Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is tops among Big Ten coaches in compensation
Harbaugh has the league’s highest compensation at $7.5 million. Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald receives $5.14 million and Illinois’ Lovie Smith comes in at $4 million.
Shortly after signing a bill that will allow college athletes in California to profit off their name, image and likeness beginning in 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he believed it was important to talk about coaches.
During his time as a member of the University of California Board of Regents, Newsom explained, he had the opportunity to look over coaching contracts. He took note of the lofty salaries, bonus provisions and perks that they receive, such as country club memberships and access to private jets.
“Yeah, that’s enviable. But it’s also revelatory,” Newsom said on a conference call late last month. “Many of those same coaches are getting a percentage of ticket receipts. And meanwhile, again, these athletes — not only are they not fully integrated into the campus community, many of them don’t even have full scholarships.”
As the debate over college athlete compensation continues, coaching salaries continue to rise.
USA TODAY Sports has been analyzing salaries in major-college football since 2006, when only one FBS coach (Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops) made more than $3 million in total compensation, which translates to about $3.8 million in today’s dollars. This year, 31 coaches — nearly one-quarter of those at the 130 FBS schools — will clear that threshold.
Here are other findings from this year’s data:
► The average total pay for the 122 FBS coaches for whom USA TODAY Sports could obtain compensation figures is $2.67 million, up 9% compared to last season. The increase is the largest in four years.
► Among Big Ten coaches, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh has the highest compensation at $7.5 million. Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald receives $5.14 million and Illinois’ Lovie Smith comes in at $4 million.
► Ten coaches are making north of $6 million. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney leads the way with $9.32 million in total compensation for 2019-20.
► For the first time, there is a league in which all of the coaches are making at least $3 million. It’s the 14-school Southeastern Conference, in which the average total pay is $4.95 million.
(The SEC was close to eclipsing that mark in 2015, when all 13 of its public-school coaches were making at least $3.25 million and 12 were above $3.6 million. However, Derek Mason’s pay from Vanderbilt had not yet become available from the school’s tax records, which later showed him at less than $3 million in each of his first three years at the school.)
► Thirty-three coaches would be owed eight-figure buyouts if they were fired without cause on Dec. 1, with 13 of those buyouts exceeding $20 million. (Some buyout clauses contain offset and mitigation language that could decrease the amount paid to the coach if he secures another job.)
► Arizona State coach Herm Edwards began the season eligible to receive up to $3.97 million in bonuses in 2019, which would have more than doubled his total base compensation ($2.38 million) for the year.
► Swinney and Alabama’s Nick Saban (nearly $8.9 million) each are making more this season than all of the head coaches in the 12-school Mid-American Conference, combined. The MAC’s combined total is just over $7.75 million.
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