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Highest-paid College Football Coaches of 2023: Saban, Dabo, Smart & More

Who stands alone atop the mountain of college football coach salaries? From the SEC’s juggernauts to the best out west, Boardroom has your full contract rundown.

College athletes have been getting paid for a long, long time. As of July 2021, a certain subset of that compensation became legal for the first time thanks to the NCAA’s come-to-Jesus moment on name, image, and likeness monetization.

But even the most celebrated, prolific athletes on the NIL brand partnership marketplace, from star quarterbacks Caleb Williams (USC) and Shedeur Sanders (Colorado) to LSU hoopers Angel Reese and Flau’jae Johnson and beyond, cannot hold a candle to the gaudy compensation packages the top coaches at the NCAA level bring home each year.

Indeed, unlike in most major professional sports leagues, the athletes still have a long way to go to catch up to the head honchos who put them through drills all year long. And of course, the bags don’t get any bigger than they do on the gridiron.

So, who stands alone atop the college football coach salary mountain? Based on the latest data from USA Today Sports, let’s find out who ranks among the highest-paid college football coaches for the 2023 season — and stick around for the end to see whose contract contains the biggest buyout.

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2023’s Highest-paid College Football Coaches

NOTE: Majority of data is limited to coaches at public institutions — notable coaches not included are Lincoln Riley (USC), Marcus Freeman (Notre Dame), Mario Cristobal (Miami), and Sonny Dykes (TCU).

Click a coach’s name to see his full contract, salary, and buyout details.

1. Nick SabanAlabama$11.41M
2. Dabo SwinneyClemson$10.88M
3. Kirby SmartGeorgia$10.7M
4. Ryan DayOhio State$10.27M
5. Mel TuckerMichigan State$10.01M
6. Brian KellyLSU$9.97M
7. Jimbo FisherTexas A&M$9.15M
8. Mark StoopsKentucky$9.01M
t9. Josh HeupelTennessee$9M
t9. Lane KiffinOle Miss$9M

Highest College Football Coach Salaries: No. 11 – No. 20

11. James FranklinPenn State$8.5M
12. Jim HarbaughMichigan$8.25M
t13. Luke FickellWisconsin$7.62M
t13. Mike GundyOklahoma State$7.62M
15. Mike NorvellFlorida State$7.3M
16. Billy NapierFlorida$7.27M
17. Brent VenablesOklahoma$7.1M
18. Kirk FerentzIowa$7M
19. Dan LanningOregon$6.62M
t20. Hugh FreezeAuburn$6.5M
t20. Bret BielemaIllinois$6.5M

Top-paid College Football Coaches: Best of the Rest

22. Sam PittmanArkansas$6.36M
23. Kyle WittinghamUtah$6.32M
24. Shane BeamerSouth Carolina$6.12M
t25. Eli DrinkwitzMissouri$6M
t25. PJ FleckMinnesota$6M
27. Chip KellyUCLA$5.98M
28. Pat NarduzziPittsburgh$5.87M
29. Lance LeipoldKansas$5.75M
30. Steve SarkisianTexas$5.6M
t31. Jeff BrohmLouisville$5.55M
t31. Matt RhuleNebraska$5.55M
t31. Deion SandersColorado$5.55M
34. Mike LocksleyMaryland$5.5M
35. Dave DoerenNC State$5.02M

Top 10 Biggest College Football Coach Buyouts

Reflects hypothetical contract buyout total as of the end of the 2023 regular season.

1. Kirby SmartGeorgia$92.62M
2. Jimbo FisherTexas A&M$77.56M
3. Brian KellyLSU$70.02M
4. James FranklinPenn State$64.66M
5. Dabo SwinneyClemson$64M
6. Matt RhuleNebraska$62.06M
7. Mark StoopsKentucky$51.19M
8. Josh HeupelTennessee$46.5M
9. Ryan DayOhio State$46.22M
10. Nick SabanAlabama$44.8M

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