College football coaches’ salaries are on the rise

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Chip Kelly and Steve Sarkisian meet on the field after Oregon's 34-17 victory over Washington at Husky Stadium. (Alex McDougall/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Posted by Sam Stites on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 8:30 am.

The salaries of college football coaches have always been high — but over the past few years they’ve skyrocketed.

According to USA Today’s list, the average annual salary of Football Bowl Subdivision coaches this year is $1.64 million. That’s a 12 percent increase from the previous year and a 70 percent increase from 2006.

SEC coaches lead the pack with annual salaries of $5.62 million for Alabama’s Nick Saban and $3.751 million for LSU’s Les Miles. Both received extensions this year. Earlier this month, Miles turned down a five-year $27.5 million offer from the 2-6 Arkansas Razorbacks that would have equated to Saban’s annual compensation. Obviously, LSU showed Miles the money in his contract extension and guaranteed salary raise. Wisconsin, however — who just lost 20-13 to Stanford in the Rose Bowl —also lost head coach Bret Bielema to Arkansas for a $19.2 million contract over six years, which equates to $3.2 million a year.

Texas’ Mack Brown trails Saban at just over $5.4 million per year. Big-12 Champion and Oregon’s Fiesta Bowl counterpart, Kansas State, pays their coach Bill Snyder just $2.2 million annually, but hey, at least his name’s on the stadium.

Chip Kelly’s contract is good through 2016 and guarantees him $3.5 million this year plus $50,000 in bonuses just for making it to the Fiesta Bowl. Kelly’s contract outlines a raise of $300,000 at the end of this fiscal year putting his annual salary at $3.8 million. It will go up again for an annual salary of $4 million in the final two years of his contract.

With four BCS games in as many seasons, a national championship appearance, three conference titles and a Walter Camp Coach of the Year award on top of a combined record of 46-7, he is quite possibly the most underpaid coach in college football. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him and his coaching staff receive contract extensions.

Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti and running backs coach Gary Campbell all received contractual raises on the first of the year totaling just $30,000. Helfrich — who was rumored to be the ready candidate for head coach in the event that Kelly left — will make $325,833 in 2013. Aliotti’s compensation lands at $370,000 per year and Campbell’s at $232,000.

The market drives the price, and it’s currently a seller’s market for coaches. As long as that is the case, then the trend will continue onto the next round of coaches.

In comparison to the NFL, college football still lags behind, as it should. A five-year contract extension with the New Orleans Saints is estimated to put Sean Payton over the top as the NFL’s highest paid coach at more than $8 million. Until recently, the Patriots’ Bill Belichick was at the top making approximately $7.5 million per year, closely followed by Washington Redskin’s head coach Mike Shanahan and former USC head coach now at the Seahawks, Pete Carroll.

Jim Harbaugh, the other former Pac-12 coach making a splash in the NFL is estimated to receive a cushy $5 million per year in San Francisco. That’s pretty good considering he is two years out of Stanford and older brother John makes only about $4 million annually with the Ravens.