U.S. Markets closed

The Highest Paid Public Employee in Every State

Evan Comen, Thomas C. Frohlich and Michael B. Sauter


Nick Saban, head coach of the men’s football team at the University of Alabama, is paid more than $7 million annually. He is the highest paid employee of all U.S. workers employed by a local or state government.

In the vast majority of states, college football and basketball coaches are the highest paid public employees. When a millionaire coach is not the state’s top earner, high ranking medical officials or deans at state University-run hospitals and college presidents are usually next in line. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed public records and external sources to identify the highest paid public employee in each state.

ALSO READ: America's Richest (and Poorest) States

College coaching salaries have been on the rise in recent years. According to USA TODAY Sports, which compiled coaches' salaries used in this ranking, the average compensation package for coaches at major universities and colleges is $1.81 million. This is up by more than 90% since 2006, the first year USA TODAY Sports published its database.

Seven-figure salaries are relatively scarce in the public sector. To earn this level of income at public institutions, private sources are almost always involved. The revenue stream from highly lucrative TV and other media deals and the fact that college athletes are not paid largely explain the exorbitant salaries for coaches.

Comparing salaries of the highest paid public employee in each state reveals that larger states tend to pay their best paid employees larger salaries. This is not directly related to the larger tax base but rather to the bigger universities these states have -- and their massive sports programs.

If a state’s best paid public worker is not a head coach, he or she is often still employed by a large university. James H. Page is the chancellor of the University of Maine System; Clay Christian is commissioner of higher education in Montana; and Mark Huddleston is the president of the University of New Hampshire. Each are the highest paid public employees in their states.

To determine the highest-paid public employee in each state, 24/7 Wall St. considered reports of public salaries based on state government payrolls and public documents. All college football and basketball coach salaries are based on USA Today’s consolidated list of NCAA coach salaries, which includes pay for 2015 in the case of football and 2016 in the case of basketball. In the case where a coach received a raise or was recently hired, the more recent available information was used. All data are based on the most recent available information.

These are the highest paid public employees in every state.

1. Alabama
> Highest paid employee: Nick Saban
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $7.09 million

Like nearly every state in college football’s Southeastern Conference, the highest paid public employee in Alabama is a football coach for an SEC school. Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama football team, was paid $7.09 million in the 2015 season, during which he led the team to its fourth national championship.

2. Alaska
> Highest paid employee: Keith Meyer
> Position: President, Alaska Gasline Development Corporation
> Salary: $550,000

Keith Meyer, who was named Alaska Gasline Development Corporation's new president in June, is Alaska's highest paid public employee. Meyer has an annual base salary of $550,000 and is eligible for up to $200,000 in performance bonuses. The previous president of the AGDC also had the highest public salary in the state, a fact which was criticized by Governor Walker for being extravagant during his 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

3. Arizona
> Highest paid employee: Sean Miller
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $4.95 million

Head coach of the University of Arizona men’s basketball team, Sean Miller's compensation was $4.95 million in the latest season. Miller’s pay is partly financed by an anonymous donation of oil shares the school received in 2014 and is therefore tied to the price of oil. With oil prices falling by as much as 70% since then, Miller may have lost up to $2.6 million in potential compensation.

4. Arkansas
> Highest paid employee: Bret Bielema
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $3.96 million

The head coach of the University of Arkansas football team since 2013, Bret Bielema, was paid $3.96 million in the latest season. Bielema makes $1.5 million more than the next highest paid public university employee and $3.7 million more than the highest paid government employee not employed at a public college or university.

5. California
> Highest paid employee: Jim Mora
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $3.35 million

While California Governor Jerry Brown's salary of $178,000 a year is relatively high for a governor, the pay of Jim Mora, head coach of the UCLA Bruins football team, far surpasses it. Mora made $3.35 million in the latest season and is currently under contract to coach the team through 2021.

6. Colorado
> Highest paid employee: Mike MacIntyre
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.01 million

University of Colorado football coach Mike MacIntyre earned $2.01 million last season, roughly $600,000 more than the next highest paid state employee. MacIntyre has coached the Buffaloes since 2013 and is currently under contract to stay with the team through the 2018 season.

ALSO READ: America's Most Segregated Cities

7. Connecticut
> Highest paid employee: Kevin Ollie
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $3.10 million

Like most top-paid head coaches, Kevin Ollie earns a seven-figure salary. In his four years as head coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies, Ollie has never won fewer than 20 games in a season -- making him one of the most successful college basketball coaches in the country. In 2014, his second year as head coach, Ollie led UConn to win the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the first time a seventh-seeded team had done so. Two months later, Ollie received a new contract that more than doubled his pay.

8. Delaware
> Highest paid employee: Mark Holodick
> Position: Superintendent of Brandywine School District
> Salary: $246,072

The Superintendent of the Brandywine School District since 2009, Mark Holodick earns $246,072 annually, more than any other public employee in the state. Holodick, who has the lowest salary of any top-earning state employees, is one of three highest paid public employees who do not work for a university.

9. Florida
> Highest paid employee: Jimbo Fisher
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $5.15 million

Like nearly every state in the Southeastern Conference, the highest paid public employee in Florida is a college football coach. The pay of Jimbo Fisher, head coach of the Florida State University Seminoles, was $5.15 million in the latest season, during which he led the team to 10 wins and three losses.

10. Georgia
> Highest paid employee: Kirby Smart
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $3.75 million

Nearly two decades after beginning his football coaching career in 1999 as an administrative assistant at the University of Georgia, Kirby Smart returned to his alma mater as the head coach of the Bulldogs. Starting with the 2016 season, Smart will earn a guaranteed $3.75 million annually for six years, making him the highest paid public employee in the state.

11. Hawaii
> Highest paid employee: David Engle
> Position: Neurosurgeon
> Salary: $786,000

Hawaii is one of just a handful of states in which the highest paid public employee is not the coach of a college sports team. Dr. David Engle, a staff surgeon within the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation network of hospitals, has a salary of $786,000 for the 2016 fiscal year. Engle works in neurosurgery at the Maui Memorial Medical Center.

12. Idaho
> Highest paid employee: Bryan Harsin
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $1.10 million

In his latest season as head coach of the Boise State University football team, Bryan Harsin earned $1.1 million, more than any other public employee in Idaho. While Harsin is the highest paid state employee in Idaho, his salary is lower than a majority of Division I football coaches.

13. Illinois
> Highest paid employee: Lovie Smith
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.00 million

Earlier this year, former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith signed a $21 million contract to coach the University of Illinois football team through the 2021 season. He will earn a $2 million base salary in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, which will then increase by $1 million each year until it reaches $5 million in 2020, meaning he will likely remain the highest paid state employee in Illinois for the foreseeable future.

14. Indiana
> Highest paid employee: Tom Crean
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $3.15 million

College football coaches represent the vast majority of the highest paid public employees in each state. In Indiana, however, the highest paid state employee is a basketball coach, which is not surprising given the state’s well known love of the sport. College basketball coach Tom Crean coached at Marquette for nine seasons before joining Indiana State for the 2008-2009 season.

15. Iowa
> Highest paid employee: Kirk Ferentz
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $4.08 million

Kirk Ferentz has been head coach of the University of Iowa football team for nearly two decades. According to the university’s website, Ferentz is the longest serving head football coach in the nation. Over that time, he has certainly been well compensated. Last season Ferentz was paid $4.08 million, the most of any public employee in Iowa.

ALSO READ: School Districts Spending the Most Per Student

16. Kansas
> Highest paid employee: Bill Self
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $4.94 million

Kansas University’s men’s team is one of the most successful and popular basketball teams in the nation. As head coach of the University of Kansas Jayhawks, Bill Self is paid close to $5 million annually.

17. Kentucky
> Highest paid employee: John Calipari
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $6.88 million

During the 2014-2015 season, University of Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari led the Wildcats to 38 straight wins without a loss, the best start in school history. His $6.88 million annual salary is the highest of any public employee in the state. Kentucky is the only state in the Southeastern Conference whose top-earning public worker is not a college football coach.

18. Louisiana
> Highest paid employee: Les Miles
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $4.39 million

Like nearly every state in the Southeastern Conference, the highest paid public employee in Louisiana is a college football coach. In the latest season, head coach of the Louisiana State University football team Les Miles was paid $4.39 million. Under his current contract, Miles will coach the Tigers through the 2019 season.

19. Maine
> Highest paid employee: James H. Page
> Position: Chancellor of University of Maine System
> Salary: $277,500

In the absence of a multi-billion dollar grossing sports program, Maine’s highest paid public employee is another university system employee. The University of Maine System Chancellor, Dr. James H. Page, brings in an estimated $277,500 annually.

20. Maryland
> Highest paid employee: Mark Turgeon
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $2.37 million

Like most other public employees with a seven figure salary, Mark Turgeon is the head coach of a college sports team. As the head coach of the University of Maryland men’s basketball team, Turgeon is the best-paid public employee in Maryland.

21. Massachusetts
> Highest paid employee: Derek Kellogg
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $994,000

Roughly 13 years after beginning his basketball career as a point guard for the University of Massachusetts Minutemen, Derek Kellogg returned to his alma mater in 2008 as head coach. Kellogg has a guaranteed compensation of $994,000, about $70,000 more than the next highest paid state employee in Massachusetts.

22. Michigan
> Highest paid employee: Jim Harbaugh
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $7.00 million

Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines and former coach of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, is paid well even compared to other college football coaches. Harbaugh’s salary of $7 million makes him nearly the highest paid public employee in the nation, trailing only fellow coach Nick Saban.

23. Minnesota
> Highest paid employee: Richard Pitino
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $1.60 million

Head coach of the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team Richard Pitino, who earns $1.6 million annually, is the highest paid public employee in the state. Pitino was once outranked in pay by former Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill, who recently retired for medical reasons. Kill's salary was $2.5 million annually.

24. Mississippi
> Highest paid employee: Hugh Freeze
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $4.31 million

Even head coaches of losing sports teams are relatively well paid. Head coach of Ole Miss men’s football team, Hugh Freeze, may have helped improve the the program’s win record. The team’s wins have increased in each of the seasons since he was appointed head coach in 2011. According to the team’s website, Freeze is among the most successful football coaches in the school’s history.

25. Missouri
> Highest paid employee: Barry Odom
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.35 million

Last December, Barry Odom signed a six-year contract to coach the University of Missouri football team with a guaranteed annual salary of $2.35 million, the highest of any public employee in the state. Odom replaced former head coach Gary Pinkel, who earned an even higher annual salary of $4.02 million.

ALSO READ: America's Most Hated CEOs

26. Montana
> Highest paid employee: Clay Christian
> Position: Commissioner of higher education
> Salary: $309,207

Clay Christian was hired in 2011 as Montana’s Commissioner of Higher Education, the highest position in the Montana University System. Prior to his hiring, Clay had spent 10 years obtaining a business degree from the University of Montana, taking time off to work as a ranch manager to pay for school. Clay received $309,207 in salary in 2016, the most of any public employee in the state.

27. Nebraska
> Highest paid employee: Mike Riley
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.70 million

Head football coach Mike Riley is only in his second season leading the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Large universities bank on large sporting events to attract ticket sales as well as more interest from prospective students. Riley previously coached in Oregon.

28. Nevada
> Highest paid employee: Kayvan Khiabani
> Position: Professor of surgery
> Salary: $987,638

Kayvan Khiabani, professor of surgery at University of Nevada Reno, is the highest paid public employee in Nevada. Nevada is one of just six states in which the top-paid public employee is in the medical field.

29. New Hampshire
> Highest paid employee: Mark Huddleston
> Position: College president
> Salary: $492,800

Like other states with relatively small populations, New Hampshire’s university system does not attract the same level of fanfare to its sports programs compared to some of the nation’s largest universities. The University of New Hampshire still employs the state’s highest paid employee. UNH President Mark Huddleston earns nearly half a million dollars annually.

30. New Jersey
> Highest paid employee: Chris Ash
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.00 million

As the new head football coach of the Rutgers University football team, Chris Ash will earn a guaranteed salary of $2 million in the 2016 season. While Ash will make more than anyone else currently employed by the state of New Jersey, a former employee may actually receive a larger compensation package. Rutgers University fired its former men’s basketball coach Eddie Jordan earlier this year and is now contractually obligated to pay him a $2.1 million buyout.

31. New Mexico
> Highest paid employee: Craig Neal
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $950,000

In 2013, it was announced that Craig Neal would become the 20th coach of the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team. That season, Neal became the first rookie coach in school history to lead the Lobos to the NCAA Tournament, and led the team to more wins than any first-year coach before him. Neal has an annual salary of $950,000, more than any public employee in New Mexico.

32. New York
> Highest paid employee: Lewis Pasternak
> Position: Anesthesiologist and CEO of Stony Brook University Hospital
> Salary: $673,596

Like many other well-compensated public employees who are not head coaches of college sports programs, Lewis Pasternak is employed by the health industry. As anesthesiologist and CEO of Stony Brook University Hospital, he earns well over half a million dollars annually.

33. North Carolina
> Highest paid employee: Mark Gottfried
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $2.48 million

The phenomenon of sports fanhood in the United States stands out in North Carolina. NBA stars Vince Carter, Michael Jordan, and Antawn Jamison all played basketball for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Current head coach Mark Gottfried’s annual compensation of $2.5 million, the highest of any public employee in the state, is likely regarded by many as befitting North Carolina’s famed basketball legacy.

34. North Dakota
> Highest paid employee: Joshua Wynne
> Position: Vice President for Health Affairs & Dean of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences
> Salary: $674,587

If a state’s top-paid public job is not head coach, it is frequently the top position at a medical school -- and North Dakota is no exception. Joshua Wynne, vice president for Health Affairs and dean of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences has a reported salary of $674,587 for the 2016 fiscal year.

ALSO READ: Healthiest City in Every State

35. Ohio
> Highest paid employee: Urban Meyer
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $5.86 million

Urban Meyer, head coach of the Ohio State football team since 2012, is one of four coaches in the history of college football to have four seasons with 13 wins or more. In the latest season, Meyer was paid $5.86 million -- the most of any public employee in Ohio, and the third most of any public employee in the nation.

36. Oklahoma
> Highest paid employee: Robert Stoops
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $5.86 million

Bob Stoops is one of the longest-serving football coaches in the nation. He has spent nearly 20 years in Oklahoma coaching football, and his most recent contract extension will keep him at the University of Oklahoma until 2021. Many attribute OU’s football success to Stoops, who has led the team to a national championship and nine conference titles. With an annual salary of $5.9 million, he is the best paid employee in the state.

37. Oregon
> Highest paid employee: Mark Helfrich
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $3.15 million

In his second season, Mark Helfrich led the Oregon Ducks to the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Perhaps as a reward for his strong performance, the University of Oregon signed Helfrich to a new five-year, $17.5 million contract. He was paid $3.15 million for the 2015 season, the highest pay of any public employee in Oregon.

38. Pennsylvania
> Highest paid employee: James Franklin
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $4.40 million

In 2014, James Franklin was announced as the 16th head coach of the Pennsylvania State University football team. That season, Franklin became the second coach in team history to win the first four games of his rookie season. Last season, Franklin led the Nittany Lions to seven wins and six losses in the regular season, and was paid $4.4 million -- the highest salary of any public employee in Pennsylvania.

39. Rhode Island
> Highest paid employee: Dan Hurley
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $990,417

For the 2016 season, head coach of the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team Dan Hurley was paid $990,417, the most of any public employee in the state. Hurley makes roughly three times more than the next highest paid state employee, the president of URI.

40. South Carolina
> Highest paid employee: Will Muschamp
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $3.00 million

Among top paid head coaches on this list, Will Muschamp is one of the newest to his current job. He joined the University of South Carolina Gamecocks this January, replacing previous head coach Steve Spurrier. With the Gamecocks lagging behind other competitive college football programs, pressure on Muschamp is high.

41. South Dakota
> Highest paid employee: Mary Nettleman
> Position: Dean of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine
> Salary: $577,650

States with smaller populations often lack the population and large college or university necessary to support a high revenue college football or basketball program. As a result, their highest paid employees are rarely college sports coaches. In South Dakota, the highest paid employee is Dr. Mary Nettleman, the dean of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, and the only woman on this list.

42. Tennessee
> Highest paid employee: Butch Jones
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $3.63 million

The enormous pressure to win college football, which at the nation’s largest universities attracts hundreds of thousands of fans, partly justifies the high salaries of head coaches. Coaches can be fired after a single bad season. The Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones may be resting easy -- the team is currently on a nine-game winning streak, the longest since 1999.

43. Texas
> Highest paid employee: Charlie Strong
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $5.16 million

In 2014, Charlie Strong became the 29th head coach of the University of Texas at Austin football team. In the 2015 season, Strong led the Longhorns to a 5-7 record and was compensated $5.16 million. Strong earns nearly twice as much as the state’s next highest paid public employee, the head coach of the University of Texas at Austin men’s basketball team.

ALSO READ: America's Best (and Worst) Car Brands

44. Utah
> Highest paid employee: Kyle Whittingham
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.71 million

Kyle Whittingham, 11th year head coach of the University of Utah football team, led the Utes last season to a 10-3 record that included the defeat of their rival, Brigham Young University. With a $2.71 million compensation, Whittingham is the top earning public employee in the state.

45. Vermont
> Highest paid employee: Frederick C. Morin III
> Position: Dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont
> Salary: $559,644

States with smaller populations often lack the school or university large enough to support a high revenue college football or basketball program. As a result, their highest paid employees are rarely coaches of college sports teams. In Vermont, the second least populous state, the highest paid public employee is Frederick C. Morin III, who earns $559,644 annually as the dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

46. Virginia
> Highest paid employee: Bronco Mendenhall
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $3.25 million

The rivalry between the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech may extend beyond the field this football season. Bronco Mendenhall, the new coach of the University of Virginia football team, will earn a guaranteed $3.25 million base salary in his first season in addition to potential performance-based bonuses -- more than any other state employee. However, Mendenhall may be outearned by new Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente, whose contract guarantees $3.2 million in base salary and additional potential bonuses.

47. Washington
> Highest paid employee: Chris Petersen
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $3.40 million

In December 2013, it was announced that Chris Petersen would become head coach of the University of Washington football team. The following season, Petersen led the Huskies to eight wins and six losses, becoming the fastest coach in the Football Championship Subdivision to reach 100 career wins. Peterson was compensated $3.4 million for the 2015 season, the highest salary of any public employee in Washington.

48. West Virginia
> Highest paid employee: Bob Huggins
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $3.34 million

Bob Huggins is the head coach of the West Virginia University Mountaineers, a position he has held for the past nine seasons. As is generally the case with public college and university athletic programs, Huggins’ seven-figure salary is supported by revenue from games, but also from tax dollars. At $3.34 million, Huggins makes more than any other public employee in West Virginia.

49. Wisconsin
> Highest paid employee: Paul Chryst
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.30 million

The University of Wisconsin Badgers hired Paul Chryst as head coach in 2014. Previously, Chryst had coached the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and was paid $1.6 million annually, the second highest salary of any employee at the school at the time. Now, with a salary of $2.3 million, Chryst is the highest paid public employee in Wisconsin.

50. Wyoming
> Highest paid employee: Craig Bohle
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $850,000

The University of Wyoming hired head coach Craig Bohle at the end of 2013. Bohle had previously led North Dakota State to multiple national championships. While Bohle is the highest paid public employee in Wyoming, his annual salary of less than $1 million is exceptionally low compared with other head coaches on this list.

Related Articles