The highest-paid college football coaches have annual salaries that’ll make anyone’s head spin, but that’s why they’re put in charge of numerous young men and tasked with shepherding powerhouse programs to perpetual prominence.

While some coaches on this list at the nation’s premier football schools probably aren’t going to surprise, the order may well be a shock to many, and there are some names on here who are bound to shock people.

Without further ado, here are the 10 highest-paid college football coaches by annual salary as of the most recent season. This group is compiled from USA Today‘s list, but takes into account coaching changes, compensation information, or lack thereof, and the latest available information.

Just Missed

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern – $5.748 million

Chip Kelly, UCLA Bruins – $5.6 million

Steve Sarkisian, Texas – $5.45 million


Highest-paid coaches fired in 2021:

Gary Patterson, TCU – $6.1 million salary

Dan Mullen, Florida – $7.57 million salary

Ed Orgeron, LSU – $9.01 million salary


12. Ryan Day salary: $6.614 million (Ohio State)

Stepping in as Urban Meyer’s successor couldn’t have been easy for Ryan Day, but the Buckeyes haven’t missed a beat since he took the reins. In two full seasons as Ohio State’s head coach, Day has earned his helmet stickers so to speak, compiling a 20-2 record, a perfect 14-0 mark in Big Ten play and two College Football Playoff berths. Day’s new contract nets him a raise in pay from 2021 on, but he still trails some of the highest-paid college football coaches by a significant amount.

After an early-season loss to Oregon, the Buckeyes started rolling again and went into “The Game” as the No. 2 team in the country. Day suffered his first loss to Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines, costing Ohio State a shot at the CFB Playoffs. Day will definitely be much higher among the highest-paid college football coaches in 2022 when Ohio State revisits his contract this offseason.


11. James Franklin salary: $7 million (Penn State)

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach is one of the best at using leverage to land an extension. Rumored to be a coaching candidate for the LSU Tigers, Miami Hurricanes and USC Trojans, Franklin turned that into a pay raise and more job security in Happy Valley.

James Franklin buyout: $12 million before 4/1/22, $8 million until 2023, $6 million (2023), $2 million (2024)

Keep in mind, the Nittany Lions didn’t have a great season. For the second consecutive year, Penn State finished with five losses and ended the regular season outside the top-25 college football rankings. But the new James Franklin contract, a 10-year deal worth $70 million, makes him one of the highest-paid coaches in college football and Penn State seems pleased with the results.


10. Kirby Smart salary: $7.133 million +$850,000 bonus (Georgia)

Following a lengthy tenure as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama, Kirby Smart made the leap to head coach at Georgia in 2016. Smart’s maiden year in Athens produced a meager 8-5 record, but he’s been lights-out since then.

The Bulldogs were now ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time since 1982. With the best defense in college football and a quality offense, it looked like everything was coming together for Smart’s program. But an ugly loss in the SEC Championship Game made everyone wonder if the Dawgs would ever get over the hump against Alabama.

That’s no longer a question. Georgia’s playoff run, culminated with a three-touchdown fourth quarter vs. Alabama in the title game, brings a national title back to Georgia. As everyone celebrates, the Kirby Smart contract incentives kick in. He’ll receive an additional $850,000 in on-field bonuses for the playoff run, including a $200K bonus for the title. A new contract is on the way, one that will vault him even higher up the list of highest-paid college football coaches.


9. Lane Kiffin salary: $7.25 million (Ole Miss)

Mississippi Head Coach Lane Kiffin returns to Neyland Stadium before an SEC football game between Tennessee and Ole Miss in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.Kns Tennessee Ole Miss Football

The Mississippi Rebels hired Lane Kiffin with the ope the polarizing coach could turn their program around within a few years. Following a 5-5 season in 2020, Kiffin’s Rebels became a college football power this season and finished with a 10-2 record.

Unsurprisingly, Kiffin was rewarded. With plenty of bigger programs inquiring, Ole Miss added Kiffin’s name to the growing list of highest-paid coaches in college football.