The 25 Highest-Paid College Football Coaches are Filthy Rich
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Coaching college football seems like the most stressful job on the planet. College coaches are tasked with, essentially, raising 100-plus young men flying through their college years. Every aspect of the job, from press conferences to behavior on the field, is scrutinized by everyone. If you’re not performing well, it’s not easy to hide.

When you’re headed for the College Football Playoff, your body of work is met with questions like, “Is it good enough?” It’s a day-in, day-out grind, and honestly, I understand why so few coaches find national championship-level success. Despite that diatribe in support of the NCAA’s elite leaders, I’d happily eat the B.S. coming my way if I made the kind of money these college football coaches do.

Annually, USA Today publishes a database listing the salaries of all 130 FBS head football coaches. Everything from a coach’s maximum bonus to buyout numbers are available, but the most important number is a category titled “Total Pay.” USA Today updated their database for the 2021 season, so we can finally see who is making the most to wear the headset on Saturdays.

Here are the 25 highest-paid head coaches in college football, their total pay this year and their record leading that school coming into the 2021 season.

Don’t expect to see the coach salaries any of former Texas Longhorns’ Tom Herman, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn or Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio on this list since they either resigned or were fired. Also, Penn State’s James Franklin doesn’t show up on USA Today‘s list despite being due more than $6 million in 2021.

Notable names who fell off the list are Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente. Newcomers to the list include Auburn’s Bryan Harsin, Texas’ Steve Sarkisian, Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm.

Note: USA Today has not updated its list since LSU hired Brian Kelly from Notre Dame or USC lured Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma, among other hires.

25 Highest-Paid College Football Coaches 2021

25. Jeff Brohm, Purdue Boilermakers

Jeff Brohm Purdue
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Total Pay: $4,417,774


Record: 19-25

24. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota Golden Gophers

PJ Fleck Minnesota
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Total Pay: $4,420,000

Record: 26-19

23. Clay Helton, USC Trojans

Clay Helton USC Trojans
Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

Total Pay: $4,813,832

Record: 45-23

22. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh Panthers

Pat Narduzzi Pitt
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Total Pay: $4,816,806

Record: 42-34

21. Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss Rebels

Lane Kiffin Ole Miss
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Total Pay: $4,841,937

Record: 5-5

20. Mike Leach, Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mike Leach Mississippi State
Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Total Pay: $5,000,000

Record: 4-7

19. Bryan Harsin, Auburn Tigers

Bryan Harsin Auburn
Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Total Pay: $5,000,000

Record: 0-0

18. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Hawkeyes

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Total Pay: $5,000,000

Record: 168-106

17. Scott Frost, Nebraska Cornhuskers

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Total Pay: $5,000,000


Record: 12-21

16. Kyle Whittingham, Utah Utes

Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Total Pay: $5,200,000

Record: 134-66

15. Mark Stoops, Kentucky Wildcats

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Total Pay: $5,263,600

Record: 49-50

14. Steve Sarkisian, Texas Longhorns

Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Total Pay: $5,450,000

Record: 0-0

13. Mel Tucker, Michigan State Spartans

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Total Pay: $5,566,303

Record: 2-5

12. Chip Kelly, UCLA Bruins

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Total Pay: $5,600,000

Record: 11-21

11. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern Wildcats

AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File

Total Pay: $5,748,179

Record: 106-81

10. Gary Patterson, TCU Horned Frogs

AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

Total Pay: $6,103,543

Record: 178-74

9. Ryan Day, Ohio State Buckeyes

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Total Pay: $6,614,693


Record: 23-2

8. Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs

AP Photo/John Amis

Total Pay: $7,133,600

Record: 52-14

7. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M Aggies

AP Photo/Todd Kirkland

Total Pay: $7,500,000

Record: 26-10

6. Dan Mullen, Florida Gators

AP Photo/John Raoux

Total Pay: $7,570,000

Record: 29-9

5. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma Sooners

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Total Pay: $7,672,710

Record: 45-8

4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson Tigers

dabo swinney
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Total Pay: $8,370,775

Record: 140-33

3. David Shaw, Stanford Cardinal

AP Photo/John Hefti

Total Pay: $8,924,683

Record: 90-36

2. Ed Orgeron, LSU Tigers

AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman

Total Pay: $9,012,917

Record: 45-14

1. Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Total Pay: $9,753,221


Record: 170-23

That’s right. Alabama’s main man is college football’s deserved top earner. He earned a contract extension (after winning yet another national championship game last year) that will pay him an average of $10.6 million in annual salary over the contract, but it’s unknown exactly how much he’ll make running his powerhouse program in 2021.

As coaches come and go between the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and even NFL, this list constantly changes. Jimbo Fisher’s new contract extension in 2021 was reported to pay him $9 million for the 2022 season, which will slate him ahead of Swinney and Orgeron despite not making the College Football Playoff at Texas A&M yet (yes, I know he won a title at Florida State). Florida’s Dan Mullen also received a contract extension that was set to pay him $7.6 million annually, which made him the third-highest-paid coach in the SEC before he was fired this season.

This post will be updated as more information is available.

MORE: The 25 Highest-Paid Coaches in College Basketball

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John Duffley About the author:
John joins the FanBuzz team with five years of experience freelancing as a sports writer for and A graduate of Penn State University, John currently lives and works in Austin, Texas. He is also a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
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