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Shocker: SEC reigns in coaching pay yet again

A protester wearing dollar-sign glasses looks on in front of Reichstag building during an Occupy Berlin protest denouncing current banking and financial industry practices in Berlin Reuters

Every year for the past few years, USA Today has done an exhaustively outstanding job in compiling the salaries of Div. 1-A head coaches, private institutions notwithstanding, and putting them into a database that’s too compelling not to pour over and dissect.

Every year, the dollar amounts attached to the names of coaches whose schools reside in the SEC and are found in that database trump that of every other conference in the country.  And, in a stunning turn of events, that’s the case for the umpteenth time in a row again this year.

To put an exclamation point on just how far the salaries in the SEC have spiraled into the financial stratosphere, the 11 coaches in that conference — Vanderbilt was not included in the database — will make a combined $34,121,380 in 2011 according to the latest figures published by the paper.  The combined total pay of the 47 coaches in Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and WAC?  $28,848,050.

The lowest-paid coach in the SEC — Kentucky’s Joker Phillips at just over $1.7 million — would be the highest-paid coach in any of those conferences with the exception of the MWC and Conference USA; however, the coach in the former conference — TCU’s Gary Patterson — will be taking his $2.018 million salary this year to the Big 12 in 2012, while the latter’s coach — SMU’s June Jones — and his $1.727 million are likely heading out to the Big East.

USA Today notes that the average salary in 2011 of all 110 coaches included in the latest database is $1.47 million, up 55 percent from the first year they did the survey in 2006.  All told, 64 of those 110 coaches make at least $1 million annually.

A total of $159,701,667 — which doesn’t include bonuses, incidentally — will be disbursed to coaches in 2011; that total is more than the gross domestic product of the Falkland Islands and Kiribati, a country of just over 103,000 residents located in the Pacific which, like Les Miles, is noted for its body percussion.

The average total 2011 pay of SEC coaches is just over $3.1 million, a total that’s obviously tops in the country for any conference.  Not far behind, relatively speaking, is the Big 12 at $2.506 million, followed by the Big Ten ($1.946 million) and ACC ($1.872 million).  Somewhat surprisingly, the Big East ($1.683 million) actually trumps the Pac-12 ($1.594 million); the caveat there is that USC’s Lane Kiffin and his rumored $3-$4 million annual salary, which is not included in this year’s listing, would push the Pac-12 past the Big East.

No coach in the SEC, Big 12 or Big East — again, based on those included in the 2011 database — makes less than seven figures, while just one each in the ACC (North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers, $500,000) and the Big Ten (Purdue’s Danny Hope, $925,000) will make less than a million dollars this year.  At the other end of the spectrum, just six coaches in the five non-automatic qualifying BcS conferences will make more than a million in 2011 — Patterson, Jones, Boise State’s Chris Petersen ($1.525 million), UCF’s George O’Leary ($1.392 million), Houston’s Kevin Sumlin ($1.2 million) and Hawaii’s Greg McMackin ($1.15 million).

Interestingly, five of those six coaches, with McMackin being the lone exception, are at schools that will either move or are rumored to be moving to an automatic qualifying conference in the next year or two.

On the individual front, Mack Brown is the highest-paid coach in the game at $5,193,500.  His average pay of $432,792 per regular season game is more than the annual salary of 22 Div. 1-A coaches.  Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze is the lowest-paid coach in the country at $202,160 for those who are interested.

Brown and Nick Saban ($4.833 million) will make more than the $4.42 million the 12 coaches in the MAC will make combined this year, while Brown, Saban, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($4.075 million), LSU’s Les Miles ($3.856 million), Iowa Kirk Ferentz ($3.785 million), Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino ($3.638 million) and Auburn’s Gene Chizik ($3.5 million) will all make more than the $3,431,653 the nine Sun Belt coaches will make combined.

And, to keep this topical given the events of the past 10 days or so: just four coaches in AQ conferences — Hope, Withers, Colorado’s Jon Embree ($725,000) and Washington State’s Paul Wulff ($600,050) — made less in 2011 than Joe Paterno‘s $1.023 million at Penn State.

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29 Responses to “Shocker: SEC reigns in coaching pay yet again”
  1. peed1 says: Nov 17, 2011 7:57 AM

    Joe Paterno was not really coaching.
    This story shows how our priorities are totally screwd up.
    These guys are the highest paid people at educational
    Institutions and they have nothing to do with education.

  2. totallydisgusted says: Nov 17, 2011 8:14 AM

    but they bring in so much money and advertising to the school. so yeah, go ahead and pay them

  3. southernpatriots says: Nov 17, 2011 8:16 AM

    There are factors which enable these large salaries to hire the best coaches available in the SEC, Big 12, Big 10, PAC-12, etc. The stadiums have the largest average capacity, with expansions planned for many in the SEC, etc. Luxury boxes, advertising (including naming the fields, scoreboards, etc.), Nike and Under Armour’s sponsorship, greatly increasing TV contracts and conference networks (all shared equally in the SEC since the beginning), tv shows for the coaches, bowls revenues shared equally in the SEC and expanding to other conferences, and many other sources of income, give these schools the funds to pay the high salaries to coaches, hiring the best coaches available, building the best practice facilities, and other amenities.

    As ticket prices continue to rise with stadium seat capacity growing, and tv and media incomes greatly increasing, there is no limit yet in sight for these salaries. We do not know about other contracts, but Les Miles renegotiated his contract extension at the same salary he had previously which is rare today. The LSU trustees offered Miles incentive/performance bonuses which are coming to bear at this time and over the next weeks.

  4. 1historian says: Nov 17, 2011 8:38 AM

    Sorry to inject a bit of reality here but – their graduation rates?

  5. linedrivehit says: Nov 17, 2011 9:43 AM

    Several Points:

    1. Schools in the SEC actually MAKE money off of football, so they can afford to pay coaches – the law of the marketplace.

    2. If I’m the CEO of a small Mom & Pop store, I’m not going to make as much as the CEO of Coca-Cola. Duh….

    2. If college football wasnt big business, then the “author” of this hogwash story (John Taylor) would not have a job making what HE is making.

  6. southernpatriots says: Nov 17, 2011 10:00 AM


    This concerns us as well. Scholarships should result in an education.

    Latest news is a great accomplishment for LSU! Vanderbilt is first in the SEC with about 88 percent graduation rates in its football program. LSU has improved GREATLY under Coach Les Miles’ personal involvement (going to classes to surprise the players, getting them tutoring, pressing them to graduate, etc….he and his staff working hard). LSU is now in second place in the SEC with about 78 percent graduation rates among football players. Florida is at 77 percent. (a friend and fellow poster here on CFT from Florida said it is his fault by missing a question…ha.)

    No other SEC school is in the 70s. Everyone would expect Vanderbilt and Florida to be up there. No one would expect LSU. But all the hard work is paying off. We would suspect that the new additions of Texas A&M and especially Mizzou will have higher graduation rates for their football teams and overall sports.

    Football is not really the problem area for graduation rates. It is the basketball programs just about everywhere since so many players leave early for the NBA.

  7. fatediesel says: Nov 17, 2011 10:14 AM

    I would be surprised if Hugh Freeze is among the lowest-paid a year from now. He’s turned around Arkansas State and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get a major job after this season. I’d guess he’ll get an interview at Ole Miss, where his former high school player Michael Oher was a star and where Freeze was an assistant for 2 years.

  8. harleyspoon says: Nov 17, 2011 10:16 AM


  9. harleyspoon says: Nov 17, 2011 10:19 AM

    1historian….A little more reality for you…lest you get really negative about athletes and their graduation rates…

  10. 700levelvet says: Nov 17, 2011 10:37 AM

    The fact remains, that no matter how much people talk about graduation rates, etc. It’s all just for the sake of an argument talk. If their team or school was in the BCS championship game, and they had say, a 25 % graduation rate, would they care?…Would they sit there and say, i hope we win, but the graduation rate is going to make the title seem tainted. Yeah…….OK… College Coaches make a lot of money, cause they generate alot of money….It’s simple business, and college sports is a business….

  11. harleyspoon says: Nov 17, 2011 10:44 AM


    As a former high school and college coach, I can say with some certainty that, along with their class schedule, college athletes work as hard for their education as any specific group of college students anywhere…

    During their specific sport’s season, it is more than a full-time job…

    They do have to go to class…

    They can’t take basket-weaving anymore….

    Then they have practice time, film study, position meetings, weight work, hall/tutor time after dinner 4 days a week…

    Then their is the off-season schedule–something very few non-athletes would even consider working through–including spring training, weights, conditioning, film study…not to mention summer conditioning, pre-season prep, two-a-days and three-a- days in 100 degree heat…

    In other words, college athletes earn their scholarships and more and more of them are taking full advantage of the opportunity…

    Too many arrogant pseudo-intellects play on the old stereotypes of athletes..specifically football player stereotypes…I think there may be some jealousy among that bunch….One would think that a real intellect would spend less time whining about old-time stereotypical malarkey and take time to do some real study/research about college sports and college athletes before making blanket assertions or implications…

    Are there failures and wash-outs among college athletes? Certainly!! Human frailty is a reality for us all…just as intellectual arrogance exists among those who think themselves somehow superior to the athlete for some unknown rhyme or reason…

  12. quixotissimo says: Nov 17, 2011 11:33 AM

    The SEC also probably leads the nation in how much they pay their players.

    The SEC ought to break away from the NCAA and form their own semi-professional football league much the same way Major Junior hockey does in Canada.

  13. quizguy66 says: Nov 17, 2011 11:58 AM

    Something about the letters e-g-i-n-r-s that makes for confusing sentences I guess.

    At first I thought this article was about the SEC reigning in (as in controlling) salaries. Then I realized it means that there the SEC is instead in 1st place in terms of salary.

    Kind of reminds me of the time Marvin Lewis resigned with the Bengals for this year and folks thought he was leaving the team.


  14. harleyspoon says: Nov 17, 2011 12:13 PM

    Quizguy66, the word you were trying to spell with those “letters” requires another “g”….that is, if that word is the one you were trying to spell…If that was the word, then you are probably a racist…I hope that’s not the case….racists and sexual predators are in the same category, you know!

  15. contract says: Nov 17, 2011 12:13 PM

    “just four coaches in AQ conferences — Hope, Withers, Colorado’s Jon Embree ($725,000) and Washington State’s Paul Wulff ($600,050) — made less in 2011 than Joe Paterno‘s $1.023 million at Penn State.”

    Paterno just learned an ugly lesson. Loyalty is a one way street, and is strictly for suckers. All that money Penn St saved on his salary went to pay for the daggers that are now stuck in his back.

    The media came calling for his head, and they couldn’t toss him overboard, under the bus, and pile up on him fast enough.

  16. harleyspoon says: Nov 17, 2011 12:30 PM

    Contract, You can say that again…and I could not have said it better….Loyalty is a thing of the American past!! I don’t mean “chauvinism”..and neither do you. We are talking about “loyalty” like Franco Harris has and is paying dearly for. Thumbs up for Franco Harris!!

  17. phelbin says: Nov 17, 2011 2:54 PM

    Contract and Harley, you guys need some perspective. How should Penn State have reacted? Well…we know that you’ve done almost nothing to stop this monster from hurting dozens of children (if not more) and scarring them for life, but really…the 40 years you’ve put in as a football coach makes up for the horrible crimes committed on your watch. We like you so much, and because we haven’t had to pay you very much money, we’re just going to let it go. Nevermind the fact that you knew about it. Those kids will recover…now let’s get back to football.

    Right? Come on, guys. Loyalty because of football SHOULD go out the window when it’s discovered that the system under his control was enabling his protege to hurt children.

    I take football seriously, but you two really should reexamine your priorities.

  18. harveyballwanger says: Nov 17, 2011 3:13 PM

    You get what you pay for, if your lucky like the ec.

  19. harveyballwanger says: Nov 17, 2011 3:14 PM


  20. rolltide510 says: Nov 17, 2011 4:08 PM

    Well, this settles it. It’s time for action.


    But seriously, I applaud the author for at least not trotting out the suggestion that coaches salaries negatively impact professors salaries.

  21. burntorangehorn says: Nov 17, 2011 7:17 PM

    linedrivehit says:Nov 17, 2011 9:43 AM

    Several Points:

    1. Schools in the SEC actually MAKE money off of football, so they can afford to pay coaches – the law of the marketplace.
    Incorrect. Only some SEC schools make money. IIRC, Auburn hasn’t even broken even most recent years, and I think 2010 was one of those years they didn’t.

    Is it perhaps a bit ironic that the southeast, which is currently the leech living off the tax contributions of other regions (mostly the northeast and Texas), is the one paying its public universities’ coaches the highest average salaries?

  22. harleyspoon says: Nov 17, 2011 7:29 PM

    burntorange…You are correct on what you say with one exception….Texas took $16 billion of Obama’s stimulus money to balance the current biennial budget…..Now, we face a $16 billion deficit again in the upcoming biennium…but there will be no Obama Stimulus…I wonder what the Repubs will do then…They’ve already cut almost every social program well into the bone…and they’ve cut education (public colleges and universities and public K-12) to pieces…Texas now has 8.5% unemployment and the highest % of uninsured people in the nation…I am a devout Texan who loves Texas….so I blame the failure to govern on the Republicans; not Texans in general…The Teapubs have proven they are incapable of governing at any level….

  23. harleyspoon says: Nov 17, 2011 9:08 PM

    Phelbin…Joe only knew what he heard because he had seen nothing…therefore he knew nothing…After all those years, Sandusky had not been charged with crime or even prosecuted/tired, much less convicted. That was law enforcement’s and the Centre County DA’s fault, not Joe’s fault.

    Joe was not/is not a policeman…

    Joe was not/is not a prosecutor…

    Joe was not/is not a judge….

    Joe was not and has not been a member of a jury pertaining to Sandusky….

    Joe is not/was not an executioner of a court order of any kind…

    Joe did, according to Pennsylvania law pertaining to child sex abuse allegations (page 12 of the Sandusky Grand Jury Report), exactly what the law demanded….It had nothing to do with loyalty to Sandusky and you can say that it was all about (loyalty to Sandusky) 1000 times and you are still wrong in your assessment of the whole matter…and you sure as hell don’t know anymore about the matter than what has been blabbed about by self-righteous and sanctimonious “lynch mob nuts” who have gone after Joe Paterno when they ought to be venting about Centre County DA’s neglect…Curley’s and Schultz’s malfeasance…

  24. linedrivehit says: Nov 17, 2011 9:22 PM

    hey quixotissimo…

    Your SEC envy is amusing.

  25. harleyspoon says: Nov 17, 2011 9:28 PM

    Ihistorian, Surely you know that the writers at the NYTimes and USA Today are not apologists for major college football..and if you are actually a historian, you’d know that….

  26. linedrivehit says: Nov 17, 2011 9:28 PM

    hey burntorangehorn…

    You are on the wrong message board… this is not the commie pinko liberal political message board. This is a college football message board. If you want to make a politcal statement, either go to the appropriate message board or… oh, I get it… you are part of the group “Occupy CollegeFootballTalk” and you want to force us to listen to you whining.

  27. harleyspoon says: Nov 17, 2011 9:32 PM

    Burntorange, YOU SAID: “Is it perhaps a bit ironic that the southeast, which is currently the leech living off the tax contributions of other regions (mostly the northeast and Texas), is the one paying its public universities’ coaches the highest average salaries?”

    You broached politics first (ABOVE) if you can ever figure out how to remember what you say, you goose-stepping ass hole…If you are a Tea Sipper, you really don’t bring much credit to your great university…and UT is a great university…

  28. norcalirish says: Nov 18, 2011 7:44 AM

    Notre Dame has the best student-athlete graduation rate in the country, and has for years.

  29. harleyspoon says: Nov 18, 2011 10:23 AM

    Thanks norcalirish…..That ought to shut some of those sports hating wimps up for a while…or at least for awhile…

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