If you want to get paid as a college football coach it’s best to be in the SEC. In 2009, eight of the top 25 paid coaches (who are still coaching this year) were in the SEC—and this doesn’t count Lane Kiffin since he bolted Tennessee for USC.
Not to be left out, six coaches represent the Big 12, four from the ACC and three from the Big Ten.
This past November, USA Today analyzed the salaries of coaches at all 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Now it’s time to overanalyze those salaries and see who was worth it and who is way overpaid.
25. Mike Sherman, Texas A&M
Sherman’s transition from the NFL to the college game has not been as smooth as the A&M faithful would have liked. There have been signs of progress, like last year’s 49-39 wild loss to No. 3 Texas. This fall may be a make-or-break year for the former Green Bay Packers coach.
Is he worth it? Not so far. Sherman’s two-year record of 10-15 won’t keep him around too long. However, the Aggies may be ready to record its first winning season since 2007.
24. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Dantonio has now completed three seasons at Cincinnati and three more at Michigan State and his career record is an unimpressive 40-34. Injuries and disciplinary problems have not helped his cause, but there are many who think this might be a big season for the Spartans. Dantonio could certainly use one.
Is he worth it? Dantonio has always been considered a hot coach since he was an assistant at Ohio State, but his won-loss record doesn’t back up the hype.
23. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
In one season with the Huskies, Sark has rejuvenated the fan base, convinced QB Jake Locker to return for his senior season and brought in a talented recruiting class. This guy is a golden boy in Seattle.
Is he worth it? So far, so good. The Huskies played LSU tough in the opener and upset USC last fall. This year it’ll be tougher to sneak up on teams, but Washington has the talent to reach a bowl game.
22. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Snyder has had an amazing career at K-State, including national and coach of the year awards as the Wildcats became one of the best teams in the Big 12. From 1993-2001, Snyder and the Wildcats won at least nine games each year.
Is he worth it? In 2003 it would be an easy answer. But in 2010, Snyder is not a long-term fix for the Wildcats.
21. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Does this guy ever look happy? Does it matter? In just two years he’s gone 9-4 and 10-4, and guided the Cornhuskers to a 33-0 whipping of Arizona in the 2009 Holiday Bowl. His team nearly knocked off No. 2 Texas in the Big 12 title game, and when he felt his team got jobbed by the officials he let everyone know it.
Is he worth it? He hasn’t made the Nebraska fans forget Tom Osborne, but he’s really helped them exorcise Bill Callahan from their consciousness.
20. Ralph Friedgen, Maryland
After beginning his career at Maryland with three-consecutive 10-win seasons, Friedgen has not been so lucky. There was even talk after last year’s 2-10 campaign that he wouldn’t return. But the Maryland alum was given at least one more season to turn things around.
Is he worth it? The Fridge gets a bad rap. He’s gone 66-46 at a program that doesn’t have much of a tradition. In nine seasons he’s won eight or more in five of them. Maybe the performance doesn’t totally justify the salary, but not sure many other coaches could do better in College Park.
19. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Spurrier’s performance at South Carolina has been well below his standards. Since he left Florida following the 2001 season, the Head Ball Coach has gone 47-48 with the Washington Redskins and Gamecocks.
Is he worth it? Without a question. It would be nice if the Gamecocks started playing at a higher level, but the Spurrier is a marketing boon for South Carolina.
18. Gene Chizik, Auburn
Chizik was somewhat of a surprise hire, especially after a lukewarm two-year run at Iowa State (5-19). But last year’s 8-5 record, which included a 38-35 victory over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, showed he could step up the SEC challenge.
Is he worth it? Right now the Auburn administration and a majority of the fans would say Chizik has earned the paycheck so far, especially when you look at his recruiting success.
17. Greg Schiano, Rutgers
When a coach has a 55-55 record after nine seasons he’s normally looking for a new job. But Schiano took over a program that was as low as it gets and he’s worked miracles. In fact, he’s led Rutgers to five-straight bowl games, including wins in the last four.
Is he worth it? He has actually made Rutgers somewhat relevant and if the Scarlet Knights move to the Big Ten he could be a bargain.
16. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
It’s hard to comprehend that Beamer was close to being fired after just a few seasons in Blacksburg. Now he’s been roaming the sidelines for 23 years at VT, including 11 seasons of 10 victories or more. He also claimed three championships in both the Big East and ACC.
Is he worth it? Beamer may be lacking a national championship, but his Hokies are consistent winners and compete at the highest level.
15. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
Grobe is one of the nation’s most underrated coaches. He’s won at Ohio University and Wake, two of the toughest places to win in the country. The Demon Deacons had a run of bad luck in 2009, but Grobe also led Wake to an ACC championship in 2006.
Is he worth it? Every penny. Grobe is a classy individual who runs one of the cleanest programs without sacrificing success on the field.
14. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Johnson’s option offense has been successful at Georgia Southern, Navy and now Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets won the ACC last year and he’s 20-7 in two seasons. Only real drawback in his short stint at GT is back-to-back bowl losses.
Is he worth it? When you start getting into this salary range it seems winning ACC championships isn’t enough. Can he really win a national title running that offense?
13. Houston Nutt, Mississippi
Last time I checked, Nutt is still coaching Ole Miss. He’s well known for always putting his name in the mix for open jobs. Nutt also has a history of overachieving when expectations are low (2008), and falling short when those expectations are high (2009).
Is he worth it? He’s a poor man’s Bobby Petrino (can you really be poor when you’re earning this much?). Nutt is a used car salesman and Ole Miss is paying a lot for those second- and third-place finishes.
12. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
Wow how the mighty have fallen. Rodriguez was a genius during his days at West Virginia, but now he’s a rule-breaking, non-Michigan Man who is another sub-.500 season from looking for new work.
Is he worth it? Stop laughing. Really, stop. If Michigan doesn’t want to pay his salary any longer, Ohio State may pony up the dough to keep him in Ann Arbor.
11. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Pinkel has an impressive overall record of 140-83-3. A lot of the success was recorded in 10 seasons at Toledo (73-37-3), which included an 11-0-1 run in 1995 that included a win in the Las Vegas Bowl. He’s also had five straight winning seasons at Mizzou.
Is he worth it? He’s just another coach on this list that may be helped by a move to the Big Ten. He’s helped rebuild Mizzou into a Big 12 contender, especially in the weaker North Division.
10. Jeff Tedford, California
Tedford has not had a losing season in eight seasons with the Bears and is known for being an offensive genius. His best season was 2006 when Cal went 10-3 and won the Holiday Bowl. The Bears highest final ranking under Tedford was No. 9 in 2004.
Is he worth it? Tedford is totally living off a reputation that the numbers just don’t back up. He has shared just one Pac-10 championships, despite annually being considered a dark horse to win it. Cal could save the money and probably get similar results.
9. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
Petrino was quickly becoming a legend at Louisville before he left for the cash of the NFL. Still, that four-year run with the Cardinals is still impressive as he went 41-9 with one championship in both Conference USA and the Big East.
Is he worth it? Depends on your criteria. He’s yet to do much at Arkansas, but expectations are sky high this season and he’s a proven winner.
8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Iowa’s 2009 helped Ferentz regain his footing as a premiere coach and he hopes helps justify his big price tag. But he’s still just managed an 81-55 record in 11 seasons, which includes two shared Big Ten championships.
Is he worth it? Ferentz seems to be the poster child for overpaid coaches and it’s hard to argue that feeling considering he’s never even played for a national championship.
7. Mack Brown, Texas
Remember when Mack Brown had the reputation of not being able to win the big game? With 128 victories and eight bowl victories in 12 seasons, Brown has erased those feelings.
Is he worth it? One national championship and a second appearance in the BCS title game are enough to see why he keeps getting raising. He’s also one of the most successful recruiters in the nation.
6. Mark Richt, Georgia
Richt is 90-27 in nine seasons and has never lost more than five games in a season, and he only did that once (2009). If you look at his complete work, Richt is a legitimate upper echelon coach.
Is he worth it? Richt struggles against Georgia’s biggest rival (Florida) and defensively the Bulldogs have been embarrassing the past few years. He’s also never played for a national title and if you make more than $3M a year that should be a prerequisite.
5. Jim Tressel, Ohio State
Tressel was already an Ohio legend for the job he did at Youngstown State. When he took over for John Cooper in 2001 Tressel brought a new attitude to Columbus. He’s also 8-1 against Michigan. The only OSU coach with more wins in this rivalry is Woody Hayes (16-11-1).
Is he worth it? He takes a lot of heat for losing consecutive BCS Championship games, but he did get there and his Buckeyes also won the national title in 2003. So try telling me why he shouldn’t make this much.
4. Les Miles, LSU
You do remember Miles was the head coach when LSU won the national championship in 2007? It’s just hard to believe he could be on the hot seat in Baton Rouge this year following 8-5 and 9-4 seasons. But Miles’ in-game strategy has been questioned by many. However, he could likely be Michigan’s next coach once the Wolverine brass tires of Rich Rodriguez.
Is he worth it? Winning a national title should be enough to make this an easy answer, but it’s never easy with Les. Those game-day brain farts make his price tag questionable. If Miles leaves for Ann Arbor it’s doubtful he’ll be missed by many.
3. Nick Saban, Alabama
Saban’s return to college football has been a resounding success as he has guided the Tide to consecutive undefeated regular seasons and a perfect 14-0 run in 2009 that culminated in a dominating performance against Texas in the BCS title game. Saban also won a championship at LSU in 2003.
Is he worth it? How do you think the Crimson Tide fans would answer that question? He was paid all of this money to win a national championship and doing so in three years was even better. Money well spent Alabama.
2. Urban Meyer, Florida
Meyer is one of the more polarizing coaches in the past decade, but one thing his teams do well is win. Meyer has been successful every where he’s coached, and despite a health scare last season that caused him to briefly resign, Meyer is expected back on the sideline this fall for the Gators. The graduation of Tim Tebow provides Meyer an opportunity to show his coaching abilities as he reshapes UF.
Is he worth it? What a silly question. Notre Dame likely would have doubled his salary to move to South Bend after it fired Charlie Weis.
1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Stoops has won more than 80 percent of his games since arriving in Norman, Okla., and picked up a national championship in just his second season (2000). However, his critics point to the fact he’s lost his last five BCS Bowl appearances. Last year’s eight victories was the least under Stoops since 2005 (8-4) and 1999 (7-5). Despite the disappointment of 2009, Stoops managed to hold the Sooners together through injuries and tough losses.
Is he worth it? Of course. Stoops is in a great position at OU. Every time an NFL job opens his name gets tossed around and someone at Oklahoma decides Stoops needs a raise. It has been awhile since Stoops won a big bowl game and OU fans want another national title, but Stoops helped reestablish the Sooners into a year-in, year-out power.