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College football coaches can make $1 million per win

Posted on Dec 21,2017
Filed Under Local Sports,

Nick Saban

By Sean Boyce and Will Thomas
Capital News Service

The regular season of NCAA football came to a close on Dec. 9 with the historic rivalry of the annual Army-Navy game. After the final whistle was blown, another college football tradition got its start – the NCAA coaching carousel featuring the hiring and firing of coaches around the nation.

In the closing weeks of the season, more than a dozen coaching changes occurred throughout the country.

Four of the nation’s 20 highest-paid head coaches were fired or resigned this season – including Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M, Jim McElwain of Florida, Bret Bielema of Arkansas and Butch Jones of Tennessee. Combined, these coaches made almost $20 million in 2017. Their departures represent one of the biggest coaching shifts the Southeastern Conference has seen in years.

The SEC is one of the so-called Power Five conferences; the others are the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 12 Conference, the Big Ten Conference and the Pacific-12 Conference. Those elite conferences generate the most revenue in the NCAA.

The salaries for all of the coaches in the Power Five conferences this year totaled more than $238 million. Through week nine of the 2017 season, those coaches won a combined 337 games. That works out to approximately $707,400 per win.

The high salaries of Power Five coaches shows just how much money colleges put into their football programs. Matt Rhule took over at Baylor University this season and ended up winning only one game for the Bears. Bottom line: Baylor paid more than $1 million to rack up a single victory on the gridiron.

A similar situation occurred for North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, who has had a respectable coaching career every year except 2017. The Tar Heels ended up winning only three of their 12 games, which means the university paid Fedora almost $3 million to produce three wins this season.

Consistency with a program in NCAA football has always been key for coaches who endure long tenures at schools. Head coaches like Joe Paterno of Penn State, Bobby Bowden of Florida State and Bill Snyder of Kansas State have enjoyed longevity in the pressure-cooker environment of NCAA football.

Current NCAA football coaches range in age from 34 (Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley) to 78 (Snyder). There is a correlation between age on the one hand and wins and salaries on the other.

Head coaches age 30-39 have an average win percentage at their current schools of 52.7 percent. For head coaches age 40-49, the average win percentage is 54.4 percent; for coaches age 50-59, it’s 58.3 percent; and for coaches 60 older, the average win percentage is 59.1 percent.

The success of coaches in the 50-59 and 60-plus age ranges shows that experience pays off in being an NCAA head coach.

Of football coaches age 50 and older, 28 have at least 100 wins in their careers as a head coach. This number includes 16 in the 50-59 age group and 12 in the 60-plus bracket. The consistency of a winning program usually draws rewards as head coaches receive a bump in their salary. With a salary increase comes even more pressure to maintain winning.

This is the case with Alabama head coach Nick Saban. While Saban is not first in career win percentage among active coaches (he is 6th at 78 percent) or win percentage with his current school (he is 4th at 87 percent), Saban is the highest-paid coach in college football.

Saban’s supporters say his record five national championships justify his salary being $2 million dollars higher than the next closest coach and why he has been a head coach for more than 20 years.

Head coaches in NCAA football typically are paid between $1 million and $5 million. The average win percentage of coaches with a salary of $1 million to $5 million is 61 percent for their career and 58 percent with their current school. This level of success on game day warrants the school paying the coaches such a large amount of money.

Coaches who make more than $5 million a year have a combined win percentage of 75 percent for their career and 77 percent with their current school. The numbers suggest that these coaches are earning their money because they have consistency. Constant winning seasons and going to big-time bowl games generate a lot of revenue for universities, allowing them to pay the coaches large sums.

All of the head coaches with salaries exceeding $5 million are in the Power Five conferences.

At the other end of the scale are coaches making less than $1 million a year. They have an average win percentage of 56 percent for their career and 48 percent with their current school.

In many cases, they are coaches at smaller schools and smaller conferences. Many hope that after years of success at that level, they will get an opportunity to coach at a big-name school.

Bye-bye, coach!

Here are college coaches who were fired or have resigned this football season:

Sean Kugler – UTEP (resigned Oct. 1)

Gary Andersen – Oregon State (resigned Oct. 9)

Tyson Summers – Georgia Southern (fired Oct. 22)

Jim McElwain – Florida (resigned Oct. 29)

Butch Jones – Tennessee (fired Nov. 12)

Jim Mora – UCLA (fired Nov. 19)

Joey Jones – South Alabama (resigned Nov. 20)

Paul Hayne – Kent State (fired Nov. 23)

Bret Bielema – Arkansas (fired Nov. 24)

Mike Riley – Nebraska (fired Nov. 25)

Todd Graham – Arizona State (fired Nov. 26)

Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M (fired Nov. 26)

Dan Mullen – Mississippi State (resigned Oct. 26)

David Bailiff – Rice (fired Nov. 27)

Jimbo Fisher – Florida State (resigned Dec. 1)

Mark Hudspeth – Louisiana-Lafayette (fired Dec. 3)

Source: The Sporting News

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