"Covering College Football Coaching from Miami to Honolulu"



Most College Head Football Coaches are Underpaid

Before we get to our latest study of college coaches salaries, we would like to say a word or two about the violence at Northern Illinois University.  When we see someone take the lives of other human beings unnecessarily it does indeed make us sad, but it also makes us mad.  We wonder what kind of man would take the lives of others, but anyone that would walk into a college classroom and shoot innocent people is certainly not a man.  Where would anyone learn to behave in such a way, and how could anyone’s twisted mind imagine that killing other people is going to do anything but create tragedy for the people and families involved.  Maybe that is the point, that man that killed the people at NIU killed himself in the end and he must have wanted to take a few other people along with him.  How pitiful, and as we said, those are not the actions of a man, nor of a human being..  Whenever we see or read about senseless violence in our country we are reminded of the speech that Robert F. Kennedy made to the City Club of Cleveland on April 5, 1968 (Almost 40 years ago now, just amazing how time flies!), which was given shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr..  In that speech RFK talked about the “….mindless menace of violence in American that again stains our land and every one of our lives.”  We will not recite the entire speech, but it was certainly one of the bravest speeches ever given in our country, and it rings as true today as it did then.  You can read the speech here, RFK Speech to City Club of Clevelandor listen to the speech here at YouTube:  RFK Cleveland Speech

The Coaches Hot Seat investigative group is busy with their BCS work, so while we watch and read their work on the BCS in Coaches Hot Seat Central (and fascinating work it is…) we now take a hard look at college coaches salaries to see if Myles Brand’s (NCAA President) concerns about rising salaries really has any merit.  After this work we have come to the conclusion that the majority of head football coaches in college are underpaid, and in fact some of them are obscenely underpaid.  At most Division I-A schools football is the “bellcow” for the athletic departments and the revenue generated from football allows dozens if not all of the other sports to exist without support from the university.  This is not always the case, and a number of the smaller schools in I-A do not generate significant enough revenues in football to have a major impact upon other sports, but at the very top of the college game, football is a very big business.  The basis of our research into coaches salaries is the Department of Education’s terrific website: Equity in Athletics.  At the Equity in Athletics website you can find out just what all of the schools, both public and private, are raising and spending on their athletic teams.  We used the data on the Equity in Athletics website to project 2008 football revenues for all 120 teams in I-A and we married that data to the coaches salary information and with that we have to come up with a number of very interesting items.

The first thing we did was to take a look at all of the data and come up with averages and some standards for coaches salaries.  The first number/percentage that we were interested in looking at was the head football coaches salary as a percentage of revenues that the football program generated.  After looking at all 120 I-A football programs we determined that the average head coaches’ salary is 7.61% of the revenues that his football team generates.  At first, the head football coach making 7.61% of the revenue that his football team generates struck us as a low number, but after taking a look at the amount of money that is raised by football programs and how it is used to fund other athletic teams, we came to the conclusion that a head football coach in college should be making around or very close to 7.50%of the revenue that his football team generates.  What the actual number is in dollar numbers is irrelevant, i.e. “Saban is making $4 million,” because we believe that head football coaches are not only in one of the most demanding jobs in our country, they also have to do that job on a public stage for all to see.  CEO’s are well compensated, but the vast majority of their work is behind closed doors, and it is our contention that head football coaches in college should be well compensated, and that as we will show in our research, most college head football coaches are underpaid. 

On to our latest research:

1.  Salaries as a Percentage of Revenues Sorted by Highest to Lowest Salary – On this page we provide the basic data for the research and this page is sorted by highest to lowest salary of the head football coaches.  One will quickly notice the large amount of revenues that are generated by the programs that pay their coaches a lot of money.

2.  Salaries as a Percentage of Revenues Sorted by Football Revenues – On this page the data is sorted by our estimated 2008 football revenues for all 120 I-A teams.  If there was one thing that Myles Brand was right about it is that there is a tremendous difference in revenues generated from the top to the bottom football programs in I-A.  Some things that jump out at us on this page:

a.  Southern Cal only has $36,000,000 in football revenues?- It is hard for us to believe this $36M number, because we have been at the LA Coliseum enough times to see the 100,000 plus fans and Trojan apparel seemingly being worn by everyone.  This low number reported by USC can only mean one of two things:  1.  USC is lying about their football revenues; 2. USC is making about half of what they should be making from the football powerhouse that Pete Carroll has built in south LA.  No, USC does not have an exclusive TV contract like Notre Dame, but there is no way in the world that USC should be generating half the revenue of the Irish football team.

b.  Oklahoma only makes $40 million in revenues?- This is almost as strange as USC’s revenue number, but at least OU has the excuse that it is not sitting in the largest city in the country. 

c.  49 football programs generate $10 million or less in revenues – Anyone that thinks football programs in I-A are equal only has to take a look at the bottom of this page to see many teams that are working with a fraction of what the big boys have at their disposal.  It almost isn’t fair, but who said life was fair? 

3.  Salaries as Percentage of Revenues Sorted by Percentage – On this page we really get a good look at the head football coaches salaries as a percentage of their teams football revenues.  To us this is the most fascinating page of our research on this matter, because it gives a lot of insight into really what schools are spending on their head football coaches relative to the amount of revenue their football teams generate.  Some things that stood out:

a.  SMU’s AD Steve Orsini has hired two football coaches in the past 5 years and they are at the very top of this list- Orsini hired George O’Leary at UCF and his salary of $1,086,000 is 21.72% of the revenue that UCF’s football team generates.  Orsini also recently hired June Jones at SMU, and Jones $2,000,000 annual salary is 20.00% of the revenue that the SMU football team generates.  Orsini has proved that he is willing to go big, and we are guessing that his bet is that by bringing these proven, and very expensive coaches to these two campuses will generate millions additional football revenues.  UCF seems to be thriving under O’Leary, but they still have a ways to go, and June Jones is going to have to work miracles at SMU to generate the kind of dollars that his $2,000,000 dollar salary will require.  Just imagine that if SMU doubled its football revenues over the next 5 years to $20M annually, Jones salary would still be 10% of football revenues.  Quite a big bet by Orisni, but if he has the dollars on hand, by all means go for it.  Those oil boys in Dallas should have plenty of money to spend on a football coach with oil above $90 dollars a barrel!

4.  Salaries at Percentage of Revenues Sorted by most Underpaid and Overpaid Coaches- The previous page was interesting, but this page on who is Over and Underpaid is stunning in so many ways.  Last fall we did a piece on the Coaches Hot Seat Blog about the most underpaid coaches in college football, and without even looking at the underlying numbers we listed Mark Richt, Mack Brown, Jim Tressel, Mike Riley, and a few others that are at the top of this list.  This page is sorted by the amount that coaches are either over or underpaid relative to the revenues that their football teams generate.  These numbers may seem startling at first, but we believe that Mark Richt would be worth every penny of $4,950,000 million annually that he should be getting paid, if his salary was 7.5% of the revenues that the Georgia football team generates.  The same goes for Mack Brown, Jim Tressel, Tommy Tuberville, and several others on this list.  On the overpaid end of the list, it would certainly make sense that June Jones would find himself in the #120 spot, since he is bringing some big dollars at a school (SMU) that really hasn’t been competitive at all in the past 25 years or so. 

What does all of this research on coaches salaries add up to?  Well, it provides to us some interesting insight on just what is going on within football programs relative to what these coaches are making, and it also illuminates the giant task that the smaller schools face when they play the big boys of college football.  We also believe that this research into coaches salaries provides a glimpse at the large amounts of money that the biggest football programs are generating, especially relative to the bottom half of I-A football teams.  One of the things that is on the wall at Coaches Hot Seat Central is a big board that details the dollars that a playoff would generate in major college football.  One of the numbers on that board that really stands out is that a college football playoff would generate approximately $400 to $500 million more a year than the BCS, and there is no doubt in our mind that some of those dollars are desperately needed by dozens of football programs in I-A that are currently being outspent by millions of dollars by the top programs in the game.  We have no doubt that once the facts of college football playoff vs. the BCS are laid out before the presidents and chancellors of our universities, that they will not only wholeheartedly support a movement to a post-season in college football being run and administered by the NCAA, many will wonder just where the BCS Boys came up with all the bullshit they have been feeding everyone for the past 10 years.  In the end, if you have a working brain, you know the BCS is a fraud and that it is in fact a terrible drag upon the game of college football.  There is one very clear reason that the BCS will be brought to an end, and that is because it is an absurdity for such a grand game to have such an incredibly stupid way to determine its champion.  But, we digress.

We have a number of things coming up, with an interesting look at head football coaches salaries adjusted to the “cost of living” in the town that they live in, relative to the average American.  Just looking over the preliminary numbers this afternoon, the coaches that are living in the larger cities, Miami, New York area, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc., are certainly not making, at least adjusted for the cost of living in larger cities, the same kind of money that a coach is making in a town like South Bend.  Just to give you an example of what we mean, if Charlie Weis took a job in Los Angeles and wanted to make the same amount he makes in South Bend ($4.2 million) he would have to be paid a staggering $7.0 million dollars!  Yes, you got it right, $4.2 million in South Bend = $7.0 million in LA!

Have a great weekend!

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