Hot Reads: Coaches and the Money They Make
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Hot Reads: Coaches and the Money They Make

October 26, 2017

USA Today released its annual ranking of football coaches’ salaries this week, which is always good for some gawking. Important to note that these rankings are for the current contract year only, not the total value of a contract, and for that reason you can see a few swings.

For example, Nick Saban leads the way at $11.1 million, but that includes a $4 million signing bonus. Dabo Swinney’s $8.5 million includes a $1.5 million bonus and $1 million to “fund life insurance premiums.” And if you’re wondering how Rich Rodriguez is hanging out in the top five, well, it’s complicated.

Mike Riley’s $2.9 million salary in 2017-18 ranks 41st nationally and 11th in the Big Ten (ahead of Maryland, Rutgers and Indiana). And in case you were wondering, just because he happens to be a Nebraska native, Scott Frost’s $2.0 million is the second-highest among Group of 5 coaches trailing only SMU’s Chad Morris.

USA Today always does a good job of building content around this database. Here are the five best deals in the country according to the USA Today staff (oh, hey, Northern Illinois’ Rod Carey), and the five worst (hi, Kirk Ferentz).

But the most interesting thing here might be the buyout figures. Want to try and lure Swinney out of Clemson? It’ll cost you $40 million, the highest total in the country this year. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher is at $39 million. 

Now, these buyouts are usually tied to remaining contracts, so coaches who have recently signed new deals are going to move towards the top, but it is pretty interesting if you want to play fantasy AD and go off in search of an established head coach. And if you really want to have some fun, give yourself a $7 million buyout cap.

Thirty-eight coaches have a buyout greater than that so they’re off the table, and that includes most of the proven options. You could still get Power 5 guys like Gus Malzahn, Paul Chryst and Mike Leach and stay under the cap, however. Maryland’s DJ Durkin would qualify, though you’d pay a bottom-of-the-Power-5 price for a coach who, right now at least, has a resume more like a Group of 5 ascender. You could get most of the actual G5 ascenders for about $2 million less, including Frost, Mike Norvell (Memphis), Mike Bobo (Colorado State) and Frank Wilson (UTSA).

Riley's buyout ($6.6 million) ranks 42nd.

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