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Salaries rising for new college football coaches


New head football coaches at major-college programs will be paid an average of nearly 35% more next season than what their predecessors made in 2011, a USA TODAY survey finds. The increase means the average basic compensation at the schools making changes will go from a little more than $1.1 million this past season to a little more than $1.5 million next season. This rise will fuel what is likely to be another annual increase in the pay for all head football coaches in the NCAA’s Bowl Subdivision, even as instructional spending at many schools slows or declines amid economic struggles and shrinking state education budgets.

“This just shows … the difficulty of bringing (football) into the right proportion, the right balance with the academic mission,” says Penn State emeritus professor John Nichols, who chairs the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, a faculty group advocating for athletics reform.

It also underscores what Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman says is the public’s belief that the association’s recent pursuit of cuts in scholarships and other football spending simply would free up money for schools “to continue to raise coaches’ salaries and continue to do a number of other things.”

Average pay for all head football coaches in the Bowl Subdivision rose by more than 7% in 2011 and has increased nearly 55% in six seasons. In addition to the rise in compensation for coaches who will be new in 2012, several incumbents have received contract extensions that include substantial pay increases for next season. Others have increases for next season that were written into existing agreements.

Washington State, which paid Paul Wulff $600,000 this past season, will be paying Mike Leach $2.25 million next season. It was able to make the increase because of the Pac-12 Conference’s new media rights contract, which will produce at least $3 billion during the next 12 years, and the conference’s new revenue-sharing plan, which will equalize the amount each school receives annually.

Athletics director Bill Moos says the hiring has been followed by 1,300 new season ticket sales, more than $1 million in new annual gifts and a sellout of suites being built as part of an $80 million stadium renovation.

“It already shows the investment was worth it,” Moos says.

Critics of college football frequently focus on the continued escalation in spending as the principal evidence that priorities are out of whack at schools with Division 1 football programs.  This latest increase in spending on coaches comes at a time when the NCAA has finally begun to address some of the issues facing its top tier schools.

Many people believe that the NCAA is effectively powerless to stop the over-emphasis placed on college football (and basketball as well).  The salary wars aren’t just limited to the major players in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) conferences.  In 2011 Arkansas State paid its head football coach, Hugh Freeze, $202,500, the lowest figure in Division 1.  Freeze took the head coaching job at Ole Miss in December for a reported $1.3 million.  Within days Arkansas State hired Auburn offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, at a salary of some $850,000 per year—over 4 times what Freeze had been paid.  As late as 2005 Malzahn was coaching high school football in Arkansas.

The real question is college sports may not be how can the spending wars be controlled?  The real question may be who will be the first $10 million per year head football coach?  Fans and boosters have proven that they want to win at most any price.  How many college presidents really want to take on their head coaches, athletic directors and major boosters in an effort to bring fiscal sanity to college campuses?

Readers can find detailed information about coaching salaries by following the links below to USA Today:

College coaches database

Best and worst in cost per win


The topic of coaching pay and the finances of college sports are frequently covered in articles posted on this blog.  The United States Sports Academy trains the future leaders of the sports world at levels from professional sports down to youth leagues.  No one can truly understand how to manage sports organizations without understanding the financial side of sports.  For information on Academy programs go to http://ussa.edu.


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