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Highest-Paid College Football Coaches of the Last 10 Years

Andrew Lisa

The highest-paid public employee in the vast majority of American states is a college football or, less frequently, a college basketball coach — and your tax dollars fund their hefty paychecks. In the handful of states where it’s not a coach, a college dean or president is the state’s highest-paid public employee in almost every case.

Higher education is big business, and a school’s athletic department is usually the goose that lays the golden egg — and nowhere is that more evident than in the realm of NCAA football. The top college football coaches often earn as much or more than their NFL counterparts — and for good reason.

According to Forbes, virtually no other coaching position in all of sports has more of an impact on a program’s success than that of the head football coach. Their job goes far beyond what fans see on television, like calling plays and managing the clock. They have to evaluate the talent and growth potential of largely unproven high school teenagers barely old enough to drive. They have to put together and manage enormous networks of assistant coaches, trainers, managers and supporting staff. They have to navigate complex and strict rules established by the NCAA and their individual schools and make sure their players and staffs abide by those regulations.

They’re charged with understanding and mitigating the emotional and social challenges that are inherent to their players’ age group and deal with intense pressure under a bright media spotlight. On top of that, of course, are the Xs and Os of creating playbooks, developing strategies and instituting a winning culture that extends from the locker room and the practice field to game day.

Not all coaches, however, are created — or paid — equal.

GOBankingRates examined USA Today’s data on NCAA football coach salaries. Then it analyzed the pay history of the top 50 highest-paid coaches of 2019 over the last 10 complete seasons to find their estimated total earnings since 2010. The 30 highest-paid coaches were then ranked, with No. 1 being the coach who was paid the most over the last 10 years and No. 30 being the coach paid the least.

While none of them can cry poverty, there’s a huge disparity in pay scale. Virginia’s Bronco Mendenhall, for example, earned less than $14 million over the last decade while Alabama’s Nick Saban raked in more than $71 million during the same period. You’ll notice that some coaches pad already massive salaries with big bonuses while others rely on their paychecks alone.

The coronavirus forced every major amateur and professional sports league in the world to put their gameplay — and their incomes — on hold. College football is no exception, but like the NFL, NCAA action is expected to start in one form or another — at least on a limited basis — on schedule when the summer ends.

When it does, the league’s top coaches will be recruiting players, strategizing, calling plays and raking in the big bucks.

Last updated: June 15, 2020

30. Bronco Mendenhall

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Virginia
  • Conference: ACC
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $3,700,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $3,700,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $13,925,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $13,925,000

29. Chip Kelly

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: UCLA
  • Conference: Pac-12
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $3,500,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $3,500,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $15,500,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $15,500,000

28. Jeff Brohm

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Purdue
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $6,600,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $6,600,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $15,749,733
    • Bonuses: $6,240
    • Total: $15,755,973

27. Paul Chryst

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Wisconsin
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $4,150,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $4,150,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $17,678,757
    • Bonuses: $6,200
    • Total: $17,684,957

See: The Most Successful Coach and Quarterback Combos of All Time

26. Dave Doeren

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: North Carolina State University
  • Conference: ACC
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $3,250,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $3,250,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $18,003,600
    • Bonuses: $8,000
    • Total: $18,011,600

25. Justin Fuente

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Virginia Tech
  • Conference: ACC
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $4,000,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $4,000,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $18,716,843
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $18,716,843

24. Willie Taggart

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Florida State
  • Conference: ACC
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $5,000,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $5,000,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $19,632,745
    • Bonuses: $43,300
    • Total: $19,676,045

23. Kirby Smart

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Georgia
  • Conference: SEC
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $6,703,600
    • Bonuses: $168,000
    • Total: $6,871,600
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $20,814,400
    • Bonuses: $168,000
    • Total: $20,982,400

Big Earners: The Highest-Paid Athlete of Every Year From 1990 to 2020

22. Tom Herman

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Texas
  • Conference: Big 12
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $6,750,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $6,750,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $22,186,316
    • Bonuses: $3,500
    • Total: $22,189,816

21. David Shaw

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Stanford
  • Conference: Pac-12
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $4,613,707
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $4,613,707
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $22,910,011
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $22,910,011

20. Mike Leach

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Mississippi State
  • Conference: SEC
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $3,750,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $3,750,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $23,275,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $23,275,000

19. Mark Stoops

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Kentucky
  • Conference: SEC
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $4,750,000
    • Bonuses: $13,600
    • Total: $4,763,600
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $23,951,250
    • Bonuses: $69,600
    • Total: $24,020,850

18. Mack Brown

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: North Carolina
  • Conference: ACC
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $3,500,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $3,500,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $24,477,500
    • Bonuses: $185,000
    • Total: $24,662,500

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17. Pat Fitzgerald

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Northwestern
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $5,144,937
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $5,144,937
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $25,084,858
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $25,084,858

16. Will Muschamp

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: South Carolina
  • Conference: SEC
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $4,400,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $4,400,000 
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $25,844,500
    • Bonuses: $19,000
    • Total: $25,863,500

15. Dana Holgorsen

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Houston
  • Conference: AAC
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $3,700,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $3,700,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $26,250,000
    • Bonuses: $12,500
    • Total: $26,262,500

14. Kyle Whittingham

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Utah
  • Conference: Pac-12
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $4,002,917
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $4,002,917
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $27,230,851
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $27,230,851

13. James Franklin

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Penn State
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $5,650,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $5,650,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $30,092,771
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $30,092,771

12. Chris Peterson

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Retired
  • Conference: N/A
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $4,625,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $4,625,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $30,925,106
    • Bonuses: $25,787
    • Total: $30,950,893

Find Out: How Much Does Your College Spend Recruiting Football Players?

11. Charlie Strong

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Alabama (defensive analyst, not head coach)
  • Conference: SEC
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $5,000,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $5,000,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $32,200,000
    • Bonuses: $49,170
    • Total: $32,249,170

10. Gus Malzahn

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Auburn
  • Conference: SEC
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $6,800,000
    • Bonuses: $27,589
    • Total: $6,827,589
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $34,196,210
    • Bonuses: $52,105
    • Total: $34,248,315

9. Mark Dantonio

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Michigan State
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $4,399,437
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $4,399,437
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $34,362,405
    • Bonuses: $34,300
    • Total: $34,396,705

8. Mike Gundy

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Oklahoma State
  • Conference: Big 12
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $5,125,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $5,125,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $36,000,000
    • Bonuses: $0 
    • Total: $36,000,000

7. Dan Mullen

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Florida
  • Conference: SEC
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $6,070,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $6,070,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $36,840,000
    • Bonuses: $8,295
    • Total: $36,848,295

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6. Gary Patterson

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Texas Christian
  • Conference: Big 12
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $4,900,776
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $4,900,776 
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $37,057,606
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $37,057,606

5. Jim Harbaugh

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Michigan 
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $7,504,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $7,504,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $38,020,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $38,020,000

4. Kirk Ferentz

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Iowa
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $4,800,000
    • Bonuses: $0
    • Total: $4,800,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $42,080,000
    • Bonuses: $6,000
    • Total: $42,086,000

3. Dabo Swinney

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Clemson
  • Conference: ACC
  • 2019 alone: 
    • Pay: $9,255,000
    • Bonuses: $60,600
    • Total: $9,315,600
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $42,995,481
    • Bonuses: $508,150
    • Total: $43,503,631

2. Jimbo Fisher

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Texas A&M
  • Conference: SEC
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $7,500,000
    • Bonuses: $0 
    • Total: $7,500,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $44,741,667
    • Bonuses: $3,500
    • Total: $44,745,167

1. Nick Saban

  • School for upcoming 2020 season: Alabama
  • Conference: SEC
  • 2019 alone:
    • Pay: $8,707,000
    • Bonuses: $150,000
    • Total: $8,857,000
  • 2010-2019:
    • Pay: $69,530,511
    • Bonuses: $1,805,824
    • Total: $71,336,335

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: To find the highest-paid college football coaches of the last 10 years, GOBankingRates referenced USA Today’s data on NCAA football coach salaries. GOBankingRates analyzed the pay history of the top 50 highest-paid coaches of 2019 over the last 10 complete seasons to find their estimated total earnings since 2010. The 30 highest-paid coaches were then ranked with no. 1 being the coach who was paid the most over the last 10 years and No. 30 being the coach paid the least. GOBankingRates also provided a breakdown of each coach’s 2019 school pay, cumulative school pay from 2010-2019, bonuses paid in 2018-2019, cumulative bonuses paid from 2010-2019 and total 2019 pay. Estimates were limited by data availability; pay received in years when coaches were employed by private universities without publically available financial data will not be reflected. To be considered for this list, the coach had to still be actively coaching as of 2019. All data was collected on and up to date as of June 5, 2020.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Highest-Paid College Football Coaches of the Last 10 Years