College football coaching salaries up despite pandemic cuts


It pays to be the big man on campus.

An annual audit of college football coaches' salaries has revealed that it's never been a more lucrative profession -- even accounting for those who took reductions due to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The average head coach's salary this season is about $2.7M, USA Today Sports reported, based on the findings of its yearly survey. That figure represents a year-over-year increase of about 1.1%, the outlet said.

Without reductions due to the pandemic, the average salary would have been about $2.79M, a jump of roughly 4.5% over the previous season, the report said.

Alabama coach Nick Saban tops the list at $9.3M in 2020-21, followed by Ed Orgeron of LSU ($8.9M) and Dabo Swinney of Clemson ($8.3M). Next was Michigan's Jim Harbaugh ($8M) and Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M ($7.5M).

Six of the top-10 highest paid coaches were employed by schools in the powerhouse SEC. Harbaugh and Swinney were the only representatives from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, while the Big 12 had two. Stanford's David Shaw is the top-paid coach in the Pac-12, with his $4.8M coming in at No. 18 nationally.

Buy-out clauses remain a key factor in job security, with several coaches boasting eight-figure parachutes this season should their employers choose to dismiss them. Fisher

Meanwhile imbalances remain between the so-called Power Five and Group of Five conferences, with coaches in the former making more than four times as much as those in the latter.

Drilling down to pay cuts by conference, coaches at public schools playing in the Big Ten and Big 12 took them, while cuts were relatively scarcer in the SEC, the report said.

Swinney took the steepest cut of any coach at $1.25M, while Florida State's Mike Norvell was next at around $1M. Harbaugh, Minnesota coach PJ Fleck, Texas coach Tom Herman and Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley all saw reductions of more than $500,000.

However, most of the pay cuts aren't what they seem, a separate USA Today report said, with many coaches having the pay deferred to another time rather than truly cut.