Despite the widespread controversy about whether or not NCAA players should be compensated for their work, there’s no doubt that college football is a billion-dollar industry. From ticket sales to memorabilia and everything in between, it seems like everyone involved is filling their pockets – except, that is, the guys playing the game on the field. Just glimpse at what some of America’s head football coaches – their bosses – are raking in every year, and it’s easy to see why the players are eager to get their fair share of the pie.
Even some assistant coaches of college football receive salaries topping one million, and most receive annual earnings comparable to major players in the NFL. College football franchises themselves are worth hundreds of millions, based on ticket sales, memorabilia and other NCAA-approved sources of income. But the real story lies with the head coaches, who are often pulling in base salaries four times that of their staff – and that doesn’t include winning bonuses, speaking engagements and other glamorous incentives.
Whether it’s based on years experience, winning records, winning potential or other factors, colleges and universities invest a lot in their head coaches. One thing’s for sure; these guys are definitely selling tickets and filling seats. Here are the top ten highest paid college football coaches for the 2014-2015 season.
10 Steve Spurrier ($4 million)
The two-time All-American quarterback from the University of Florida and 1966 Heisman Trophy winner has had his hand in almost every aspect of the game. After stepping into the spotlight as a college player, he played in the NFL for ten seasons and became a pro coach in the United States Football League in 1983. He then moved into coaching college football, starting at Duke where he led the team to a long-overdue conference championship. Next up, he returned to his home state of Florida, where he took the team to six conference championships and cemented his million-dollar value as a college football head coach.
In 2005, Spurrier became the “Head Ball Coach” at the University of South Carolina, where he’s quickly become the all-time winningest football coach in the school’s history.
9 Steve Sarkisian ($4.25 million)
Steve Sarkisian became the University of Southern California’s head football coach in 2013 after a professional career playing quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.
Sarkisian began his coaching career as a quarterback coach and later as an offensive coordinator for USC. Additionally, he gained professional coaching experience as a quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders of the NFL. When he returned to USC, he was named assistant head coach. He later took the job of head coach at the University of Washington, where he led his team in a huge upset against his former employer, USC. In fact, since 2010 when Sarkisian was overlooked for the USC head coaching job in favor of his former colleague, Lane Kiffin, the team had been spiraling downwards from the ranks. In 2013, former USC head coach and current Seattle Seahawks head coach revealed that he wanted Sarkisian to take over – and so he did. USC is now making its way back to the top, and Sarkisian is one of the highest paid coaches in the game.
8 Art Briles (4.25 million)
The head football coach at Baylor University since 2008, Briles began his coaching career under the Friday night lights of high school games. He demonstrated a winning record for nearly 20 years before joining the Texas Tech coaching staff as a running backs coach. He moved into the head coaching position at the University of Houston in 2003, where he led the Cougars to conference championships and bowl games. He accepted a seven-year contract with Baylor University in 2007, along with a sizeable compensation package.
7 Brady Hoke ($4.3 million)
Beginning his college coaching career as an assistant coach at Michigan, Hoke left that job in 2002 to become the head coach at his alma mater, Ball State in Ohio. Not long after, Ball State broke the AP’s Top 25 for the first time in history. He was later hired as the head coach at San Diego State and again made history with a record-breaking season and a bowl game victory in 2010. In 2011, he returned to Michigan State to lead the Wolverines to their first BCS Bowl game in 5 years.
6 Les Miles ($4.5 million)
“The Mad Hatter” has been a head coach at LSU and Oklahoma State and has several BCS National Championship titles under his belt. Not bad, considering his $4.5 million dollar contract with LSU stipulates massive performance bonuses every season. He became LSU’s head ball coach in 2005, but his first season was highly unusual due to the University serving as an emergency center for Hurricane Katrina relief. Several games were delayed or postponed, and many were changed from home games to away to accommodate relief efforts. Despite these challenging odds, LSU won the 2005 SEC Western Division title in Miles’ first year and has been a force to be reckoned with ever since.
5 Urban Meyer ($4.8 million)
After leading the Florida Gators to several major victories from 2005-2010, Urban Meyer has announced his retirement several times, only to make a comeback in college football each time. In 2009, he announced he would resign from the University of Florida due to health concerns, but returned before spring practice in 2010. In 2010, his resignation was again announced before the Outback Bowl, and worked briefly as a football commentator and analyst at ESPN. In 2011, he accepted a new head coaching position at The Ohio State University.
4 Kevin Sumlin ($5 million)
Beginning as Texas A&M’s head coach in 2011, Sumlin named young quarterback Johnny Manziel as a starter in 2012 – and the rest is history. Manziel, or “Johnny Football” went on to win the Heisman trophy, and Sumlin’s Aggies finished the season in the top 5 of the AP Poll’s Top 25, smashing records in the SEC conference despite it being their very first year as contenders in the conference. The following year, Sumlin received a new 6-year contract with a substantial pay increase.
3 Charlie Strong ($5 million)
When Charlie Strong joined the South Carolina Gamecocks in 1999 as a defensive coordinator, rumors flew that he’d be the first black head coach in the SEC, but that title eventually went to the Sylvester Croom in 2004. Instead, Strong moved to the Florida Gators where he served as interim coach after the firing of Ron Zook, but he was again overlooked for the permanent position in favor of Urban Meyer. He finally got his shot in 2009 when he stepped into the role of head coach at the University of Louisville and led the team to a satisfying victory over his former employer, The University of Florida, in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. He is now the head coach at the University of Texas, where he signed a 5-year, $5 million (annual) contract in 2014.
2 Bob Stoops ($5.25 million)
Head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, Stoops has overhauled the school’s football program and has an incredible winning record of 162-39. In his career to date, he has broken the record for most wins ever at Oklahoma. Another noteworthy achievement? Throughout his entire coaching career, he has only lost 5 games at home.
1 Nick Saban ($7.3 million)
After leaving his post as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Nick Saban became head coach at Alabama in 2007 when he signed an 8-year contract totaling $32 million. He is one of the highest-paid football coaches in the world – including those in the professional and college games - and has been named “The Most Powerful Coach in Sports” by Forbes magazine.