Big 12 Coaches' Salaries And How They Compare
By Steve Pipps
The salaries for college coaches have been on the rise significantly during the past few years. Head coaches are receiving over $6 million, while the highest paid assistant coaches receiving more than $1 million.
Some say these salaries are exorbitant. They cite professors at the same universities who only receive 45 to 60 percent less in salary. But for coaches like Nick Saban at Alabama, who comes with the $6 million-plus price tag, the salary seems justified.
Across the FBS, the Big 5 Conferences led the league last season in coaches salaries. According to USA Today’s compiled list, the SEC had four coaches in the top 10, including Saban at No. 1. The Big 12 had Mack Brown at No. 2 and Bob Stoops at No. 5.
Oklahoma State missed the cut by one, coming in at No. 11 behind former Louisville head coach Charlie Strong. Strong signed a five-year, $5 million deal at Texas this year, which should place him comfortably among the top-five paid coaches in the nation in 2014.
One problem is that the money doesn’t always make the best team. There is no doubting that Brown was a fantastic coach at Texas. He brought the program out of the Nineties and turned it into a powerhouse, winning the national championship in 2006 and finally reaching the $5 million salary mark in 2009. Up to that point, Texas had incentivized Brown in every way to stay. He went from a $750,000 salary when he was hired in 1997 to just under $5.5 million in 2013, his final season as a Longhorn.
In those final four years, Brown was unable to win more than eight games and, despite almost winning the Big 12 title last year, Texas still finished fourth in the conference and unranked in the BCS. Brown's presence was getting old. It was obvious he wasn’t as effective, but he still received the paycheck and ultimately retired before the Longhorns officially fired him.
From 2010 on, Texas brought in recruiting classes that were ranked No. 2, No. 5, No. 3 and No. 2, respectively, by ESPN. The star-power was there, the money was there, but the wins were not. As Strong steps into the same pay scale as Brown, he will start with only16th-ranked ranked recruiting class. It will be interesting to see how the Longhorns play in his first season as head coach.
Kansas State's Bill Snyder, on the other hand, receives a cool $2.9 million yearly salary. That is a $100,000 jump from last season, but still about half of what Strong will receive in 2014. He is the fifth-highest paid coach in the Big 12.
Since Snyder’s return in 2009, he has brought the Wildcats back to the team’s former glory. In 2011, the Wildcats finished 10-3 after losing the AT&T Cotton Bowl. The 2012 season brought the Wildcats the team’s first Big 12 title since 2003 after an 11-2 season. Snyder’s contract was extended after that season and he promptly finished 8-5 for fifth in the conference.
Since his return, Snyder has never had a recruiting class ranked higher than No. 35, according to Rivals.com. In 2012, he brought in the 59th-ranked class and still finished with the Big 12 title. This year, Snyder brought in the 47th-ranked class. That is nothing to dwell on as the Wildcats are No. 17 in ESPN’s Top 25 potential CFB playoff teams and rank 22nd and 23rd in USA Today and Athlon Sports early Top 25 rankings, respectively.
A $2.9 million paycheck is nothing to scoff at, but as far as coach’s compensation in the FBS goes, it barely slips into the top 20.
Lumped at the bottom of the Big 12 sits Kansas. Charlie Weis brought in a reported $2.5 million in 2013 and only managed three wins. Granted, Weis is working from the bottom as Kansas has only managed five or more wins once since the 2008 season when they finished 8-5. Still on board in 2014, Weis is again set to rake in more than $2.5 million, but has nothing to show for it. He ranks 31st on the list and is the seventh-highest paid coach in the Big 12.
Below him, ranked 34th, with an annual salary of $2.23 million, is Art Briles. That is until Briles signed a contract extension that will bump up his salary to over $4 million. Briles brought Baylor from the bottom of the Big 12 to the top after the Bears won the Big 12 title in 2013.
The situation was similar over at Auburn last season. Head coach Guz Malzahn was ranked 32th on the list, right behind Weis, with a 2013 salary of $2.4 million. After his impressive season in leading the Tigers to the national championship, Malzahn is looking at a significant pay raise to become the third-highest paid coach in the SEC with a $3.85 million salary in 2014.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin earned just under $2.5 million in 2012. That year, the Aggies went 11-2, including a win over then-No.1 ranked Alabama. Johnny Manziel was on fire. Sumlin’s salary jumped to $3.1 million. The next season, the Aggies went 9-5 after a bowl win over Duke and Sumlin was a hot commodity.
Sumlin was being looked at for NFL head coaching positions, and possibly the head job at USC, until Texas A&M found the right price to keep him around. The right price was a reported $5 million per year, making him the second-highest paid head coach in the SEC behind Saban and comfortably in the top five in the FBS.
I’m not arguing for or against the insane amount of money that college coaches are paid. I am merely looking at how the amount a school pays a coach doesn’t always make the difference. Sure, it might keep a coach at the helm as it did for Brown and Sumlin, but it certainly doesn’t mean championships. Some coaches are worth it, and a loss here or there doesn’t make a difference in the long run.
Saban is worth the money Alabama throws at him because he produces. Stoops is worth the money because despite his past losses in big bowl games. He’s still got it. Gundy is worth it because he has brought Oklahoma State into the limelight and a Big 12 Conference title in 2011.
Not every coach is worth the money and some are probably worth more than they currently are given, but the point is, when you find a coach who can be the face of a franchise and bring wins, maybe throwing money at him isn’t the worst idea out there.