Colleges try to get bang for buck

sports@macon.comDecember 30, 2013 

It’s easy to determine which college football team is getting the most bang for its buck. Alabama’s Nick Saban was the nation’s highest paid coach during the 2013 season at upwards of $5.5 million with bonuses that could add another $700,000.

In 2014, he will be compensated at between $7 and $7.5 million on a new contract he agreed to just before Christmas. Is he worth it? A resounding yes. He has won three of the past four national championships and was denied an opportunity for another by Auburn on Nov. 30 when the Tigers stunned his Crimson Tide 34-28.

Alabama chancellor Robert Witt, in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” last month said, “Saban is the best financial investment Alabama has ever made.” Overall giving to the university is at an all-time high with much of the credit given to the football team, and athletics department revenue has increased 112 percent during Saban’s tenure. The athletics department returned $4 million to the university in the form of academic scholarships during the 2011-12 academic year.

College head coaches’ salaries are at staggering numbers. A recent USA Today survey revealed that the average salary of the 126 FBS coaches is $1.81 million, up 90 percent from 2006. There is not a head football coach in the SEC making less than $2 million annually.

Saban was followed by Mack Brown of Texas at $5.4 million (Brown has since announced his resignation effective after Monday’s Alamo Bowl), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops at $4.6 million, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and LSU’s Les Miles are both at $4.3 million, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz at $3.9 million, Louisville’s Charlie Strong at $3.7 million, Steve Spurrier of South Carolina comes in at $3.6 million, TCU’s Gary Patterson is at $3.5 million and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy at $3.3 million.

Next season, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, whose team lost four games in 2013, joins the $5 million club, and he most likely will be without Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who is expected to enter the NFL draft in May.

FSU’s Jimbo Fisher, who will coach the Seminoles in the BCS national championship game, was 17th in salary at $2.8, but he already has signed a five-year contract for $21 million that will move him into the top 10. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn also was rewarded for the Tigers’ unexpected march to the national championship game. He made $2.44 million in 2013 but will jump to $3.85 million next season, and in each subsequent year of his six-year contract, he will receive a $250,000 increase.

The high dollar salaries are not limited to just head coaches. While Georgia’s Mark Richt cashes checks from a $3.2 million contact (13th on the list), his top lieutenants, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo are paid $850,000 and $575,000, respectively. Ask most Georgia fans if the Bulldogs are getting the most bang for their buck, specifically defensively, and you would get a resounding no. In the 2013 season, Georgia’s defense finished ranked 75th overall among FBS teams and 11th of l4 SEC teams. The Bulldogs allowed 4,575 total yards (381.3 per game), 1,782 rushing yards (148.5 per game), 2,793 passing (232.8 per game) and 353 points (29.4 per game).

Grantham’s pay is more than the combined salary of every coach on the Georgia staff when the Bulldogs won the national championship in 1980. Just more than 50 years ago when Paul “Bear” Bryant got the job at Alabama in 1958, his first contact was for $17,500 per year, and Vince Dooley’s first job at Georgia paid him $12,500 in 1964.

Seventy eight of the 126 FBS category coaches are paid at least $1 million annually with only one head man from one of the power conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and AAC) making less than that figure. He is Kyle Flood of Rutgers, who has an $800.000 contract.

In Georgia, in addition to Richt’s $3.2 salary at Georgia, Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson receives $2.75 annually, and Georgia State’s Trent Miles is at $400,000. Georgia State went 0-12 this season.

Even with the salaries that coaches are receiving today, they don’t come close to the top 10 executives in corporate America where none had compensation less than $100 million last year. Facebook’s Steve Zuckerberg led the way with income totaling more than $2.7 billion.

Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Email him at

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