NCAA football coach salaries in context

A year or so ago, I posted about how hard it is for me to enjoy football these days. Part of my argument was Urban Meyer’s $4 million a year salary from The Ohio State University. It’s obscene for an institution of higher ed to make its football coach the highest paid state employee. Urban Meyer isn’t the only case of a very highly paid football coach, of course. The Deadspin infographic linked to above, constant news about rising college costs and student debt, as well as news about stagnant middle and working class wages made me wonder how college football coach salaries compare to typical salaries and costs of middle and working class life.

So, here’s what I did. I found the salaries of the top 10 highest paid college football coaches, and used collegeboard.org to get tuition and financial aid data for the top 10 schools (I had to use collegedata.com for the University of Louisville). Then I used Current Population Survey data from the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder to find median household income estimates for the cities the universities are located in, and I found the Economic Policy Institute’s Basic Family Budget estimate for each location (I had to use Oklahoma City for the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State).

With these data I estimated 4 ratios. I calculated the ratio of ‘coach’s salary to tuition’ (in state for the 9 public schools on the list), the ratio of ‘coach’s salary to average financial aid award,’ ‘coach’s salary to median household income,’ and ‘coach’s salary to basic family budget.

As you can see, these coaches are well paid by any of these measures. It turns out that Urban Meyer (who really turned me off of football when he got his contract) isn’t the worst offender. I mean, you’d think Mack Brown might win something given his wonderful rewards. That’s the way it works, right? These 10 highest paid coaches make anywhere from 69 times (TCU’s Gary Patterson) to 164 times (Alabama’s Nick Saban) median household income in their communities, and from 95 to 597 times their institution’s tuition and fees (Patterson and Saban again). Obviously I could look into this for more than the top 10, but the top 25 highest paid coaches all make at least $2.5 million a year so I wouldn’t expect it to be much different. Some of these top 25, for example, are in small, relatively downtrodden Midwest towns with relatively low costs of living and low pay. Their ratios might be more extreme.

Here is the table of raw data:

Coach School Location Salary Tuition & Fees Avg Fin Aid Median HH Income EPI BFB
Nick Saban University of Alabama* Tuscaloosa, AL $5,650,000.00 $9,450.00 $11,479.00 $34,359.00 $61,004.00
Mack Brown University of Texas* Austin, TX $5,400,000.00 $9,790.00 $13,669.00 $52,453.00 $66,970.00
Bob Stoops University of Oklahoma* Norman,OK $4,600,000.00 $8,915.00 $11,837.00 $46,595.00 $58,852.00
Urban Meyer Ohio State* Columbus, OH $4,300,000.00 $10,037.00 $12,201.00 $43,348.00 $62,104.00
Les Miles LSU* Baton Rouge, LA $4,300,000.00 $7,880.00 $12,600.00 $37,381.00 $57,160.00
Kirk Ferentz University of Iowa* Iowa City, IA $3,900,000.00 $8,061.00 $12,603.00 $41,956.00 $66,677.00
Charlie Strong University of Louisville* Louisville, KY $3,700,000.00 $9,750.00 $11,720.00 $43,680.00 $61,630.00
Steve Spurrier University of South Carolina* Columbia, SC $3,600,000.00 $10,816.00 $12,340.00 $38,995.00 $59,431.00
Gary Patterson TCU Fort Worth, TX $3,500,000.00 $36,590.00 $21,669.00 $50,456.00 $64,587.00
Mike Gundy Oklahoma State* Stillwater, OK $3,300,000.00 $7,442.00 $12,558.00 $30,133.00 $58,852.00

Here is the table of ratios I calculated:

Coach School Location Salary/Tuition Salary/Fin Aid Salary/Med Inc Salary/BFB
Nick Saban University of Alabama* Tuscaloosa, AL 597.88 492.20 164.44 92.62
Mack Brown University of Texas* Austin, TX 551.58 395.05 102.95 80.63
Bob Stoops University of Oklahoma* Norman,OK 515.98 388.61 98.72 78.16
Urban Meyer Ohio State* Columbus, OH 428.41 352.43 99.20 69.24
Les Miles LSU* Baton Rouge, LA 545.69 341.27 115.03 75.23
Kirk Ferentz University of Iowa* Iowa City, IA 483.81 309.45 92.95 58.49
Charlie Strong University of Louisville* Louisville, KY 379.49 315.70 84.71 60.04
Steve Spurrier University of South Carolina* Columbia, SC 332.84 291.73 92.32 60.57
Gary Patterson TCU Fort Worth, TX 95.65 161.52 69.37 54.19
Mike Gundy Oklahoma State* Stillwater, OK 443.43 262.78 109.51 56.07

Any civil comments, concerns, or criticisms?

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4 comments

  1. Given your comment in the post about coaches’ rewards (not) driving success, have you done any comparisons of salaries to win/loss records?

    1. Could be interesting. I’d guess you’d want to look at career win/loss, and maybe then look at win/loss since the ‘big contract.’ It’s pretty common to read about players slacking after they sign the big contract, but I don’t recall hearing that about coaches. Except for Mack Brown at Texas, who does seem to get heat for his pay given that his team’s haven’t been strong the last few seasons.

  2. Matt, this article notes the fact that at U of TN there is an additional cost. A portion of the university’s operating budget is a $6 million/yr contribution from the athletic dept. As the article notes, the athletic dept will forgo that payment for 3 years to pay for fired coaches costing the university $18 million that … well … will be made up by some other source … read… students.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/29/sports/ncaafootball/time-runs-out-but-not-the-money-in-college-football-coaches-firings.html?_r=0
    Bob

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