10 highest-paid college football coaches (Updated 2021)

    Who is the highest-paid head coach in college football, and which other college coaches fill out the remainder of the top 10?

    There are nearly 300 teams in D1 college football, with hundreds more in the D2, D3, NAIA, and JUCO ranks. However, the highest-paid college coaches find themselves in the D1 landscape, specifically in the FBS. So, who are the top 10 highest-paid college football coaches across the nation?

    The highest-paid coaches in college football | 6-10

    The totals listed are in actual pay based on USA Today’s numbers last updated in November 2020. New contracts have been signed, and coaches have been fired since. Those changes are reflected in this list. 

    10) Gary Patterson, TCU | $6.1 million

    Gary Patterson is entering his 21st season with the Horned Frogs, the second-longest tenure in college football to Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (23rd season). Since becoming head coach in 2000, Patterson has led TCU to an impressive 178-74 record, including 11-6 in bowl games. The 61-year-old coach signed a contract extension in 2017 that will keep him in Texas until 2024.

    9) Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma | $6.2 million

    What is as synonymous as peanut butter and jelly? Lincoln Riley and star quarterbacks. Since 2017, Riley has coached Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts. All three have been drafted to the NFL in the first two rounds, with Mayfield (2017) and Murray (2018) going as the No. 1 overall picks in their respective drafts. Next in line? Spencer Rattler, who will likely be a top-two selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

    8) Ryan Day, Ohio State | $6.5 million

    One of the newest members on the list, Ryan Day signed a contract extension in 2020 to remain the Buckeyes head coach through 2026. The extension brought a hefty pay raise for Day over a three-year period. In 2020, he went from $4.5 million to $6 million in yearly salary. This season, he will make $6.5 million before a jump to $7.6 million in 2022. After that, any increase in salary must be approved by Ohio State’s athletic director and Board of Trustees.

    Since taking over for Urban Meyer toward the end of 2018, Day has charged Ohio State to a 23-2 record, including a loss against Alabama in the National Championship game last season.

    7) Kirby Smart, Georgia | $6.8 million

    While Georgia hasn’t won a national championship with Kirby Smart at the helm, they are consistently in the conversation because of him. The Bulldogs have a chance to win the chip in 2021, especially if JT Daniels can provide plus quarterback play. Smart has a team ripe with talent that can rival Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State. Can he help them reach their potential?

    6) Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M | $7.5 million

    Speaking of national championship contenders, Texas A&M has a similar level of promise to Georgia. The difference is Daniels is a more proven commodity than Aggies QB Haynes King. With Kellen Mond under center last year, Jimbo Fisher’s squad knocked on the College Football Playoffs door with an 8-1 record. They have not made the playoffs yet, but Fisher is proving to be worth the money.

    The highest-paid coaches | 2-5

    The SEC is home to three of the top five highest-paid college football coaches in the country.

    5) Dan Mullen, Florida | $7.6 million

    Dan Mullen is the most recent addition to the list. Mullen and the Gators reached an agreement to keep the head coach in-house until 2026. The deal included a $1.5 million annual raise after Mullen led Florida to an SEC Championship battle with Alabama last year. Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts, and Kadarius Toney headline the program’s biggest losses this offseason, but Mullen and Co. should remain competitive and on the national radar.

    4) Jim Harbaugh, Michigan | $7.8 million

    Jim Harbaugh has posted a 49-22 record as the head coach of Michigan. Most programs would be content with that consistency. Yet, Harbaugh seems to be on the hot seat heading into 2021. A key reason why is the Wolverines have lost all five matchups against rival Ohio State under Harbaugh. His worst season came just last year, as Michigan went 2-4 in all-conference play. Can Harbaugh right the ship in 2021?

    3) Dabo Swinney, Clemson | $8.3 million

    In 2011 (his third year with the program), Dabo Swinney led Clemson to their first 10-plus-win season in over 20 years. What has he done since? Oh, just win 10-plus games in 10 straight seasons. With Swinney at the controls, the Tigers have won 140 of 173 games, been to the postseason six times, and won two national championships. Talk about a dynasty.

    2) Ed Orgeron, LSU | $8.7 million

    LSU offered Ed Orgeron a much-deserved six-year contract extension following an undefeated (15-0) national championship-winning campaign in 2019. Not including bonuses, the deal was reported to be worth $42 million.

    Unfortunately, the Tigers took an immediate step back in 2020, though it was to be expected. QB Joe Burrow, WR Justin Jefferson, and a plethora of starters left for the NFL, while star WR Ja’Marr Chase opted out of the season. Nevertheless, Orgeron will be looking to lead his team to a record well above their 5-5 showing in 2020.

    Who is the highest-paid coach in the NCAA?

    There is no surprise as to who is the highest-paid coach in college football.

    1) Nick Saban, Alabama | $9.1 million

    When you are the best at your position, you get paid like it. Honestly, everyone on campus would probably say Nick Saban is underpaid for what he has done and continues to do for the school. The Crimson Tide haven’t had more than two losses in a single season since 2010. Additionally, the program is a pipeline to the NFL, sending five-plus players to the league every year over the last decade.

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