Who Are The Highest Paid College Football Coaches?

College football is big business and should not come as a surprise to anyone that there are highest paid college football coaches. College football is a business and it is the nature of businesses to make money. 

When businesses make money, it is expected that they pay. Like an ecosystem, things, money, in this case, has to move around, and if any of these highest paid college football coaches help to make more money or brings the potential to do so, he ought to have a huge chunk of the cake. 

This article discusses the highest paid college football coaches, the beautiful game of football, industry questions, and other things that are important to this article. 


The great majority of college football coaches, even at the NCAA Division level, are not among the highest paid college football coaches, nor do they earn the exorbitant salaries that we associate with the job.  

However, to maintain the answer in American college sports, the average wage for major college football coaches was about $1.7 million in 2012, and by 2021, that amount had increased by more than 5 times. 

These men who are part of the highest paid college football coaches did not need anything out of the ordinary such as zodiac signs to tell them how far they would go, they just put in the work and let it take them to where they belong. 

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Why do college football coaches get paid so much? 

College football is a multibillion-dollar industry. Every week, millions of money are staked on the outcome of sports. Teams even pay opposing teams to play them. More ticket sales, more publicity, more stuff sold, and more money implies better opponents. 

Coaches in college football make their money because college football is a business. The better a school’s team performs, the more money the school earns. 

Schools are ready to pay high salaries to coaches in the hopes that the coach would win games, increase ticket and product sales, and maybe win big money games (or at least play them). 

If you operate a business and feel I can help you make a lot of money, I’m worth a lot of money to you, especially if you believe I’ll make that money for your competitors unless you pay me a lot of money. 

Are the highest paid college football coaches under much pressure to perform or get fired? 

The National Football League is a company. Success is difficult to come by, and after you’ve put together your squad, you won’t have to wait long to try to win a championship. Within a few years, your star players will degrade, get overvalued, or go via free agency.  

When you’ve finally put together a squad that you’re proud of, the person in charge of those men on a daily basis must be the appropriate match for the players you have. It’s pointless to wait and see; your roster will simply get older. 

Coaches contracts in the NFL, unlike players’ contracts, are often completely guaranteed if they are fired, and some coaches make a lot of money.  

They get to not only collect the money owed on the current contract but also get to hunt for a new job and acquire another guaranteed contract, which does not “offset” any of the money owed on the prior deal. 

It is typically preferable to get fired rather than resign. If you don’t depart freely, you’ll almost always get compensated.  

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A fired head coach is just as likely to get hired as an assistant as one who resigned under fire if they want to continue in coaching.

If you want to leave coaching or can’t find a job as a coach, ESPN or another sports network could be willing to give you a go. 

Who are the highest paid college football coaches? 

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1. Lincoln Riley of USC 

Lincoln Riley was born in September 1983 in Lubbock, Texas, and has a net worth of $12 million as an American football coach and former player. In the year 2002, he was a quarterback for Texas Tech.  

Riley was an assistant coach at Texas Tech from 2003 through 2009, including as the wide receivers coach. He was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at East Carolina from 2010 to 2013, and he was also the school’s associate head coach in 2014. 

Riley served as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2015 to 2016, before taking over as head coach in 2017. In both 2017 and 2018, he assisted his team in winning the Big 12 Championship.  

Lincoln In 2015, Riley was awarded the Broyles Award. He was selected Big 12 Coach of the Year and Associated Press Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2018. He earns $4.8 million every year. Riley has worked under Mike Leach, Ruffin McNeill, and Bob Stoops as head coaches.  

On November 28th, 2022, Riely was named the 30th head coach of the University of Southern California Trojans football program, succeeding Helton Clay, who had been the previous coach. 

With a transfer to USC and his old club’s failure to match USC’s offer, Lincoln Riley ranks on this list as the highest paid college football coach. Lincoln Riley signed a long-term deal for around $110 million. 

The deal includes a luxury residence in Los Angeles and other expensive amenities. Riley earned $7.6 million as the Sooners’ head coach this season, making him the highest-paid coach in the Big 12 and one of the wealthiest in the country. 

2. Nick Saban of Alabama 

Head coach Nick Saban has brought the University of Alabama to the top of the college football scene with his dedication to strengthening the entire program. He is a visionary with a track record of championship achievement.  

He joined Paul “Bear” Bryant as the only two coaches in the modern era to win five national titles after beating Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. 

Saban’s unwavering commitment to greatness in every aspect of the program has resulted in four national titles in the previous seven years, as he begins his 11th season in Tuscaloosa. 

Nick Saban, a seven-time National Coach of the Year, has a proven track record as a head coach, earning a reputation as a master strategist, leader, organizer, and motivator.  

Nick Saban is on this list as the second highest paid college football coach as the seven-time national champion agreed to a contract extension earlier this autumn that will put him in charge of the Crimson Tide until at least the 2028 season.

And he’ll earn a raise due to changes in the coaching environment over the last month and a half. 

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3. Brian Kelly of LSU 

Kelly has a 284-97-2 career record as a head coach, which puts him #1 among all active FBS coaches in lifetime victories, ahead of Alabama’s Nick Saban (272 wins) and North Carolina’s Mack Brown (271 wins) (265 wins).

During his 31-year collegiate career, Kelly has only had two teams finish below .500. 

He has been the head coach at Notre Dame for the past 12 years. With 113 victories, he departs South Bend as the Irish’s all-time winningest coach, leapfrogging legendary Knute Rockne for the top place in 2021.

His overall record at Notre Dame is 113-40, including a 54-9 record in the last five seasons. 

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Kelly was enticed away from South Bend, Indiana, by a lucrative offer from LSU earlier this month. The Tigers will pay $95 million over ten years, with the possibility of an extension if Kelly demonstrates his worth early.

This places him as the third highest paid college football coach on this list. 

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4. Mel Tucker of Michigan State 

Tucker has a remarkable track record of accomplishment, having started as a graduate assistant at Michigan State under Nick Saban.  

A head coaching post at Colorado (2019), five seasons as a defensive coach in the Southeastern Conference (2000; 2015-18), ten seasons in the NFL (2005-14), and four seasons at Ohio State all contributed to his return to East Lansing (2001-04).  

He spent seven seasons as a defensive coordinator in the NFL and 11 seasons as a coach altogether. 

Tucker, 50, is a renowned recruiter and talent development who has worked with a number of NFL Draft picks, including 13 first-rounders, as well as countless All-Americans and Pro Bowlers. 

He’s worked with some of the game’s best collegiate coaches, including Nick Saban, Mark Dantonio, Kirby Smart, and Jim Tressel. 

Mel Tucker secured a multi-year contract deal with Michigan State in November, worth $95 million over the next ten years.  

Two MSU alumni, Mat Ishbia and Steve St. Andre, are reportedly supporting the enormous hike from just over $5.5 million each season to a now astronomical yearly wage, according to Spartan Tailgate’s reporting making him the fourth on this list highest paid college football coaches. 

5. Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M 

Jimbo Fisher, 56, is the only current SEC head coach to win a national title outside of Nick Saban, is the only former assistant coach to defeat Saban, and has guided his Aggies to the third-most victories in the conference over the last four seasons (behind only Alabama and Georgia). 

The Aggies have a top-10 recruiting class for the 2022 season and have just gotten a commitment from defensive lineman Walter Nolen, who is rated at 6-4 and 325 pounds, as well as four additional players who are among ESPN’s top 100 high school prospects. 

Fisher, 56, has a 33-13 record in four seasons at A&M and just inked a new contract for more than $9 million until 2031, which makes him the fifth on the list of highest paid college football coaches. 

6. David Shaw of Stanford 

David Lorenzo Shaw is the head coach of the Stanford Cardinal football team. He was born on July 31, 1972. From 2007 through 2010, Shaw served as the team’s offensive coordinator during head coach Jim Harbaugh’s tenure.  

Shaw was a four-year letter winner for the Cardinal from 1991 to 1994, when he was coached by Dennis Green and Bill Walsh as a wide receiver.  

Shaw served as Harbaugh’s passing game coordinator at the University of San Diego and as an assistant coach in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, and Baltimore Ravens before returning to Stanford as offensive coordinator. 

Shaw’s pay in 2022 should be about — or maybe more than — $9 million. Shaw allegedly did not get a wage cut for the 2021 season as a result of the economic crisis that afflicted collegiate football following the pandemic of 2020.

This puts him as the sixth on the list of highest paid college football coaches 

7. Dabo Swinney of Clemson 

Dabo Swinney, now in his 14th season (and 13th full season) as Clemson’s head coach, has already etched his name into the foundation, becoming the only coach in school history to lead Clemson to multiple national titles. 

Swinney’s most recent team completed Swinney’s “double-double objective” in 2020, finishing 10-2 in a compressed season to give Clemson ten straight 10-win seasons.  

Only the final nine of Florida State’s record 14-straight 10-win seasons occurred during the Seminoles’ stint in the ACC, making Clemson the first school to win 10 games in 10 consecutive seasons as a member of the ACC. 

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Prior to the 2019 season, Clemson’s trustees authorized a 10-year, $93 million contract for Dabo Swinney, a deal that is notable for both its length and cash amount.  

Few coaches in college football history can boast a 10-year contract, and even fewer can boast an annual salary of $9.3 million, hence Swinney’s position as the seventh on the list of highest paid college football coaches. 

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8. James Franklin of Penn State 

On January 11, 2014, James Franklin, a 26-year football coaching veteran, was named Penn State’s 16th head football coach.  

He is in his 11th season as a collegiate head football coach. Franklin is one of just six current FBS coaches to lead his club to a bowl game in each of his first nine seasons as a head coach, with an 84-43 record.  

Franklin credits his team’s success on the field to their commitment to four key values: a good attitude, a strong work ethic, the ability to compete in whatever you do, and the willingness to sacrifice. 

Beginning in 2022, Franklin will be paid a guaranteed $7 million per year, as well as yearly $500,000 retention incentives, which will be paid out on December 31 each year.  

The deal also includes yearly $1 million life insurance loans and a slew of other incentives totaling up to $1 million each year.  

The highest prize would be $800,000 if the team won the national title, hence placing James as the eighth on this list of highest paid college football coaches. 

9. Mario Cristobal of Hurricanes of Miami 

Cristobal, 51, had started working at Miami as a graduate assistant. And being a member of Butch Davis’ staff and experiencing that rush of competitiveness again after his stint with the Hurricanes was too much to ignore. 

And that talent was nurtured at every step of the way, from coaching to recruiting.

Mario has studied from several incredibly successful mentors, from being recruited by Jimmy Johnson to playing for Dennis Erickson to coaching under Davis and Larry Coker at Miami, Greg Schiano at Rutgers, and Nick Saban at Alabama. 

Franklin signed a new 10-year contract with the institution in November, with a total salary package of $8.5 million per year. Franklin will stay at Penn State until 2031, after leading the school to three 11-win seasons and one Big Ten title during his eight years there. 

10. Ryan Day of Ohio State 

Ryan Patrick Day (born March 12, 1979) is a former collegiate football player and current American football coach. He is Ohio State University’s 24th and current head football coach, a job he has held since 2019. 

Day is the first Ohio State coach to win the Big Ten Coach of the Year award in 40 years, and he did so in 2019 by teaching, developing, and leading one of the finest teams in school history. 

After being voted Big Ten Coach of the Year following his early success in the post-Urban Meyer era for the Buckeyes, Ryan Day’s compensation at Ohio State will increase to $7.6 million in 2022 as part of an extension agreement agreed before the 2020 season.

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While some have questioned the rationale behind paying the highest paid college football coaches the way they are paid, it is simple to understand it this way.  

It is not about the importance of the job, if not cleaners, soldiers should be paid more, rather, it is about the limited number of people that are able to perform and produce results at such a high skill level. 



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