These College Football Head Coach Salaries Rival Their NFL Counterparts

football | 1/28/19

College football coaches are among the highest paid coaches in the nation. Some even make more than their NFL counterparts. Nick Saban is the highest paid coach in college. Saban’s $8.3 million a year salary at Alabama would also easily make him one of the highest paid coaches in the NFL. Of course, with a track record for winning championships like his, it’s hard to say to hasn’t earned it! We’ll let you decide if the rest of the coaches on this list have earned their high salaries, too.

Nick Saban – $8.3 Million

nick saban alabama coaching salary
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Before we talk about everyone else, let’s look at how Saban earned his massive payday with Alabama. Since taking over the program in 2007, Saban has won five National Championships. His overall record at the school is a mind boggling 141-21!

Since 2011, no Crimson Tide team Saban has coached has lost more than two games. All he does is win, and he’s doing it at one of the most prestigious schools in the nation. The school is so in love with Saban, that on top of his salary, they also found a way to pay off his $3 million mortgage in 2014.

Jim Harbaugh – $7.5 Million

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Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is actually getting paid more by Michigan than he ever did in the NFL. He made $5 million a year as the head coach of the 49ers. When he and the team agreed to "mutually part ways," his alma mater made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

The signing of Harbaugh in 2015 came with high expectations. He was supposed to rejuvenate the once-proud program. He has mostly come through, although the Wolverines are still waiting to get into the college football playoff.

Up next, the highest paid coach in Texas history!

Jimbo Fisher – $7.5 Million

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When Jimbo Fisher made the decision to leave Florida State for Texas A&M, it was all about the Benjamins. His new school inked him to a massive 10-year, $75 million contract. While he didn’t prove much his first year at the helm, he has plenty of time to get it right.

Of course, the school is confident in their investment. With Florida, Fisher only had one losing season. In 2013, the school went a perfect 14-0 and won the National Championship. Can lightning strike twice in College Station?

Gus Malzahn – $6.7 Million

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Gus Malzahn has had an up-and-down tenure at Auburn. His first season as the team’s head coach was a smashing success. The Tigers went 12-2 and won the National Champions. The next season they went 8-5, and followed that up in 2015 by going 7-6.

The 2017 season saw Auburn return to form under Malzahn. The school went 10-4 and he was rewarded with a seven year contract extension. His first year with his new salary, however, ended with a disappointing 8-5 record.

Still ahead, do you know who the $6.6 million head coach of Georgia is?

Kirby Smart – $6.6 Million

kirby smart georgia coach salary
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Kirby Smart has had a tremendous run as the head coach for the University of Georgia. In three years he has gone 32-10, and led the team to the brink of National Championship twice. In 2017, the team actually faced off against Alabama in the final game, losing a heartbreaker in overtime.

Before taking over at Georgia, Smart worked under Saban at Alabama as the school’s defensive coordinator. Oddly enough, it’s been his offenses that have stood out in Georgia. In 2017 and 2018 the team averaged more than 35 points a game.

Dabo Swinney – $6.5 Million

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Dabo Swinney might be underpaid at Clemson. In 2018, his Tigers tore Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide apart in the National Championship. Before the loss, Alabama was undefeated. Unfortunately for them, so was Clemson, the only team could stand un-scarred at the end of the game.

Before becoming the head coach of Clemson in 2009, Swinney was an assistant on Tommy Bowden’s staff. Bowden was fired after a 3-3 start to the 2008 season and the school named Swinney the interim head coach. Swinney never looked back.

Dan Mullen – $6 Million

dan mullen florida gators head coach salary
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In his first season as the Florida Gators coach in 2018, Dan Mullen went 10-3. The high-paying contract he signed the year prior has paid dividends early and might surprise people who followed his unspectacular nine-year career at Mississippi State.

In those nine seasons, Mullen went 69-46. He dominated outside of his conference, but fell short against them, going 33-39. His teams were nationally ranked three times. It also doesn’t hurt his resume that he coached the Cowboys starting quarterback Dak Prescott.

The coach who turned Houston’s program around is next!

Tom Herman – $5.5 Million

tom herman texas head coach salary
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Tom Herman was handed a high priced contract in 2016 from the University of Texas after resuscitating Houston’s football program. In 2015 with Houston, Herman led the team to a 13-1 record.

They ended the year as the eighth-ranked team in the nation. It was the first time since 1979 that Houston achieved a top ten ranking. He was praised for returning the school to glory. In two years, he went 22-4 with the Cougars and was undefeated on his home turf. If Texas didn’t steal him away, another school would have.

Scott Frost – $5 Million

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Like Tom Herman, Scott Frost was always going to be pulled away from one college football program to another. From 2016 to 2017, Frost was the head coach of the University of Central Florida. He coached the team to a perfect 13-0 in 2017 and got the attention of Nebraska.

His first season at Nebraska was a letdown. When a school pays a coach $5 million, they expect him to win right away. Frost went 4-8, going 3-6 in conference play. With his track record for success, the upcoming season should flip the narrative.

Mike Gundy – $5 Million

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Mike Gundy was handed the head coach job at Oklahoma State when Les Miles left for another job in 2004. Gundy was Miles offensive coordinator and the decision to make him Miles successor was easy. In 14 seasons, he’s only had one losing season.

If there is one thing that has eluded Gundy during his tenure, it’s that he has never won a National Championship. He has won the Big 12 Championship once but has never been able to hold the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy over his head.

Coming up, a coach who jumped around several colleges before landing at Florida State!

Willie Taggart – $5 Million

willie taggart florida state head coach salary
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For Willie Taggart, the fourth try was the charm. He got his first head coaching job in 2010 with Western Kentucky. Three years later he moved onto South Florida. He stayed there for four years before taking over at Oregon.

Finally, in 2018, Florida State offered Taggart $5 million a year to be their head coach. He went 5-7 his first season working to rebuild the program. Overall, Taggart has a 52-57 record as a head coach in the NCAA.

Lovie Smith – $5 Million

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Lovie Smith accomplished just about everything he could in the NFL as the head coach of the Chicago Bears for a decade. After two years with the Buccaneers, Smith decided to go back to college ball and took the head coaching job at the University of Illinois.

His first three seasons in Illinois were not good. He led the team to a 9-27 overall record. The 2018 season was his most successful campaign, and the team went 4-8. If he wants to stick around, he will need to start winning as he did in the NFL.

Gary Patterson – $4.8 Million

gary patterson tcu head coach salary
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Gary Patterson has been a constant at Texas Christian University (TCU) since 2000. His run there has led to a 167-63 record. The only thing he’s missing is a National Championship ring. Patterson has won five conference titles, though, so no one at the school is complaining.

Through his long career with TCU, Patterson has seen the school play in four different conferences. When he started, they belonged to the Western Athletic Conference. One year later they moved to Conference USA. In 2005, they moved to the Mountain West Conference. Seven years later the school settled into the Big 12 Conference.

James Franklin – $4.8 Million

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James Franklin had a tough task ahead of him when he signed his contract with Penn State. The school was still reeling from the Joe Paterno scandal and needed a strong personality to replace Bill O’Brien, who left the program to coach the Houston Texans.

After taking, Franklin turned the school into an NCAA powerhouse. Every year under Franklin, Penn State has been seen as a National Championship contender. Give him enough time, and he’ll bring the trophy to Pennsylvania.

Coming up, the man who made Baker Mayfield.

Lincoln Riley – $4.8 Million

lincoln riley oklahoma head coach salary
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Lincoln Riley took over as the head coach at the University of Oklahoma in 2017 after Bob Stoops retired. In his first two seasons, Riley won 24 games and only lost four. It’s one of the best starts to a coaching career in history.

It didn’t hurt that in his first season Riley had Baker Mayfield as his quarterback. Then, when Mayfield left for the NFL, Kyler Murray took his spot under center. With Murray gone in 2019 who will Riley find to replace him?

Kirk Ferentz – $4.7 Million

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One of the longest-tenured head coaches in college football history, Kirk Ferentz has watched over the Iowa Hawkeyes since 1998. His first two seasons were disasters, but the tide turned in his third year. The team posted a winning record and won the Alamo Bowl.

Ferentz is such an institution in Iowa it’s surprising he’s not higher on this list. He could easily be making more money at another school. After signing a ten-year extension in 2016, however, it’s clear there’s no place Ferentz would rather be.

Ryan Day – $4.5 Million

ryan day ohio state head coach salary
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Ryan Day has big shoes to fill in Ohio. Announced as Urban Meyer’s replacement, Day will attempt to make the transition from highly regarded offensive coordinator to highly respected head coach. If anyone can do it, it’s Day.

Meyer retired from coaching at the end of the 2018 season citing health concerns. It was the second time in his head coaching career he left a program to take care of his health. His salary was going to be $8 million, so handing over the reins to Ryan Day actually saves the school money.

Mark Dantonio – $4.4 Million

mark dantonio michigan state head coach salary
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Another college football staple, Mark Dantonio has run the show at Michigan State since 2007. With an overall record 107-51, it’s unlikely he’ll be going anywhere for a while either. The only bad mark on Dantonio’s resume is his 2016 season, where the school went 3-9.

In 2017, the school bounced back in a big way, going 10-3 and winning the Holiday Bowl. Dantonio’s best season by far was 2013, when the school went 13-1, won the Rose Bowl, and ended the year as the third-ranked team in college.

Chris Petersen – $4.4 Million

chris petersen washington head coach salary
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Chris Peterson has never had a losing season as a head coach. In eight seasons with Boise State, Petersen went 92-12. The school finished a perfect 14-0 in 2009. In 2014, Washington managed to entice Peterson away from Boise.

The 2016 season was the reason the University Washington coveted Petersen. The school went 12-2 and was ranked as the fourth best team in the nation. The ranking qualified them for the College Football playoffs, although they failed to make the National Championship game.

David Shaw – $4.3 Million

david shaw stanford head coach salary
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When Jim Harbaugh bolted Stanford to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, David Shaw took over. In the years since, he has arguably been better than the man he took over for, although he earns quite a bit less.

In his first eight seasons, Shaw went 82-26. He has won the Rose Bowl twice and never posted a losing campaign. Once considered a school that high school recruits actively tried avoid, Shaw has helped turn the Palo Alto university into a hot ticket program.