The Highest-Paid College Football Coaches, Ranked
For some football fans, college football games are just as much of a big deal as the NFL ones. These teams work just as hard to win, if not harder when you consider they also have to maintain their college GPAs. Their coaches are working just as hard too, and all that effort amounts to a generous high-paying salary for the best coaches out there.
While certainly, all coaches are susceptible to losses, in general, the ones that are making the most are winning the most and maintaining their posts for the longest length of time. Although, many coaches definitely move on to other colleges from time to time, too. Nevertheless, the pressure is on for these coaches to come up with the best plays and get their teams ready for the next big game.
Because of this stress, their salaries tend to reflect that, particularly those with the greatest reputations. So, how much are these college coaches getting paid? We’ve taken a look at the top 25 highest-paid college coaches in the country, looking at just how much they are making and the answers may not be what you expect. With everything on the line but years of experience to get them through it, here’s how much the highest-paid college football coaches are making. Let’s take a look!
Jeff Brohm is the head football coach of Purdue University. He himself played college football at the University of Louisville under Coach Howard Schnellenberger. He then moved on to the NFL and played for the NFL for seven seasons. Among the teams he played for were the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, and the Cleveland Browns.
Previously, Jeff Brohm served as the head coach for Western Kentucky University from 2014-2016. For Brohm's first win at Purdue, his team won in a 44–21 victory over Ohio. In the 2021 season, Brohm was responsible for several wins including the home opener where Purdue defeated Oregon State 30–21. Brohm's current salary is $4.41 million.
- Team: Purdue Boilermakers
- Experience: Served as a head coach since 2002
- Salary: $4.41 million
P.J. Fleck is the current head coach for the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team. Before that, he was the head coach for the Western Michigan Broncos football team from 2013-2016. For 2021, Fleck and his Golden Gophers finished the season with a 9-4 overall victory. He is currently paid $4.42 million.
Before becoming a successful college football coach, he was a player himself. Fleck played as a wide receiver for Northern Illinois University from 1999-2003. Then in the NFL, he played for the San Francisco 49ers from 2004-2005. For 2022, perhaps we’ll see even greater victories in the upcoming months.
- Team: Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Experience: Coaching since 2006
- Salary: $4.42 million
Clay Helton is the head coach at Georgia Southern. Before that, he was the head coach of USC from 2015-2021. Additionally, he served as an assistant coach for Houston, Duke, and Memphis. And it seems coaching is the family business, as his father too was a coach for college football, the NFL, and the CFL.
Helton was raised in Gainesville, Florida, and was a graduate assistant for the Florida Gators football team. In college, Helton played for the Auburn Tigers football team in his freshman year. He transferred to Houston in 1993 and would graduate with a degree in mathematics and interdisciplinary science in 1994.
- Team: Georgia Southern Eagles
- Experience: Coaching since 1995
- Salary: $4.8 million
Pat Narduzzi is the head coach of the University of Pittsburgh. Previously, he was the defensive coordinator at Michigan State. He has attended both Youngstown State University and the University of Rhode Island and earned his Master’s degree at Miami University. His career began in 1990 at Miami University as a graduate assistant.
It was during that time that he tutored wide receivers in 1992. From 1993-1999, Pat Narduzzi coached at the University of Rhode Island, where he coached linebackers and served as a defensive coordinator. After years of serving as an assistant coach, he became a head coach for the first time in 2015. He now makes $4.81 million per year.
- Team: Pittsburgh Panthers
- Experience: Since 1990
- Salary: $4.81 million
Lane Kiffin is the head coach at the University of Mississippi, also known as Ole Miss. Before that, he served as the offensive coordinator for the USC Trojans football team, from 2005-2006, and later, the head coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, which at the time made him the youngest NFL coach in modern history.
Additionally, he was the head coach for the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the Trojans. From 2014-2016, he served as defensive coordinator at the University of Alabama. Thereafter, he was the head coach of the Florida Atlantic before moving to Ole Miss. With so much experience in such a little time, his qualifications are certainly evident. He is said to make $4.84 million annually.
- Team: Ole Miss Rebels
- Experience: Since 1997
- Salary: $4.84 million
Mike Leach is a head football coach at Mississippi State University. He previously had served as the head coach at Texas Tech University and Washington State University. Coaching as far back as 1987, Mike Leach has made a huge impression on football and has accumulated numerous honors over the years.
Mike Leach was awarded National Coach of the Year twice, and Conference Coach of the Year three times. He is also known as the mastermind behind the NCAA record-setting “Air Raid” offense. However, his reputation was stained after an abuse scandal at Texas Tech. However, he made a comeback in 2012 when he started coaching for Washington State. He now makes about $5 million annually.
- Team: Mississippi State Bulldogs
- Experience: Since 1987
- Salary: $5 million
Bryan Harsin is the head coach of Auburn University and their team, the Auburn Tigers. Formerly, he coached for the Boise State University Broncos for several years and had a 64-17 win record. However, his first coaching gig was at Arkansas State in 2013. As a coach today, Harsin makes about $5 million per year.
Born in Boise, Idaho, Harsin graduated from Capital High School before going to Boise State University, where he played as a quarterback from 1995-1999. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in 2000. He started his career at the Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, where he coached running backs and quarterbacks.
- Team: Auburn Tigers
- Experience: Since 2000
- Salary: $5 million
Kirk Ferentz of the University of Iowa is the head coach of the Hawkeyes. He has held this position since 1999 and currently earns a salary of $5 million. Before that, he was the head coach of the University of Maine. Within the National Football League, he served as an assistant coach for the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens.
Having played football since high school at Upper St. Clair, Ferentz ended up playing linebacker for the University of Connecticut. Serving as an offensive line coach from 1981-1989, he eventually left Iowa to coach for the University of Maine. He then returned to Iowa in 1998 to become its head coach. Ferentz is now an all-time wins leader at Iowa and earns $5 million annually.
- Team: Iowa Hawkeyes
- Experience: Since 1981
- Salary: $5 million
Scott Frost is a head coach and former player at the University of Nebraska. He also served as head coach at the University of Central Florida. He currently earns $5 million per year. But as financially successful as he may be, not all his plays are winning ones.
Scott Frost is the first Nebraska coach to have four consecutive losing seasons since coach Bill Jennings. But he wasn’t always a loser. In high school, he had thrown for 6,859 yards with 67 touchdowns and rushed for 4,278 yards with 72 touchdowns. He went on to play for Stanford, before transferring to Nebraska.
- Team: Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Experience: Since 2002
- Salary: $5 million
Kyle Whittingham, the head coach of the University of Utah, earns about $5.2 million annually. He has held this position since 2004, and that probably has to do with the fact that he is the all-time leader in wins at Utah. Prior to his position as head coach, he was defensive coordinator for 10 seasons.
Kyle Whittingham has won the AFCA Coach of the Year Award and the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award in 2008. Prior to his success as a coach, he found success as a player, serving as a linebacker for the BYU cougars from 1978-1981. He then went on to play for the Denver Gold, New Orleans Breakers, and Calgary Stampeders.
- Team: Utah Utes
- Experience: Since 1985
- Salary: $5.2 million
Mark Stoops, coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, earns a salary of $5.23 million. He's had a long history of coaching, starting with his graduate assistant coach position at Iowa from 1989-1991. He was also an athletic director and defensive backs coach at Nordonia High School in Macedonia, Ohio.
Stoops would become a defensive backs coach for the South Florida Bulls, University of Wyoming Cowboys, the University of Houston Cougars, and the University of Miami Hurricanes. He got his first head coach job at the University of Kentucky in 2013. Though he was off to a rough start, by 2016, he had his first winning season.
- Team: Kentucky Wildcats
- Experience: Since 1989
- Salary: $5.23 million
Steve Sarkisian, of the University of Texas at Austin, has been the head coach there since January 2021 and earns $5.4 million. Formerly, he served as the head coach at the University of Washington from 2009-2013, and then at the University of Southern California from 2014-2015.
From 2017-2020, he switched his role to that of an offensive coordinator for the Atlantic Falcons of the NFL and then the University of Alabama. His current contract with the University of Texas as head coach is for six years and is worth $34.2 million. His coaching record is made up of eight season wins.
- Team: Texas Longhorns
- Experience: Since 2000
- Salary: $5.4 million
Mel Tucker of Michigan State University earns $5.5 million annually as head coach. He previously served the University of Colorado and its football team. On top of this, he was the interim head coach for the Jacksonville Cougars of the NFL. He has served as a defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears and the University of Georgia.
Tucker’s coaching career began with the Michigan State Spartans as a graduate assistant. In the NFL, he coached defensive backs for the Cleveland Browns. He would get his first head coach job with the Colorado Buffaloes. After a losing season, he resigned to accept a head coach position at Michigan State.
- Team: Michigan State Spartans
- Experience: Since 1997
- Salary: $5.5 million
Chip Kelly is the head coach for the UCLA Bruins. Before that, he made a notable impact in Oregon with the Oregon Ducks from 2009-2012. During this time, he led four BCS bowl game appearances. This success led him to the NFL, where he was the head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons and the San Francisco 49ers for one.
Kelly started coaching in early 1990 at Columbia University. In 1992, he moved on to the University of New Hampshire as a running backs coach. He then became a defensive coordinator for John Hopkins University but only for one season. Upon returning to New Hampshire, he would become promoted to offensive coordinator. Now, fast-forward to 2022, where Kelly is earning $5.6 million as head coach.
- Team: UCLA Bruins
- Experience: Since 1990
- Salary: $5.6 million
Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern University earns a salary of $5.7 million. He is the head coach of the Wildcats. He was selected shortly after the death of Randy Walker in 2006. When that happened, he was just 31 years old, making him the youngest head football coach in the Big Ten Conference and NCAA Division I FBS.
Before coaching the Wildcats, he started off as a linebacker for the Wildcats in the mid-1990s. After graduating, he started coaching at the University of Maryland. After moving around twice more, he moved back to Northwestern in 2001. In their first season with Fitzgerald as coach, they did not perform well but Fitzgerald did not give up, remaining the coach to this very day.
- Team: Northwestern University Wildcats
- Experience: Since 1998
- Salary: $5.7 million
Gary Patterson is the football coach at Texas Christian University and has led the most wins in the history of the Horned Frogs. He has led them to six conference championships. Additionally, he’s had nine bowl game victories. For his efforts, Gary Patterson earns $6.1 million as head coach.
Patterson began coaching back in 1982 at Kansas State University as an assistant coach. After years of coaching as an assistant, he was eventually hired as a defensive coordinator for the University of New Mexico. Then in 1998, he became defensive coordinator at TCU until he was named head coach in 2000.
- Team: Texas Christian University Horned Frogs
- Experience: Since 1982
- Salary: $6.1 million
Ryan Day of Ohio State University is a head football coach and former college football player. He is relatively new to the position, compared to the other coaches on this list as he has only been in the position since 2019. Even so, the man is currently making $6.6 million as Ohio State’s head coach.
Before the official head coach position, Ryan Day had served as the acting head coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes for the first three games of 2018. As a college football player at the University of New Hampshire, he was quarterback and linebacker for the Wildcats from 1998-2001. He began coaching in 2002.
- Team: Ohio State University
- Experience: Since 2002
- Salary: $6.6 million
Kirby Smart is the head football coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. He has helped the team earn a national championship title win in 2022, which was their first win since 1980. Since 2016, he has led the Bulldogs to victory again and again. He is earning $7.1 million at the University of Georgia.
Kirby Smart was born in Montgomery, Alabama, but he grew up in Bainbridge, Georgia. It was there, at Bainbridge High School, that he started his playing career, thereafter, attending the University of Georgia. In 1999, he began his career at the University of Georgia, working as an administrative assistant. Then, he moved to Valdosta State, and after several other moves, he wouldn’t return to Georgia until 2015.
- Team: Georgia Bulldogs
- Experience: Since 1999
- Salary: $7.1 million
Jimbo Fisher is the head coach of the Texas A&M Aggies. Before then, he was the head coach of Florida State. There, he won the 2014 BCS National Championship Game. Prior to becoming a successful football coach, he was the 1987 NCAA Division III National Player of the Year at Samford University.
Now earning $7.5 million, Fisher started his coaching career in 1988 as a graduate assistant, working with quarterbacks almost exclusively. He was then hired as a full-time offensive coordinator and a quarterbacks coach. Later he would become head coach at Florida State in 2010 until moving to Texas in 2018.
- Team: Texas A&M Aggies
- Experience: Since 2018
- Salary: $7.5 million
Dan Mullen served as the head coach of the University of Florida from 2018-2021. Unfortunately for him, a huge loss against Missouri resulted in him being dismissed as head coach. He was earning $7.5 million at the time. From 2009-2017, he was the head football coach at Mississippi State University, where he had many victories.
Early in his football career, he played tight end for Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. There he earned a bachelor’s degree in education and went to Wagner to earn a master’s degree, while he coached wide receivers. Over the years he has coached many notable players, including Tim Tebow, Alex Smith, and Kyle Trask.
- Team: Florida Gators
- Experience: Since 1994
- Salary: $7.5 million
Lincoln Riley is the head coach of the USC Trojans at the University of Southern California. He was the head coach at the University of Oklahoma for five seasons before that–from 2017-2021. There, he won four consecutive Big 12 Championship Games and earned a record of 55–10.
Lincoln Riley started as a student assistant in college and gradually made his way up to receiver’s coach. He then served five seasons as an offensive coordinator at East Carolina University. In 2015, he was hired as the offensive coordinator for the Oklahoma Sooners. In 2021, he was named the head coach for USC to replace Clay Helton.
- Team: USC Trojans
- Experience: Since 2003
- Salary: $7.6 million
Dabo Swinney is the head coach for Clemson University and their team, the Clemson Tigers. He has been coach for the team since the midway point of 2008, when Tommy Bowden resigned. During his time as coach for Clemson, Swinney has led the Tigers to the national championship in 2017 and 2019.
In college, Swinney was a walk-on wide receiver at the University of Alabama. While completing his MBA, he served as a graduate assistant. After earning his degree, he became a full-time assistant coach. He joined Clemson University in 2003 and would become interim head coach in 2008. He remains coach to this day, earning a salary of $8.3 million.
- Team: Clemson Tigers
- Experience: Since 1993
- Salary: $8.3 million
David Shaw is the head coach of the Stanford Cardinal football team. He previously served as the team’s offensive coordinator when Jim Harbaugh served as head coach from 2007 to 2010. Shaw became promoted to head coach in 2011 and has held that position ever since, earning a whopping $8.9 million.
Born in San Diego, California, Shaw moved around with his family before playing high school football at Rochester Adams High School in Michigan. There, his father Willie coached for the Detroit Lions until he got a job at Stanford University. David Shaw himself would play as a wide receiver at Stanford. After playing college football, he would become an assistant NFL coach, and college assistant coach before becoming the head coach of Stanford.
- Team: Stanford Cardinal
- Experience: Since 1995
- Salary: $8.9 million
Ed Orgeron is the head football coach at Louisiana State University. He held the position from 2016-2021. Before that, he served at the University of Mississippi from 2005-2007 and then the University of Southern California from 2010-2013. At LSU, he earned $9 million until he decided to leave the program after 2021.
Ed Orgeron grew up in Lousiana and played football for Louisiana State University and Northwestern State University. He started his coaching career as an assistant at Northwestern State. His first stint as a coach began in 1998 at USC when he acted as an offensive guru. By 2003, he was named assistant head coach.
- Team: LSU Tigers
- Experience: Since 1984
- Salary: $9 million
Nick Saban is the highest-paid college football coach in the country. Serving as the head coach for the University of Alabama since 2007, he also served as coach for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and three other notable universities: Michigan State, Louisiana State, and the University of Toledo. He makes about $9.7 million.
Many consider Saban to be one of the greatest college football coaches in history. He has led his teams through numerous championships and has won seven national titles as a head coach, which is more than any other coach in college football history. If anyone deserves to be a paid a lot for their coaching talents, it’s Nick Saban.
- Team: Alabama Crimson Tide
- Experience: Since 1973
- Salary: $9.7 million