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 your 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.”

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 2019 season.

Highest-Paid College Football Coaches 2019

25. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Total Pay: $4.150 million

Record: 42-12

24. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Total Pay: $4.399 million

Record: 107-51

23. Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Photo by Todd Bennett/GettyImages

Total Pay: $4.400 million

Record: 22-17

22. Ryan Day, Ohio State

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Total Pay: $4.500 million

Record: 3-0

21. David Shaw, Stanford

AP Photo/John Hefti

Total Pay: $4.613 million


Record: 82-26

20. Chris Petersen, Washington

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Total Pay: $4.625 million

Record: 47-21

19. Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Total Pay: $4.763 million

Record: 36-39

18. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Total Pay: $4.800 million

Record: 152-101

17. Gary Patterson, TCU

AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

Total Pay: $4.900 million

Record: 167-63

16. Charlie Strong, South Florida

Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images

Total Pay: $5.000 million

Record: 17-8

15. Willie Taggart, Florida State

Willie Taggart
AP Photo/Chris Seward, File

Total Pay: $5.000 million

Record: 5-7

14. Scott Frost, Nebraska

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Total Pay: $5.000 million

Record: 4-8

13. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Total Pay: $5.125 million


Record: 121-59

12. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File

Total Pay: $5.144 million

Record: 96-70

11. James Franklin, Penn State

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Total Pay: $5.6500 million

Record: 45-21

10. Dan Mullen, Florida

AP Photo/John Raoux

Total Pay: $6.070 million

Record: 10-3

9. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Total Pay: $6.384 million

Record: 24-4

8. Jeff Brohm, Purdue

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Total Pay: $6.600 million

Record: 13-13

7. Tom Herman, Texas

Tom Herman
AP Photo/Eric Gay, File

Total Pay: $6.750 million

Record: 17-10

6. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

AP Photo/Todd J. Van Emst

Total Pay: $6.827 million

Record: 53-27

5. Kirby Smart, Georgia

AP Photo/Butch Dill

Total Pay: $6.871 million


Record: 32-10

4. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

AP Photo/Michael Wyke

Total Pay: $7.500 million

Record: 9-4

3. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Total Pay: $7.504 million

Record: 38-14

2. Nick Saban, Alabama

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Total Pay: $8.857 million

Record: 146-21

1. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Dabo Swinney, Spring Training
AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File

Total Pay: $9.315 million

Record: 116-30


One name you didn’t see on that list is LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron. He ranks 30th nationally making $4.0 million per year. LSU is battling for the No. 1 ranking in college football, but Coach O makes the same amount of money as Illinois’ Lovie Smith and Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente.

As coaches come and go between the Big Ten, SEC and even NFL, this list constantly changes. In 2019, Dabo Swinney jumped Alabama’s Nick Saban as college football’s highest-paid coach thanks to a 10-year, $93 million contract extension, and he shows no sign of slowing down in ACC.

Here is part of USA Today’s list from the 2018 college football season:

Highest-Paid College Football Coaches 2018

1. Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide – $8.30 million
2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State Buckeyes – $7.60 million
3. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Wolverines – $7.50 million
4. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M Aggies – $7.50 million
5. Gus Malzahn, Auburn Tigers – $6.70 million
6. Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs – $6.60 million
7. Dabo Swinney, Clemson Tigers – $6.20 million
8. Dan Mullen, Florida Gators- $6.07 million
9. Tom Herman, Texas Longhorns – $5.50 million
10. Scott Frost, Nebraska Cornhuskers – $5.00 million

MORE: The Votes are In: Who are College Football’s Most Hated Teams?

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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