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.
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 Saban||Alabama||$11.41M|
|2. Dabo Swinney||Clemson||$10.88M|
|3. Kirby Smart||Georgia||$10.7M|
|4. Ryan Day||Ohio State||$10.27M|
|5. Mel Tucker||Michigan State||$10.01M|
|6. Brian Kelly||LSU||$9.97M|
|7. Jimbo Fisher||Texas A&M||$9.15M|
|8. Mark Stoops||Kentucky||$9.01M|
|t9. Josh Heupel||Tennessee||$9M|
|t9. Lane Kiffin||Ole Miss||$9M|
Highest College Football Coach Salaries: No. 11 – No. 20
|11. James Franklin||Penn State||$8.5M|
|12. Jim Harbaugh||Michigan||$8.25M|
|t13. Luke Fickell||Wisconsin||$7.62M|
|t13. Mike Gundy||Oklahoma State||$7.62M|
|15. Mike Norvell||Florida State||$7.3M|
|16. Billy Napier||Florida||$7.27M|
|17. Brent Venables||Oklahoma||$7.1M|
|18. Kirk Ferentz||Iowa||$7M|
|19. Dan Lanning||Oregon||$6.62M|
|t20. Hugh Freeze||Auburn||$6.5M|
|t20. Bret Bielema||Illinois||$6.5M|
Top-paid College Football Coaches: Best of the Rest
|22. Sam Pittman||Arkansas||$6.36M|
|23. Kyle Wittingham||Utah||$6.32M|
|24. Shane Beamer||South Carolina||$6.12M|
|t25. Eli Drinkwitz||Missouri||$6M|
|t25. PJ Fleck||Minnesota||$6M|
|27. Chip Kelly||UCLA||$5.98M|
|28. Pat Narduzzi||Pittsburgh||$5.87M|
|29. Lance Leipold||Kansas||$5.75M|
|30. Steve Sarkisian||Texas||$5.6M|
|t31. Jeff Brohm||Louisville||$5.55M|
|t31. Matt Rhule||Nebraska||$5.55M|
|t31. Deion Sanders||Colorado||$5.55M|
|34. Mike Locksley||Maryland||$5.5M|
|35. Dave Doeren||NC 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 Smart||Georgia||$92.62M|
|2. Jimbo Fisher||Texas A&M||$77.56M|
|3. Brian Kelly||LSU||$70.02M|
|4. James Franklin||Penn State||$64.66M|
|5. Dabo Swinney||Clemson||$64M|
|6. Matt Rhule||Nebraska||$62.06M|
|7. Mark Stoops||Kentucky||$51.19M|
|8. Josh Heupel||Tennessee||$46.5M|
|9. Ryan Day||Ohio State||$46.22M|
|10. Nick Saban||Alabama||$44.8M|
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