Elite college football coaches are the biggest beneficiaries of the NCAA’s prohibition of salaries or stipends for college football players. College football is a big business generating billions of dollars per year in television revenue. The way to build a better college football program is not to buy better players, because that is prohibited. The way to become a college football power is to attract one of the best coaches who will assemble a highly paid staff and use millions of dollars in resources to recruit players by offering them non-wage benefits. Top coaches are incredibly expensive because they can deliver the best players. It is time for college presidents to face the truth, eliminate the coach as middleman and pay college football players directly.
Nick Saban, coach of the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, is the highest paid coach in college football earning over $5 million per year. He also lives and works in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where housing costs $92 per square foot. In other words, Saban’s annual pre-tax salary is enough to purchase 57,609 square feet of housing every year making him the highest paid coach in college football. Based on the median size of a new home in the U.S., Saban’s salary would purchase 26.56 new homes per year or a new home every two weeks.
The table below shows the salaries of the coaches of the top 25 ranked teams in the country going into this weekend. The average coach of a ranked team earns enough (before taxes) each year to buy 11.85 per year. Using this metric the lowest paid coach in this group is Stanford’s David Shaw whose pre-tax salary would just be enough to purchase one home per year in Palo Alto. Measured relative to housing costs Saban’s salary is 26 times higher than Shaw’s.
|Coach||School||Relative Salary(# homes/yr)||Rank|
|Nick Saban||Alabama Crimson Tide||26.56||1|
|Bob Stoops||Oklahoma Sooners||24.77||13|
|Brian Kelly||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||20.64||7|
|Mark Richt||Georgia Bulldogs||20.37||14|
|Will Muschamp||Florida Gators||16.62||4|
|Les Miles||LSU Tigers||16.35||9|
|Steve Spurrier||South Carolina Gamecocks||13.56||3|
|Jimbo Fisher||Florida State Seminoles||12.35||12|
|Dan Mullen||Mississippi State Bulldogs||12.23||19|
|Urban Meyer||Ohio State Buckeyes||11.60||8|
|Chris Kelly||Oregon Ducks||11.44||2|
|Kevin Sumlin||Texas A&M Aggies||11.27||22|
|Charlie Strong||Louisville Cardinals||11.07||18|
|Bill Snyder||Kansas State Wildcats||11.01||6|
|Lane Kiffin||USC Trojans||10.87||11|
|Chris Peterson||Boise State Broncos||9.81||24|
|Dabo Swinney||Clemson Tigers||9.32||16|
|Mack Brown||Texas Longhorns||9.10||15|
|Brady Hoke||Michigan Wolverines||8.35||25|
|Butch Jones||Cincinnati Bearcats||7.83||21|
|Dana Holgerson||West Virginia Mountaineers||6.90||5|
|Mike Riley||Oregon State Beavers||5.50||10|
|Kyle Flood||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||4.02||20|
|Sonny Dykes||Louisiana Tech Bulldogs||3.75||23|
|David Shaw||Stanford Cardinal||1.03||17|
75 college football coaches earn at least one million dollars per year because of lucrative TV contracts for their schools. As noted above, the NCAA prohibition on payments or stipends to players means that competition for players and recruits inflates coaches’ salaries. College presidents would rather pay high salaries to coaches than allow direct payments to players. Nick Saban, Bob Stoops, Brian Kelly and other top coaches earn economic rents because of the restrictions on payments to players. Rival programs could compete more effectively with Alabama, Oklahoma and Notre Dame if they could pay recruits. This type of direct competition for recruits would drive up salaries of college athletes and drive down the salaries of college coaches. College presidents should be honest with the public, admit that college football is a big business, and stop funneling the revenue generated by players to college football coaches. Pay the players directly. It is more efficient than paying millions of dollars per year to coaches and recruiters.