Historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) began to sprout in the late 1800s when most institutions forbid the enrollment of African Americans. Some HBCUs built nationally recognized football programs. Football coaches are among the most highly-paid employees at HBCUs that compete in the top echelon of college competition, Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Football at HBCUs
HBCUs that compete in Division I are members of the of the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) or SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference). Division I is for revenue-generating sports programs, and schools bring in income for the athletic department. Some schools such as Grambling State University have historically significant programs. For 43 years, legendary coach Eddie Robinson led the Grambling football team to 17 conference titles and a 408-165-15 record. Many of his players and those of other historically well-performing teams such as Jackson State and Southern went on to have successful careers in the National Football League. Many smaller HBCUs do not have football programs or compete in divisions or non-NCAA conferences that are not for revenue-generating sports such as Division III or the NAIA.
Nine schools are members of the MEAC: Bethune Cookman, South Carolina State, Florida A&M, Hampton, Norfolk State, Morgan State, Delaware State, North Carolina AT&T and Howard. According to the MEAC website, the base salary of the top performing schools in the MEAC ranges from just under $100,000 to over $200,000. The head coach of Norfolk State had a contract in 2007 with a base salary of $95,000. Incentives such as earning a winning record, winning the conference championship and getting an NCAA tournament berth can increase the Norfolk State coach salary from $5,000 to $25,000 (if all of the incentives were met). As of 2010, Florida A&M had the highest paid coach in the MEAC with a five-year contract worth $225,000 per year and a $12,000 housing allowance.
Ten schools are members of the SWAC and they are split into Western and Eastern Divisions. Grambling State, Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Southern make up the Western Division. Jackson State, Alabama State, Alcorn State, Alabama A&M and Mississippi Valley make up the Eastern Division. Salaries in the conference range from a little over $100,000 per year to over $160,000, according to the SWAC website. As of 2009, the head coach at Arkansas-Pine Bluff had a base annual salary of $105,000 per year. On the other end of the spectrum, as of 2010, the head coach of Grambling State had an annual salary of $162,000 plus postseason bonuses.
Salary Comparisons to non-HBCUs
While six-figure salaries, bonuses and perks are not uncommon among HBCU football coaches, their compensation pales in comparison to what coaches make per year at universities that make up the Bowl Championship Series. These schools from conferences such as the Pac-12 (formerly the Pac-10), Big Ten, Big East generate enough money to pay coaches salaries that routinely top a million dollars per year. Even the bonuses of BCS coaches and the salaries of their assistants are often larger than the yearly salaries of HBCU coaches. In the former Pac-10, the coach of the University of Southern California made $4,386,652 in 2009. The head coach of Big Ten member University of Iowa made $3,020,000 in 2009 with the opportunity to earn one million in bonuses.