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 enormous paychecks for coaches who can get the gold (literally and figuratively).
While the median annual salary for an average football coach might be $32,270 (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!
With that in mind, we have assembled a list of the top 25 highest paid coaches in college sports, ranked by annual salary.
Note that this not a list of the top 25 “highest-earning” coaches, but of the “highest-paid.” We focus solely on what universities pay their coaches as their base salary, and do not include bonuses or any outside income. The numbers shown are drawn from a reliable and accurate annual poll performed by USA Today, based on contract information provided by the schools, and/or publicly available tax return information.Related Articles:
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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 2016–17 athletic season. Some of these coaches can expect raises in the 2017–18 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 2016–17 season. We can safely say, however, that we expect these rankings to shift again after the 2017–18 season draws to a close.
The Highest Paid College Coaches in 2018
1. Nick Saban — $11,132,000
University of Alabama; Football
Having just wrapped up his 11th season, Nick Saban has been the head coach of football for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide 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 2000–04. 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 six national championship titles to his name, including four Bowl Championship Series titles in 2009, 2011, and 2012, and the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2015 and 2017, all with Alabama, as well as 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 seven 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, 2009, and 2016), as well as the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award (2003 and 2008), the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award (2008), the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award (2014), and the George Munger Award (2016) 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.” Many consider him to be the greatest college football coach of all time.
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.
After the 2017–18 season, Saban’s overall official coaching record in the NCAA is 223–62–1, with a record of 132–20 at Alabama.
2. Dabo Swinney — $8,504,600
Clemson University; Football
Dabo Swinney is currently the head coach of football for the Clemson University Tigers, holding that position 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 College Football National Championship title. Under Swinney’s lead, Clemson has won four ACC Championships (2011, 2015, 2016, and 2017), as well as six ACC Atlantic Division titles (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2017).
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.
After the 2017–18 season, Swinney has an overall coaching record of 101–30, all at Clemson.
3. John Calipari — $7,140,000
University of Kentucky; Men’s Basketball
John Calipari is the head coach of men’s basketball for the University of Kentucky Wildcats, holding that 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 as a head coach 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 38–2 in 2012. 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 he 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 2017–18 season, Calipari’s official overall coaching record in the NCAA is 694–193, with a record of 249–53 at Kentucky.
4. Jim Harbaugh — $7,004,000
University of Michigan; Football
Jim Harbaugh is currently the head coach of football for the University of Michigan Wolverines, now in his second third 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 playing 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 University in 1994, under his father Jack Harbaugh, who was then the head coach at the university.
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.
After the 2017–18 season, Harbaugh’s overall coaching record in the NCAA is 57–32, with a record of 28–11 at Michigan.
5. Urban Meyer — $6,431,240
Ohio State University; Football
Urban Meyer has been the head coach of football for the Ohio State University Buckeyes since 2012. Prior to that, he was the head coach at the University of Florida, the University of Utah, and Bowling Green State University. Meyer 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 University, Illinois State University, Colorado State University, and the University of 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), and two Big Ten championships (2014 and 2017).
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).
After the 2017–18 season, Meyer’s overall coaching record is 177–31, with a record of 81–73 at OSU.
6. Jimbo Fisher — $5,700,000
Florida State University; Football
Entering the 2018–19 season, Jimbo Fisher now holds the position of head coach of football for the Texas A&M University Aggies, replacing Kevin Sumlin. Prior to this point, the entirety of Jimbo Fisher’s career as a head coach has been spent with the Florida State University Seminoles, a position he held from 2010 until resigning December 1, 2017, following a disappointing season. In eight seasons, Fisher led Florida State University to a BCS National Championship title (2013), four ACC championship titles (2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016) and four ACC Atlantic Division Titles (2010, 2012–14).
Fisher began his career as an assistant coach at Samford University in 1988, and went on to Auburn University, 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.
After the 2017–18 season, Fisher’s coaching record is 83–23, all of it at Florida State.
7. David Shaw — $5,680,441
Stanford University; Football
David Shaw is currently the head coach of football for the Stanford University Cardinal, for whom 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 one on this list). Shaw took over as head coach after Harbaugh left for the NFL.
In only seven seasons of coaching total, Shaw has posted impressive results, with a 0.768 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 named Pac-12 Coach of the Year four times (2011, 2012, 2015, and 2017), received the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award in 2017, and has been a Paul “Bear” Bryant finalist four times.
After the 2017–18 season, Shaw’s overall coaching record is 73–22, all of it at Stanford.
8. Rich Rodriguez — $5,631,563
University of Arizona; Football
Rich Rodriguez, currently the head coach of football for the University of Arizona Wildcats, just wrapped up his sixth season with U of A, and his 16th year overall as head coach. Rodriguez started as a student assistant in 1985 under head coach Don Nehlen at West Virginia University. After several assistant coaching spots, including Glenville State College, Tulane University, and Salem College, Rodriguez landed his first head-coaching job, returning to West Virginia University and replacing Don Nehlen in the 2001–02 season. Though his first season posted disappointing results with a 3–8 record, Rodriguez’s second showed a major turnaround, ending up at 9–4.
While at West Virginia University, Rodriguez lead the team to a Sugar Bowl title in 2005, and a Gator Bowl title in 2006. At the University of Arizona, Rodriguez has not matched his past success, but has lead the team to two New Mexico Bowl titles (2012 and 2015) as well as a win at the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in 2013. Rodriguez has received a few awards, including NAIA Coach of the year (1993), WVIAC Coach of the Year (1993 and 1994), Big East Coach of the Year (2003 and 2005) and PAC-12 Coach of the Year (2014).
After the 2017–18 season, Rodriguez’s overall coaching record is 118–83, with a record of 43–35 at Arizona.
9. Mike Krzyzewski — $5,550,475
Duke University; Men’s Basketball
Mike Krzyzewski (pronounced “sha-shef-ski”), also known as “Coach K,” (pronounced “Coach K”) has been the head coach of men’s basketball for the Duke University Blue Devils 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 1975–80, 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 14 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 six 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 nine 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 2017–18 season, Krzyzewski’s overall record as head coach in the NCAA is 1071–330, with a record of 998–271 at Duke.
10. Tom Herman — $5,486,316
University of Texas; Football
The name with the shortest head-coaching career on this list, Tom Herman just wrapped up his first season as head coach of football for the University of Texas Longhorns, and only his third season as head coach overall. Though he only has three years under his belt as head coach, Herman has two decades of experience in various assistant coaching positions, starting in 1998 at Texas Lutheran University as a receivers coach, then to University of Texas, Sam Houston State University, Texas State University, Rice University, Iowa State University, and Ohio State University.
In 2015, Herman landed his first job as head coach, replacing Tony Levine at the University of Houston. Herman led Houston to a major turnaround, finishing the season with the 13–1 record and a Peach Bowl title. In 2017, Herman entered his current position at the University of Texas, and finished the 2017–18 season with a win at the Texas Bowl. Herman has two awards to his name: the 2015 American Coach of the Year award, and the 2014 Broyles Award.
After the 2017–18 season Tom Herman’s overall coaching record is 29–10, with a record of 7–6 at the University of Texas.
11. Gary Patterson — $5,104,077
Texas Christian University; Football
Gary Patterson is currently the head coach of football for the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, for whom 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) and the 2017 Alamo Bowl.
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.
After the 2017–18 season, Patterson’s overall NCAA coaching record is 160–57, all of it at Texas Christian University.
12. Rick Pitino — $5,057,000
University of Louisville; Men’s Basketball
After seventeen seasons at the University of Louisville, Rick Pitino is currently unemployed, having been fired amidst a “pay for play” scandal involving new recruits and Adidas. Though he had great success for the Louisville Cardinals, it 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, although the Louisville win has been vacated), 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).
After the 2016–17 season, Pitino’s overall NCAA coaching record is 770–271, with a record of 416–143 at Louisville.
13. Kevin Sumlin — $5,000,000
Texas A&M University; Football
After replacing Mike Sherman in 2012, Kevin Sumlin held the position of head coach of football for the Texas A&M University Aggies for six seasons. Previously, Sumlin saw success as the head coach at the University of Houston. However, at the end of the 2017 season, Sumlin was fired from Texas A&M; he now holds the position of head coach at the University of Arizona, replacing Rich Rodriguez.
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 did enjoy the same success, but still managed to win the 2012 Cotton Bowl, the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl, and the 2014 Liberty Bowl. Also, in his six seasons at Texas A&M, the school has seen its most overall wins in the last two decades of the program, tallied at 51.
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 award.
After the 2017–18 season, Sumlin has an overall coaching record of 86–43, with a record of 51–26 at Texas A&M.
14. Bill Self — $4,752,626
University of Kansas; Men’s Basketball
Bill Self has been the head coach of men’s basketball for the University of Kansas Jayhawks 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 13 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 and 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. 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, and 2017).
Entering the 2017–18 season, Self’s overall record is 623–193, with a record of 416–88 at Kansas.
15. Gus Malzahn — $4,725,000
Auburn University; Football
Gus Malzahn is currently the head coach of football for the Auburn University Tigers, holding that 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 they lost to Florida State.
In his brief time as a head coach (six seasons) 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.
After the 2017–18 season, Malzahn has an overall coaching record of 54–25, with a 45–22 record at Auburn.
16. James Franklin — $4,600,000
Pennsylvania State University; Football
James Franklin is currently the head coach of football for the Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions, holding that position 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 2017 Fiesta Bowl, 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 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 head coach Bill O’Brien (2012–14). 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.
After the 2017–18 season, Franklin’s overall coaching record is 60–32, with a 36–17 record at Penn State.
17. Kirk Ferentz — $4,550,000
University of Iowa; Football
Since 1999, Kirk Ferentz has held the title of head coach of football for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. 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, 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. The team has 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, as well as the 2017 Pinstripe 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).
After the 2017–18 season, Ferentz’s overall NCAA coaching record is 143–97, with a record at Iowa of 143–97.
18. Dan Mullen — $4,500,000
Mississippi State University; Football
Prior to the 2017–18 season, Dan Mullen has spent the entirety of his head-coaching career in football for the Mississippi State University Bulldogs, holding the position since 2009. In November 2017, Mullen resigned from Mississippi State University and signed a deal to become head coach for the University of Florida Gators, replacing Jim McElwain.
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 seven seasons out of nine being winning seasons.
In the 2014–15 season, the Bulldogs saw their first No.1 AP ranking in 80 years. With the 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl, the team set 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 two Coach of the Year Award (2014), and the Athlon SEC Coach of the Year Award (2014).
After the 2017–18 season, Mullen’s overall coaching record is 69–46, all at Mississippi State.
19. Jim McElwain — $4,457,400
University of Florida; Football
After two-and-a-half seasons, the University of Florida Gators fired Jim McElwain as their head coach of football, a position he held from 2015 to late 2017. Currently McElwain does not have a coaching position at any school. 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 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-and-a-half seasons at Florida, McElwain 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).
After the 2017–18 season, McElwain’s overall coaching record is 44–28, with a record of 22–12 at Florida.
20. Mark Dantonio — $4,380,492
Michigan State University; Football
Mark Dantonio is the head coach of football for the Michigan State University Spartans, holding 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 eight wins in the last ten 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). After a disappointing 2015–16 season, Dantonio brought the team back up in 2016–17 with a 10–3 record and a win at the Holiday Bowl.
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).
After the 2017–18 season, Dantonio’s overall coaching record is 118–62, with a record of 100–45 at Michigan State.
21. Mike Gundy (Tie) — $4,200,000
Oklahoma State University; Football
Mike Gundy has spent the entirety of his 13 seasons as head coach of football for the Oklahoma State University Cowboys. In addition to that, Gundy has spent quite a bit of time at OSU, playing for them as an undergraduate, and starting his career as an assistant coach in 1990 under then-head coach Pat Jones. After assistant coaching jobs at Baylor University and the University of Maryland, Gundy returned to Oklahoma State University, beginning his long tenure as head coach and replacing Bob Simmons in 2001.
For his time at OSU, Gundy has lead the team to a Big 12 championship in 2011, and a Big 12 South Division Championship in 2010 and 2016, as well as a handful of bowl titles. Moreover, Gundy has been named Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2010, Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year in 2011, and received the 2011 Paul “Bear” Bryant award.
After the 2017–18 season, Gundy’s overall coaching record is 114–53, all of it at Oklahoma State University.
21. Bret Bielema (Tie) — $4,200,000
University of Arkansas; Football
Starting in 2013, Bret Bielema held the position of head coach of football for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. After the 2017–18 season, the university fired Bret Bielema, ending his fifth season in the position with a disappointing 4–8 record. Currently Bielema does not hold a coaching position at any school.
Bielema began his career as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa in 1994, before going on to Kansas State University. Prior to arriving at Arkansas, Bielema achieved notable success at the University of Wisconsin, spending 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 (2010–12), 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 a 12-win season. At the University of Arkansas, Bielema won the Texas Bowl (2014) and the Liberty Bowl (2015), but fell short of the success he enjoyed with Wisconsin.
After the 2017–18 season, Bielema’s overall coaching record is 97–58, with a record of 29–34 at Arkansas.
23. Chris Petersen — $4,125,000
University of Washington; Football
Chris Petersen has just wrapped up his fourth season as head coach of football for the University of Washington Huskies, a position he has held since 2014. Petersen began his career as an assistant coach in 1987 at UC Davis, before going on to the University of Pittsburgh, Portland State University, the University of Oregon, and Boise State University. After head coach Dan Hawkins left Boise State, Petersen took over the position, with notable success. In eight seasons, Petersen saw a record of 92–12.
While head coach at Boise State University, Petersen lead the team to four WAC championships (2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010) as well as a Mountain West title in 2012. At the University of Washington Petersen has achieved a Pac-12 championship title in 2016, as well as two Pac-12 North Division titles (2016 and 2017). Petersen has received the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award twice, in 2006 and 2009, and was named Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year in 2010.
After the 2017–18 season, Petersen’s overall coaching record is 129–29, with a record of 37–17 at the University of Washington.
24. Butch Jones — $4,110,000
University of Tennessee; Football
Starting in 2013, Butch Jones held the title of head coach of football for the University of Tennessee Volunteers for five seasons. In November 2017, the University of Tennessee fired Jones after several disappointing losses, ending his season with a 4–6 record.
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 arriving at 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 did not win any conference titles at Tennessee, Jones lead the team to victory at the TaxSlayer Bowl (2014), the Outback Bowl (2015), and the Music City Bowl (2016). In 2011 he was named Big East Coach of the Year.
After the 2017–18 season, Jones’s overall NCAA coaching record is 84–54, with a record of 34–27 at Tennessee.
25. Bobby Petrino — $3,930,434
University of Louisville; Football
Currently the head coach of football for the University of Louisville Cardinals, Bobby Petrino has four consecutive seasons at the school, though it is his eighth there overall. As a head coach, Petrino’s career has a rocky history. He spent nearly 20 years in assistant coaching positions, including Weber State University, University of Idaho, and Arizona State University, before his first head coaching position at the University of Louisville in 2003.
After the close of the 2006–07 season, Petrino left Louisville to become the head coach of the NFL Atlanta Falcons. Following a single losing season there, Petrino resigned (via locker room sticky-notes) and returned to the NCAA as head coach of football at the University of Arkansas. After a motorcycle accident in 2012 and an ensuing investigation, the University of Arkansas discovered Petrino had put his young mistress on the payroll as a fundraiser for the Razorback Foundation. Petrino was promptly fired. At the end of 2012, Petrino was hired as head coach at Western Kentucky University, a position he held for one season before leaving the position to once again become head coach of football at the University of Louisville, replacing Charlie Strong. Given Petrino’s history, as well as recent scandals at U of L, his current position is not held without controversy and criticism.
In his first tenure at head coach of U of L, Petrino lead the team to a 2004 Liberty Bowl win, a 2006 Orange Bowl win, and a 41–9 record. Petrino has not seen as much success with his second time around, but has still managed to post a 2015 Music City Bowl Win, and a 34–18 record. Petrino has received no awards for coaching in his career.
After the 2017–18 season, Petrino’s overall NCAA coaching record is 117–48, with a record of 75–27 at the University of Louisville.
The following list reflects coaches who appeared on the previous (2017) version of this list, but who have since been removed for various reasons. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Formerly the head coach of football for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, Bob Stoops announced his retirement in June 2017, prior to the start of this season.
Currently the head coach of football for the University of South Florida Bulls, Charlie Strong saw a significant drop in salary this season after his severance pay package from the University of Texas ended.
Formerly the head coach of football for the University of Mississippi Rebels, Hugh Freeze was fired following a scandal involving the “morals clause” of his contract. The firing happened prior to this season.
The head coach of men’s basketball for the University of Arizona Wildcats, Sean Miller, just is not making enough money to be on the list this year, with a current annual salary of $2,200,000
The head coach of football for the University of Miami Hurricanes, Mark Richt’s salary information was not available this year, so he could not be accurately ranked.
The 25 Highest Paid College Football Coaches in 2018
|1.||Nick Saban||$11,132,000||University of Alabama||Football|
|2.||Dabo Swinney||$8,504,600||Clemson University||Football|
|3.||Jim Harbaugh||$7,004,000||University of Michigan||Football|
|4.||Urban Meyer||$6,431,240||Ohio State University||Football|
|5.||Jimbo Fisher||$5,700,000||Florida State University||Football|
|6.||David Shaw||$5,680,441||Stanford University||Football|
|7.||Rich Rodriguez||$5,631,563||University of Arizona||Football|
|8.||Tom Herman||$5,486,316||University of Texas||Football|
|9.||Gary Patterson||$5,104,077||Texas Christian University||Football|
|10.||Kevin Sumlin||$5,000,000||Texas A&M University||Football|
|11.||Gus Malzahn||$4,725,000||Auburn University||Football|
|12.||James Franklin||$4,600,000||Penn State University||Football|
|13.||Kirk Ferentz||$4,550,000||University of Iowa||Football|
|14.||Dan Mullen||$4,500,000||Mississippi State University||Football|
|15.||Jim McElwain||$4,457,400||University of Florida||Footbal|
|16.||Mark Dantonio||$4,380,492||Michigan State University||Football|
|17. (tie)||Bret Bielema||$4,200,000||University of Arkansas||Football|
|17. (tie)||Mike Gundy||$4,200,000||Oklahoma State University||Football|
|19.||Chris Petersen||$4,125,000||University of Washington||Football|
|20.||Butch Jones||$4,110,000||University of Tennessee||Football|
|21.||Bobby Petrino||$3,930,434||University of Louisville||Football|
|22.||Kirby Smart||$3,753,600||University of Georgia||Football|
|23.||Mark Stoops||$3,750,000||University of Kentucky||Football|
|24.||Kyle Whittingham||$3,687,917||University of Utah||Football|
|25.||Jim Mora||$3,550,000||University of California, Los Angeles||Football|
The 12 Highest Paid Men’s College Basketball Coaches in 2018
|1.||John Calipari||$7,140,000||University of Kentucky||Basketball|
|2.||Mike Krzyzewski||$5,550,475||Duke University||Basketball|
|3.||Rick Pitino||$5,057,000||University of Louisville||Basketball|
|4.||Bill Self||$4,752,626||University of Kansas||Basketball|
|5.||Tom Izzo||$3,582,751||Michigan State University||Basketball|
|6.||Bob Huggins||$3,582,751||University of West Virginia||Basketball|
|7.||John Beilein||$3,370,000||Michigan State University||Basketball|
|8.||Gregg Marshall||$3,000,000||Wichita State University||Basketball|
|9.||Scott Drew||$2,813,811||Baylor University||Basketball|
|10.||Dana Altman||$2,650,000||University of Oregon||Basketball|
|11.||Steve Alford||$2,640,000||University of California, Los Angeles||Basketball|
|12.||Buzz Williams||$2,600,000||Virginia Tech University||Basketball|
The 25 Highest Paid Coaches in 2017
|1.||Jim Harbaugh||$9,004,000||University of Michigan||Football|
|2.||Mike Krzyzewski||$7,299,666||Duke University||Basketball|
|3.||Nick Saban||$6,939,395||University of Alabama||Football|
|4.||John Calipari||$6,580,000||University of Kentucky||Basketball|
|5.||Urban Meyer||$6,003,000||The Ohio State University||Football|
|6.||Bob Stoops||$5,550,000||University of Oklahoma||Football|
|7.||Jimbo Fisher||$5,250,000||Florida State University||Football|
|8.||Charlie Strong||$5,200,000||University of Texas||Football|
|9.||Kevin Sumlin||$5,000,000||Texas A&M University||Football|
|10.||Bill Self||$4,748,776||University of Kansas||Basketball|
|11.||Sean Miller||$4,535,664||University of Arizona||Basketball|
|12.||Gus Malzahn||$4,725,000||Auburn University||Football|
|13. (tie)||Hugh Freeze||$4,700,000||University of Mississippi||Football|
|13. (tie)||Dabo Swinney||$4,700,000||Clemson University||Football|
|15. (tie)||James Franklin||$4,500,000||Penn State University||Football|
|15. (tie)||Kirk Ferentz||$4,500,000||University of Iowa||Football|
|17.||Rick Pitino||$4,448,000||University of Louisville||Basketball|
|18.||Mark Dantonio||$4,300,000||Michigan State University||Football|
|19.||Jim McElwain||$4,268,325||University of Florida||Football|
|20.||Dan Mullen||$4,200,000||Mississippi State University||Football|
|21.||Butch Jones||$4,110,000||University of Tennessee||Football|
|22.||Bret Bielema||$4,100,000||University of Arkansas||Football|
|23.||David Shaw||$4,067,219||Stanford University||Football|
|24.||Gary Patterson||$4,014,723||Texas Christian University||Football|
|25.||Mark Richt||$4,000,000||University of Miami||Football|