One of the two coaches in the 2020 national championship game is among the highest-paid college football coaches, and there are also plenty of well-rewarded coaches with on-field results that aren’t quite as impressive.
In terms of conferences, though, there’s not many surprises to be had. All of the top-10 coach salaries come from the Power 5.
USA Today publishes a database of coach salaries from most FBS schools (some private schools are exempt from providing contract data), offering a glimpse into the financials of the very lucrative college football industry, though of course it’s not quite as lucrative for the players on the field.
Here’s a list of the highest-paid college football coaches in 2019.
MORE: 10 fun facts you didn’t know about Dabo Swinney
Highest-paid college football coaches in 2019
1. Dabo Swinney, Clemson, $9,315,600
The defending national champion pulled in more money than any other coach in the 2019, thanks to the biggest coaching contract in college football history.
Swinney’s salary is set to increase to $10,000,000 by the end of the 10-year deal, which he signed in April.
2. Nick Saban, Alabama, $8,857,000
For many years, Saban was at the top of the list. But Swinney’s record-breaking contract knocks the longtime Crimson Tide coach to the runner-up spot. He’ll take solace in making nearly $9 million, which doesn’t include the house the Crimson Tide Foundation bought for him.
The foundation paid $3.1 million for the home, according to AL.com.
3. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan, $7,504,000
There is at least one area Jim Harbaugh can beat Ohio State in.
The Wolverines haven’t reached the heights their fans hoped for since Harbaugh’s hiring in 2015, and his salary is one of the reasons for the unease. Harbaugh’s on-field results don’t match those of the coaches around him, but he is making about as much money as his brother, so he’s still a winner.
4. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M, $7,500,000
Jimbo Fisher took over the Aggies in 2018, and his salary shows the athletic department wants him to get the program back to national relevance.
It hasn’t quite happened yet. But by beating Oklahoma State in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl, Fisher secured an eighth win of the season, meaning at least he can tell his bosses he earned more wins than millions of dollars this year.
5. Kirby Smart, Georgia, $6,781,600
Georgia hasn’t returned to the College Football Playoff since the 2017-18 season, but Kirby Smart is still reaping the rewards of the contract extension he signed a few months after losing the national championship to Alabama.
Not included in the $6,781,600 figure is the monetary value of 25 (non-business) flight hours in a private jet Smart’s contract gives him access to. And, because hours can roll over if unused in a year, he may have had access to as many as 50 hours last year, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
6. Gus Malzahn, Auburn, $6,800,000
It’s possible Gus Malzahn has been pinching pennies for the start of his Auburn contract, which has a built-in raise of $100,000 each year.
Given how quickly Gene Chizik was forced to move on from the Tigers, though, it may be a bit surprising if Malzahn is around to make $7.3M during the 2024 season. Luckily for him, the extension he signed in 2018 also included a massive buyout, designed to give all parties some peace of mind. We’ll see how many 5-3 SEC years that buys him.
7. Tom Herman, Texas, $6,750,000
Not having one of the highest-paid coaches in the nation may temper expectations for Texas football, and because the Longhorns program is built upon disappointment, that just won’t fly. So, Tom Herman made $6.75M last year.
You may not think Herman has been worth his $29,750,000 contract, but maybe you just don’t place enough value on being ranked in the preseason AP poll every year.
8. Jeff Brohm, Purdue, $6,600,000
This salary might make a bit more sense for Matt Painter, but it’s Jeff Brohm making $6.6 million in West Lafayette. Brohm signed a seven-year extension with the Boilermakers in 2019.
In the two years before that extension, Brohm led Purdue to a 13-13 record and two bowl games. He went 4-8 last year. Not exactly confidence-inducing.
9. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma, $6,384,462
If and when Lincoln Riley makes his much-expected jump to the NFL coaching ranks, he’ll be leaving behind a salary of $6,384,462 from Oklahoma.
Little-known fact: The athletic department was planning on paying Riley an even $6.4 million but took away a dollar for every yard the Sooners defense gave up to Joe Burrow.
10. Dan Mullen, Florida, $6,070,000
Considering Dan Mullen signed this contract in 2018, and considering he signed it with Florida, it’s arguably surprising that he’s this low on this list.
Mullen has led an instant turnaround with the Gators, taking over a 4-7 team and going 21-5 in his first two seasons. Of course, the coach he replaced, Jim McElwain, also had a great first two years. He was gone before the end of the third. McElwain ended up at Central Michigan, but Mullen’s future is more likely the NFL.