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Jim Harbaugh, Nick Saban and More of the Highest-Paid College Football Coaches This Season

·7 min read
Vasha Hunt/AP
Vasha Hunt/AP

There's nothing like the atmosphere of big-time college football, with 100,000 fans filling the stadium, awash in the colors of the home team. The cheerleaders, the marching band, the cheers, the traditions -- nothing says a fall Saturday like college football.

Read: The Top 5 Richest College Football Programs
Learn: The Richest Athletes in the World

But with big-time football comes big-time expectations from the fans, and no one feels the weight of the pressure more than the head coach. That's why, in part, head coaches at state universities are the highest-paid employees in their state.

That's true for Nick Saban, who sits atop the payroll list in Alabama with an annual salary this year at $9.3 million. If anyone's earned the distinction of being the highest-paid state employee, as well as the highest-paid college football coach in the nation, it's Saban. He has led the Crimson Tide to six national championships since taking the reins of the program in 2007, including the 2020 title. Add in the split national championship he won in 2003 with LSU, he has seven in all — breaking the record of legendary Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.

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Saban is followed on USA Today's database of college football coaches' salaries by 24 coaches who make just shy of $4 million per season or more. Each coach on the list works for a team in one of the Power Five conferences: Southeastern Conference, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten or Atlantic Coast Conference. They are ranked based on total pay.

Read on to see who — and at how much salary — has joined Saban on the list.

Last updated: Oct. 22, 2021

Paul Sancya/AP
Paul Sancya/AP

25. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

  • Conference: Big Ten

  • Scheduled School Pay: $4,250,000

  • Total Pay: $3,983,750

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $318,750

  • School Buyout: $15,328,333

  • Pay Per Game: $331,979

  • Pay Per Quarter: $82,995

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $5,533

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Brian Bishop/CSM/Shutterstock
Brian Bishop/CSM/Shutterstock

24. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh

  • Conference: ACC

  • Scheduled School Pay: NA

  • Total Pay: $4,075,994

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: NA

  • School Buyout: NA

  • Pay Per Game: $339,666

  • Pay Per Quarter: $84,917

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $5,661

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Sue Ogrocki/AP
Sue Ogrocki/AP

23. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

  • Conference: Big 12

  • Scheduled School Pay: $4,250,000

  • Total Pay: $4,158,854

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $312,500

  • School Buyout: $6,351,563

  • Pay Per Game: $346,571

  • Pay Per Quarter: $86,643

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $5,776

The Money of College Football: The Highest-Paid Public Employees in Every State

Nell Redmond/AP
Nell Redmond/AP

22. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

  • Conference: ACC

  • Scheduled School Pay: $4,250,000

  • Total Pay: $4,250,000

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $0

  • School Buyout: $12,500,000

  • Pay Per Game: $354,167

  • Pay Per Quarter: $88,542

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $5,903

See: The 25 Richest NFL Team Owners

AP / Shutterstock.com
AP / Shutterstock.com

21. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

  • Conference: Big Ten

  • Scheduled School Pay: $4,600,000

  • Total Pay: $4,281,680

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $548,320

  • School Buyout: $18,697,250

  • Pay Per Game: $356,807

  • Pay Per Quarter: $89,202

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $5,947

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Chris Brown/CSM
Chris Brown/CSM

20. Chip Kelly, UCLA

  • Conference: Pac-12

  • Scheduled School Pay: $4,300,000

  • Total Pay: $4,300,000

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $0

  • School Buyout: $9,000,000

  • Pay Per Game: $358,333

  • Pay Per Quarter: $89,583

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $5,972

Read More: Here’s How Rich Every NFL Team Is

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/Shutterstock
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/Shutterstock

19. Clay Helton, Southern California

  • Conference: Pac-12

  • Scheduled School Pay: NA

  • Total Pay: $4,569,507

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: NA

  • School Buyout: NA

  • Pay Per Game: $380,792

  • Pay Per Quarter: $95,198

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $6,347

Note: USC fired Clay Helton on Sept. 13, two games into the 2021 season. A national search is underway for his successor.

Jeff Schultes / Shutterstock.com
Jeff Schultes / Shutterstock.com

18. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

  • Conference: Pac-12

  • Scheduled School Pay: $5,000,000

  • Total Pay: $4,634,178

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $365,822

  • School Buyout: $21,250,000

  • Pay Per Game: $386,182

  • Pay Per Quarter: $96,545

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $6,436

Related: The 5 Best NFL Players When It Comes to Money

Charlie Neibergall/AP
Charlie Neibergall/AP

17. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

  • Conference: Big Ten

  • Scheduled School Pay: $4,900,000

  • Total Pay: $4,670,750

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $393,000

  • School Buyout: $20,721,250

  • Pay Per Game: $389,229

  • Pay Per Quarter: $97,307

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $6,487

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Young Kwak/AP
Young Kwak/AP

16. David Shaw, Stanford

  • Conference: Pac-12

  • Scheduled School Pay: NA

  • Total Pay: $4,812,197

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: NA

  • School Buyout: NA

  • Pay Per Game: $401,016

  • Pay Per Quarter: $100,254

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $6,684

See the List: How Rich Are Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and 43 More of the Wealthiest Golfers of All Time?

Nati Harnik/AP
Nati Harnik/AP

15. Scott Frost, Nebraska

  • Conference: Big Ten

  • Scheduled School Pay: $5,000,000

  • Total Pay: $4,833,333

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $166,667

  • School Buyout: $25,375,000

  • Pay Per Game: $402,778

  • Pay Per Quarter: $100,694

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $6,713

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Young Kwak/AP
Young Kwak/AP

14. Mike Leach, Mississippi State

  • Conference: SEC

  • Scheduled School Pay: $5,000,000

  • Total Pay: $5,000,000

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $0

  • School Buyout: NA

  • Pay Per Game: $416,667

  • Pay Per Quarter: $104,167

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $6,944

Timothy D Easley/AP
Timothy D Easley/AP

13. Mark Stoops, Kentucky

  • Conference: SEC

  • Scheduled School Pay: $5,000,000

  • Total Pay: $5,013,600

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $0

  • School Buyout: $23,750,000

  • Pay Per Game: $417,800

  • Pay Per Quarter: $104,450

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $6,963

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Adam Hunger/AP/Shutterstock
Adam Hunger/AP/Shutterstock

12. Mel Tucker, Michigan State

  • Conference: Big Ten

  • Scheduled School Pay: $5,057,000

  • Total Pay: $5,057,250

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $266,000

  • School Buyout: $23,186,513

  • Pay Per Game: $421,438

  • Pay Per Quarter: $105,359

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $7,024

David Banks/AP
David Banks/AP

11. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

  • Conference: Big Ten

  • Scheduled School Pay: NA

  • Total Pay: $5,218,658

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: NA

  • School Buyout: NA

  • Pay Per Game: $434,888

  • Pay Per Quarter: $108,722

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $7,248

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Jay LaPrete/AP
Jay LaPrete/AP

10. Ryan Day, Ohio State

  • Conference: Big Ten

  • Scheduled School Pay: $5,748,264

  • Total Pay: $5,651,694

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $236,877

  • School Buyout: $45,464,910

  • Pay Per Game: $470,975

  • Pay Per Quarter: $117,744

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $7,850

Kevin Langley/CSM
Kevin Langley/CSM

9. Dan Mullen, Florida

  • Conference: SEC

  • Scheduled School Pay: $6,070,000

  • Total Pay: $6,070,000

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $0

  • School Buyout: $12,000,000

  • Pay Per Game: $505,833

  • Pay Per Quarter: $126,458

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $8,431

Ron Jenkins/AP
Ron Jenkins/AP

8. Gary Patterson, TCU

  • Conference: Big 12

  • Scheduled School Pay: NA

  • Total Pay: $6,130,937

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: NA

  • School Buyout: NA

  • Pay Per Game: $510,911

  • Pay Per Quarter: $127,728

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $8,515

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Jacob Kupferman/CSM
Jacob Kupferman/CSM

7. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

  • Conference: Big 12

  • Scheduled School Pay: $6,507,143

  • Total Pay: $6,202,726

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $515,000

  • School Buyout: $30,974,666

  • Pay Per Game: $516,894

  • Pay Per Quarter: $129,223

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $8,615

Brett Davis / AP / University of Georgia Athletic Association
Brett Davis / AP / University of Georgia Athletic Association

6. Kirby Smart, Georgia

  • Conference: SEC

  • Scheduled School Pay: $6,803,600

  • Total Pay: $6,933,600

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $0

  • School Buyout: $19,835,834

  • Pay Per Game: $577,800

  • Pay Per Quarter: $144,450

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $9,630

Jacob Kupferman/CSM
Jacob Kupferman/CSM

5. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

  • Conference: SEC

  • Scheduled School Pay: $7,500,000

  • Total Pay: $7,500,000

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $0

  • School Buyout: $53,125,000

  • Pay Per Game: $625,000

  • Pay Per Quarter: $156,250

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $10,417

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Romeo Guzman/CSM
Romeo Guzman/CSM

4. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

  • Conference: Big Ten

  • Scheduled School Pay: $8,054,000

  • Total Pay: $8,036,179

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $554,584

  • School Buyout: $6,367,929

  • Pay Per Game: $669,682

  • Pay Per Quarter: $167,420

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $11,161

Charles Baus/CSM
Charles Baus/CSM

3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

  • Conference: ACC

  • Scheduled School Pay: $8,258,575

  • Total Pay: $8,319,775

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $1,250,000

  • School Buyout: $50,000,000

  • Pay Per Game: $693,315

  • Pay Per Quarter: $173,329

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $11,555

See: How Rich Are These Big-Name NASCAR Drivers?

AP/REX/Shutterstock
AP/REX/Shutterstock

2. Ed Orgeron, LSU

  • Conference: SEC

  • Scheduled School Pay: $8,687,500

  • Total Pay: $8,918,500

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $0

  • School Buyout: $23,850,000

  • Pay Per Game: $743,208

  • Pay Per Quarter: $185,802

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $12,387

Note: LSU and Ed Orgeron agreed on Oct. 17 that 2021 will be his final season as head coach. The school will pay him a $16.9 million buyout.

Vasha Hunt/AP
Vasha Hunt/AP

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

  • Conference: SEC

  • Scheduled School Pay: $9,100,000

  • Total Pay:$9,300,000

  • Total Pandemic Reduction: $0

  • School Buyout: $36,800,000

  • Pay Per Game: $775,000

  • Pay Per Quarter: $193,750

  • Pay Per Game Minute: $12,917

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: For this piece, GOBankingRates used USA Today's NCAA Football Coaches salary data from the 2020-21 college football season. GOBankingRates found the following factors for the 25 highest-paid coaches who were employed as college football coaches as of the start of the season: (1) college name; (2) conference: (3) coach name; (4) scheduled school pay; (5) total pay; (6) total pandemic reduction; (7) school buyout clause; and (8) pay per game, quarter and minute of the season. All data was collected and up to date as of Sept. 1, 2021.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Jim Harbaugh, Nick Saban and More of the Highest-Paid College Football Coaches This Season