the Mid-South Conference West Division title in 2009, and the 2011 Sun Belt Championship with Arkansas State. Freeze saw just as much success at the high school level, with numerous regional titles to his name. The 2016-17 season, however, did not go so well for his current team, with Ole Miss finishing up with a 5-7 record and no bowl bid.
Freeze has received the AFCA Southeast Region Coach of the Year Award (2009) and the Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year Award (2009) as well as numerous high school Coach of the Year awards for his time as head coach at Briarcrest.
Freeze has an overall NCAA coaching record of 69-32, with a record of 39-25 at Ole Miss.
(Tie)13. Dabo SwinneyClemson University
Football – $4,700,000
Dabo Swinney is currently the head coach of football at Clemson University, where he has been since 2008, making up the entirety of his career as head coach. Swinney began his career with an assistant coaching position at the University of Alabama in 1993, where he stayed for 10 years before going to Clemson in 2003. In 2008, Swinney was named the interim head coach at Clemson after the previous head coach, Tommy Bowden, resigned mid-season. Swinney became the full-time head coach shortly thereafter.
Though Swinney’s first season (or, half-season) as head coach at Clemson wasn’t particularly impressive, he did manage to break their six-game losing streak and come out with a winning season of 4-3. After Swinney took over full-time, Clemson’s team significantly improved, with 2015-16 being their best season yet, finishing with a 14-1 record, an Orange Bowl win, and a trip to the College Football National Championship. Under Swinney’s lead, Clemson has won three ACC Championships (2011, 2015, and 2016), as well as five ACC Atlantic Division titles (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2016).
2015 was a big year for Swinney. In addition to Clemson’s ACC Championship, Swinney received numerous awards, including the ACC Coach of the Year Award, the Home Depot Coach of the Year Award, the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award, the Associated Press College Football Coach of the Year Award, the Maxwell Football Club Coach of the Year Award, and to top it off, the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award. Previously, in 2011, Swinney received the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award.
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Swinney has an overall coaching record of 87-28, all at Clemson.
(Tie)15. James FranklinPennsylvania State University
Football – $4,500,000
James Franklin is currently the head coach of Football at Pennsylvania State University, where he has been since 2014. Franklin began his career as an assistant coach at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania in 1994, and hopped around to numerous places, including Idaho State University and the University of Maryland. In 2005, he worked in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, before returning to the NCAA in 2006 with Kansas State University. In 2011, Franklin landed his first head-coaching job at Vanderbilt University, where he stayed for three seasons, before arriving at Penn State.
Franklin has lead Penn State to a Big Ten Championship Title and a Big Ten East Division Title in 2016, as well as success at the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl, and a berth in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl. While at Vanderbilt, Franklin lead the team to wins at the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl, and the 2012 Music City Bowl. In 2016, Franklin Received the Dave McClain Coach of the Year Award, as well as the Sporting News Coach of the Year Award.
After the 2012 Sandusky sex-scandal fallout, the program at Penn State was significantly wounded, and (among other sanctions and restrictions) the team was banned from post-season play during its two seasons under the previous head coach, Bill O’Brien (2012-2014). After Franklin took over, the ban was lifted. Franklin has said that he wants to return the team to its previous level of dominance, and so far the results he is producing show he that he may just be able to do it.
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Franklin’s overall coaching record is 49-29, with a 25-14 record at Penn State.
(Tie)15. Kirk FerentzUniversity of Iowa
Football – $4,500,000
Since 1999, Kirk Ferentz has been the head coach of Football at the University of Iowa. Ferentz began his career in 1977 as an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of Connecticut, where he had previously been a linebacker. He went on to work as an assistant coach at Worcester Academy (a boarding school) as well as at the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Iowa, before taking his first head coaching position at the University of Maine in 1990-92. After, he worked as an assistant coach in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens, before coming to Iowa as the current head coach.
After a miserable first two seasons at Iowa (going 4-19), Ferentz turned the team around, leading it to a winning record. They won two Big Ten championships (2002 and 2004), a Big Ten West division title in 2015, and a BCS Bowl win at the 2009 Orange Bowl. For his time at Iowa, Ferentz has earned numerous awards and honors, including the AP College Football Coach of the Year Award (2002), the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award (2002), the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award (2015), and the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award (2002, 2004, 2009, and 2015).
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Ferentz’s overall coaching record is 147-112, with a record at Iowa of 135-91.
17. Rick PitinoUniversity of Louisville
Men’s Basketball – $4,448,000
Rick Pitino is in his sixteenth season as head coach of men’s basketball at the University of Louisville. Though he has had great success at Louisville, his current position can be seen as a kind of “second life” of coaching college ball; prior to coming to Louisville in 2001, Pitino was famous for his coaching success at the University of Kentucky.
Pitino began his career as an assistant coach in 1974 at the University of Hawaii, before going to Syracuse. He first became a head coach for Boston University in 1978, and then went back to assistant coaching, though in the NBA, with the New York Knicks in 1983. After that point, he has only been a head coach, alternating between college and NBA, with positions at Providence College, the New York Knicks, Kentucky in 1989-97, the Boston Celtics, and finally, Louisville.
Pitino holds two major distinctions in college basketball: he is the first coach in NCAA history to win national championships with two different teams (Kentucky in 1996 and Louisville in 2013), and he is also the first to take three different teams to the Final Four (Kentucky, Louisville, and Providence). In 2013, Pitino was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He has also been awarded with NABC Coach of the Year (1987), the Adolph Rupp Cup (2009), John Wooden National Coach of the Year (1987), SEC coach of the Year (1990, 1991, and 1996) and C-USA Coach of the Year (2005).
Side note: Because Louisville and Kentucky are heated rivals in basketball, many Kentucky fans began to view Pitino as a traitor after it was announced he would coach for Louisville. Lexington is likely not a place he is welcome anymore.
Though Pitino’s salary for the 2015-16 season has been $4,448,000, it will rise to $5,093,000 in the 2016-17 season, and stay that way for the next ten years of his contract, so he can expect to move up on this list.
Entering the 2016-17 season, Pitino’s overall NCAA coaching record is 745–262, with a record of 391-134 at Louisville.
18. Mark DantonioMichigan State University
Football – $4,300,000
Mark Dantonio is the head coach of Football at Michigan State University, where has held the position since 2007. Dantonio began his career in 1980 as an assistant coach at Ohio University (the Bobcats, not the Buckeyes), and held other assistant coaching positions at numerous places, including Ohio State University, the University of Kansas, and Michigan State, before landing his first head coaching job at the University of Cincinnati in 2004, and eventually arriving as head coach at Michigan State.
During his tenure at Michigan State, Dantonio has had marked success with the program, coaching the Spartans to their first 13-win season (2013-14), and seven wins in the last nine years over their arch-rivals, the University of Michigan. Dantonio has achieved all of his major coaching successes while at Michigan State, leading the team to a Big Ten East Division Title in 2015, two Big Ten Legends Division titles (2011 and 2013), and three Big Ten Conference Championships (2010, 2013, and 2015). This season however has not been going so well, finishing with a losing record of 3-9 and no bowl bid.
In his time at Michigan State, Dantonio has been awarded Big Ten Coach of the Year (2010 and 2013), and been inducted into the Bugle Sports Hall of Fame (2012).
Dantonio’s overall coaching record is 108-59, with a record of 90-42 at Michigan State.
19. Jim McElwainUniversity of Florida
Football – $4,268,325
Jim McElwain is currently the head coach of football at the University of Florida, a position he has held since 2015. McElwain began his career as an assistant coach at Eastern Washington University in 1985. He later worked at Montana State University, the University of Louisville, and Michigan State University, before taking a job in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders in 2006. After a year, he returned to the NCAA with California State University, Fresno, then to Alabama, before landing his first head-coaching job at Colorado State University.
McElwain has done well with only five seasons total as head coach under his belt. He inherited a losing program at Colorado State and turned it around in two seasons, and was hired to do the same at Florida after the previous coach, Will Muschamp, stepped down. In his two seasons at Florida, McElwain has lead the team to two consecutive SEC Eastern Division championships (2015 and 2016), making him the first coach to win one in their first year in the conference. McElwain has been awarded as SEC Coach of the Year (2015), MWC Coach of the Year (2014), and AFCA Regional Coach of the Year (2014-15).
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, McElwain’s overall coaching record is 40-24, with a record of 18-8 at Florida.
20. Dan MullenMississippi State University
Football – $4,200,000
Dan Mullen has spent the entirety of his head-coaching career in football at Mississippi State University, where he has held the position since 2009. Mullen began his career as an assistant coach at Wagner College in 1994, and held positions at Columbia University, Syracuse University, the University of Notre Dame, Bowling Green State University, the University of Utah, and the University of Florida before arriving at Mississippi State as head coach.
Though he has not lead Mississippi State to an SEC Championship title, Mullen has had marked success with the team in his efforts to restore it to the former glory it saw during the Allyn McKeen era (1939-48). Mullen took over the position after the previous coach, Sylvester Croom, was asked to resign in 2009. Out of Croom’s five seasons at Mississippi State, four of them were losing, and at the end of his tenure Croom posted a 21-38 record with the school. Mullen has managed to cause a significant turnaround in the team, with six seasons out of eight being winning seasons.
In the 2014-15 season, the Bulldogs saw their first No.1 AP ranking in 80 years. With this season’s St. Petersburg Bowl, the team is setting a new school record of seven-consecutive bowl appearances. Among those appearances, the team has won the 2010 Gator Bowl, the 2011 Music City Bowl, the 2013 Liberty Bowl, and the 2015 Belk Bowl.
For his time as head coach at Mississippi State, Mullen has been awarded the George Munger Award in 2014 (making him the first coach in school history to even be nominated for a national coach of the year award), as well as the AP SEC Coach of the Year Award (2014), the AFCA Region 2 Coach of the Year Award (2014), and the Athlon SEC Coach of the Year Award (2014).
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Mullen’s overall coaching record is 60-42, all at Mississippi State.
21. Butch JonesUniversity of Tennessee
Football – $4,110,000
Butch Jones is wrapping up his fourth season as head coach of football at the University of Tennessee, a position he has held since 2013. Jones began his career as an assistant coach in 1987 in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before coming to college football with Rutgers in 1990, followed by numerous other assistant coaching jobs, including Wilkes University, Ferris State University, Central Michigan University, and West Virginia University. Jones became the head coach at Central Michigan University in 2007, then Cincinnati in 2010, before coming to Tennessee.
Jones has four conference championship titles to his name, with Cincinnati in the Big East (2011 and 2012) and with Central Michigan in the Mid-American Conference (2007 and 2009). Though he has not won any conference titles at Tennessee, Jones lead the team to victory at the TaxSlayer Bowl (2014) and the Outback Bowl (2015). In 2011 he was named Big East Coach of the Year.
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Jones’s overall NCAA coaching record is 79–48, with a record of 29-21 at Tennessee.
22. Bret BielemaUniversity of Arkansas
Football – $4,100,000
Bret Bielema is the head coach of football at the University of Arkansas, and has held the position since 2013. Bielema began his career as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa in 1994, before going on to Kansas State.
Prior to coming to Arkansas, Bielema achieved notable success at the University of Wisconsin, with a year there as an assistant coach, before taking over head coaching duties in 2006. As the head coach at Wisconsin, Bielema achieved three consecutive Big Ten Championships (2010-2012), and he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2006.
Also while at Wisconsin, Bielema became the first coach in school history to win 11 games in the regular season (2006). That same season, Bielema’s team faced Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl; Wisconsin’s victory gave Bielema the distinction of being the third rookie coach in NCAA history to have 12-win season. At Arkansas, Bielema has won the Texas Bowl (2014) and the Liberty Bowl (2015), but has yet to match the success he enjoyed with Wisconsin.
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Bielema’s overall coaching record is 93-49, with a record of 25-25 at Arkansas.
23. David ShawStanford University
Football – $4,067,219
David Shaw is currently the head coach of football at Stanford University, where he has spent the entirety of his career as head coach, after taking the position in 2011. Shaw started his career as an assistant coach at Western Washington University in 1995 before going to the NFL in 1997 with the Philadelphia Eagles. He then worked with the Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens before returning to the NCAA in 2006 at the University of San Diego. In 2007, Shaw arrived at Stanford, where he was initially an assistant coach under Jim Harbaugh (number 1 on this list). Shaw took over as head coach after Harbaugh left for the NFL.
In only six seasons of coaching total, Shaw has posted impressive results, with a 0.788 overall win percentage, and three Pac-12 Championships (2012, 2013, and 2015), as well as two Rose Bowl wins (2012 and 2015) in three appearances. For his time as head coach, Shaw has been name Pac-12 Coach of the Year three times (2011, 2012, and 2015), and he has been a Paul “Bear” Bryant finalist four times
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Shaw’s overall coaching record is 63-17, all of it at Stanford.
24. Gary PattersonTexas Christian University
Football – $4,014,723
Gary Patterson is currently the head coach of football at Texas Christian University, where he has spent the entirety of his time as head coach, having held the position since 2000. Patterson began his career as an assistant coach at Kansas State University in 1982. He went on to work at numerous other schools, including UC Davis, and Pittsburg State University, before taking his first head coaching position in 1992 with the Oregon Lightning Bolts in the Professional Spring Football League.
(If you are thinking that you’ve never heard of the Lightning Bolts, or even the PSFL, that’s not surprising: the PSFL went under in 1992 just days before the scheduled season opener could be played).
Patterson soon returned to the NCAA as an assistant coach at Utah State University, then to Navy, the University of New Mexico, and finally to TCU. Patterson took over as head coach after the previous coach, Dennis Franchione accepted a position as head coach at Alabama, and abruptly left prior to the 2000 Mobile Alabama Bowl. Patterson was quickly hired on as head coach at TCU, though the team lost the bowl, posting a 0-1 record for his first season.
Patterson has had great success at TCU, holding the record for the most wins in school history. He has lead the team to victory at a C-USA Championship (2002), four MWC Championships (2005 and 2009-11) and a Big Twelve Championship (2014); the variation is due to the fact that TCU has changed conferences numerous times in its history. Patterson has also lead the team to many bowl wins, including the 2010 Rose Bowl, the same season in which the team saw a perfect 13-0 record.
Patterson has many awards to his name, including the Paul “Bear” Bryant award (2014), a George Munger Award (2009), a Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award (2009), the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award (2009 and 2014), the Woody Hayes Trophy (2009 and 2014), the AFCA Coach of the Year Award (2009 and 2014), and the AP Coach of the Year Award (2009 and 2014), among others.
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Patterson’s overall NCAA coaching record is 149-53, all of it at Texas Christian University.
25. Mark RichtUniversity of Miami
Football – $4,000,000
Mark Richt is currently the head coach of football at the University of Miami. However, as this is only his first season at Miami (2016-17), there is not much to say about his history there yet, except that they have had a winning 8-4 season so far.
Richt is better known for his 15 seasons at the University of Georgia, beginning in 2001, which ended immediately prior to his current position at Miami. Richt began his career as an assistant coach at Florida State University in 1985, went to East Carolina for a year in 1989, and came back to Florida in 1990, before finally taking the Georgia head coach position.
At Georgia, Richt had notable success, leading the team to win two SEC championships (2002 and 2005), as well as the Sugar Bowl in 2002, and five SEC Eastern Division Championships (2002, 2003, 2005, 2011, and 2012). In that time, Richt was named SEC Coach of the Year twice (2002 and 2005).
However, toward the end of his tenure at Georgia, there was a sense that he had grown stale. With numerous sports media outlets citing that Richt was unable to get Georgia to the “next level” (a national title), and with a decade behind him since Georgia’s last SEC championship title, as well as his failure to get Georgia to the SEC championship game in his last two seasons, Georgia dismissed Richt in 2015, and he left the school with a 145-51 record.
We should note that Richt’s salary is the only name on this list that reflects his approximate 2016-17 salary. We have made this exception in Richt’s case due to the nature of his current employment with Miami, which only applies to the current season.
Prior to the 2016-17 season bowl games, Richt has an overall record of 153-55, with a record of 8-4 in his first season at Miami.
Below are coaches who appeared on the previous version of this list, but who have since been removed for various reasons. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Mack Brown – Formerly the head coach of football at University of Texas, Brown retired after the 2013-14 season and is currently a football commentator with ESPN.
Bill O’Brien – Formerly the head coach of football at Pennsylvania State University, O’Brien left Penn State to become the head coach of the Houston Texans NFL team after the 2013-14 season.
Billy Donovan – Formerly the head coach of men’s basketball at the University of Florida, Billy Donovan became the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team in 2015.
Mike Gundy – Gundy is still the head coach of football at Oklahoma State University, but with a modest annual salary of $3,775,000 from the University, Gundy has been passed in the ranks.
Brady Hoke – Formerly the head coach of football at the University of Michigan, Hoke was fired after the 2014 season. He is currently the defensive coordinator at the University of Oregon.
Tom Izzo – Tom Izzo is still the head coach of men’s basketball at Michigan State University, but with a modest annual salary of $3,535,359 from the University, he has been passed in the ranks.
Les Miles – Formerly the head coach of football at Louisiana State University, Miles would have been in the middle of this list, with an annual salary of $4,385,567 from the university, but was fired toward the beginning of the 2016-17 season, after a loss to Auburn and a 2-2 record. At the time this article is being written, Miles currently does not have a coaching position anywhere.
Steve Spurrier – Formerly the head coach of football at the University of South Carolina, Spurrier resigned suddenly from the program in the middle of the 2015-16 season. He has been unclear about whether or not he has totally retired from coaching. Currently he is an ambassador and consultant to the University of Florida athletic department.
The 25 Highest Paid College Football Coaches 2017
|1||Jim Harbaugh||$9,004,000.00||University of Michigan|
|2||Nick Saban||$6,939,395.00||University of Alabama|
|3||Urban Meyer||$6,003,000.00||Ohio State University|
|4||Bob Stoops||$5,550,000.00||University of Oklahoma|
|5||Jimbo Fisher||$5,250,000.00||Florida State University|
|6||Charlie Strong*||$5,200,000.00||University of Texas|
|7||Kevin Sumlin||$5,000,000.00||Texas A&M University|
|8||Gus Malzahn||$4,725,000.00||Auburn University|
|9||Hugh Freeze||$4,700,000.00||University of Mississippi|
|10||James Franklin||$4,500,000.00||Penn State University|
|11||Kirk Ferentz||$4,500,000.00||University of Iowa|
|12||Dabo Swinney||$4,417,500.00||Clemson University|
|13||Les Miles*||$4,300,000.00||Louisiana State University|
|14||Mark Dantonio||$4,300,000.00||Michigan State University|
|15||Jim McEwlwain||$4,268,325.00||University of Florida|
|16||Dan Mullen||$4,200,000.00||Mississippi State University|
|17||Butch Jones||$4,110,000.00||University of Tennessee|
|18||Bret Bielema||$4,100,000.00||University of Arkansas|
|19||David Shaw||$4,067,219.00||Stanford University|
|20||Gary Patterson||$4,014,723.00||Texas Christian University|
|21||Mark Richt||$4,000,000.00||Unversity of Miami|
|22||Bobby Petrino||$3,880,434.00||University of Louisville|
|23||Mike Gundy||$3,775,000.00||Oklahoma State University|
|24||Kirby Smart||$3,753,600.00||University of Georgia|
|25||Kyle Whittingham||$3,650,000.00||University of Utah|
*Have since left listed University
The 10 Highest Paid Men’s College Basketball Coaches 2017
|1||Mike Krzyzewski||$7,299,666.00||Duke University|
|2||John Calipari||$6,580,000.00||University of Kentucky|
|3||Bill Self||$4,748,776.00||University of Kansas|
|4||Sean Miller||$4,535,664.00||University of Arizona|
|5||Rick Pitino||$4,448,000.00||University of Louisville|
|6||Tom Izzo||$3,525,359.00||Michigan State University|
|7||Bob Huggins||$3,325,000.00||West Virginia University|
|8||Jamie Dixon*||$3,234,437.00||University of Pittsburgh|
|9||Tom Crean||$3,152,867.00||Indiana University|
|10||Kevin Ollie||$3,100,000.00||University of Conneticut|
*Have since left listed University