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Annual salaries for top college coaches vary widely but can be quite lucrative at the top-end of the pay scale. Head coaches of the most successful and highest profile male athletic programs at the Division-I (D1) level earn up to several million dollars a year. Head coaches of women sports at smaller, less-recognized schools earn significantly less. However, on average, D1 coaches across the board earn a comfortable living. Successful coaches are also rewarded with increased base pay, bonuses and more lucrative coaching opportunities.
D1 is the highest level of athletic competition at the collegiate level. Coaches at this level earn more than coaches at lower levels of competition. Coaches of men's sports typically earn significantly more than coaches of women sports. The size, national profile of the school, past and present success, popularity of the sport, fan base and alumni networks all determine how much a coach earns. Winning ultimately determines the success of a coach and national and conference titles often result in pay increases or higher-paying coaching opportunities at other schools.
Millionaire Football Coaches
College football coaches earn more than any other type of coach in college sports. In fact, football bowl subdivision (formerly known as Division I) coaches are the highest paid public employees in the country. According to the National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School, University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban earns more than any other coach in D1 athletics. Saban's receives approximately $5.99 million in annual compensation ($5.17 million in university compensation; $830,000 in non-university compensation; with option for $700,000 maximum bonus). Other football coaches topping the highest paid list include: University of Texas coach Mack Brown ($5.16 million), University of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops ($4.4 million); Louisiana Sate University coach Les Miles ($3.9 million). In contrast, Louisiana-Monroe head coach Todd Berry receives the lowest compensation of any D-1 football at $215,000 per year.
Men’s basketball coaches take home hefty paychecks as well; just behind football coaches, in terms of D-I coaching salaries. The University of Kentucky’s head basketball coach John Calipari tops the earnings list with annual compensation of $4 million. Other coaches included in the highest paid roster are: University of Florida coach Billy Donovan ($3.3 million); University of Kansas coach Bill Self ($3 million); Ohio State University coach Thad Matta ($2.5 million); and University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino ($2.25 million).
D1 coaches of women's sports earn significantly less than coaches of men's sports. University of Tennessee head basketball coach, Pat Summitt, earns $2.03 million per year. She receives the highest compensation of any women's coach in D-1 and is one of just five women's basketball coaches that earns over $1 million per year, according to USA Today.
Less popular sports create less revenue for athletic departments and coaches of these sports earn less. Coaches in sports such as track and field, lacrosse, volleyball, cross-country, water polo, wrestling and tennis earn substantially less than football or basketball coaches. None of these coaching salaries approach the million dollar annual compensation mark.
Leeland Bettis has been writing about investment since 2005. As the former editor of an investment newsletter his work has appeared in Forbes.com, the Bloomberg Financial Network and other reputable news publications around the world. Bettis holds a Master of Arts in international relations from the National University of Singapore.