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College Football: Most Underpaid Coaches

Recently, USA Today published a list of FBS college football salaries for each head coach. With so many salaries being made public, some coaches have to be frustrated with how much they are making in comparison to their peers. With that being said, who are the most underpaid coaches in college football?

Paul Chryst, Wisconsin (overall rank 29)

Paul Chryst is in his fourth year as Wisconsin’s head coach and has posted a 38-8 record (as of Oct. 12). He has been a good hire for a program that had hired Gary Anderson, who has recently been fired from Oregon State. His salary is $3,750,000, which is too little given how much he wins.

Wisconsin is a pretty steady program, but Chryst has gone to two straight Big Ten Championships and is poised for another. He has built the program back to standard with only five losses since the start of the 2016 season. He still hasn’t won the Big Ten or made the College Football Playoff, but he isn’t even in the top 25 of highest paid coaches.

Mark Stoops of Kentucky and Bobby Petrino of Louisville both rank higher than Chryst on this list. For a coach of Chryst’s caliber, he should be getting a pay raise soon.

David Cutcliffe, Duke (overall rank 51)

David Cutcliffe pay
David Cutcliffe (photo by

Cutcliffe has helped coach the Manning brothers, but now is the head man at Duke. He is in his 11th year in charge of the Blue Devils and has accrued a 63-38 record. For his efforts, he is paid $2,540,928 in salary, but no bonuses were shown.

Duke had been a program that as a bottomfeeder in the ACC, but that is no longer true under Cutcliffe. Five out of the last six years the Blue Devils have made a bowl game. They were even able to make the ACC Championship in 2013. For someone who has done well at a very tough job, Cutcliffe isn’t paid like it.

Ole Miss’ Matt Luke and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason both rank higher than Cutcliffe. Duke is a private school, which on average, pay way less for their coaches.

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (overall rank 59)

This one might be the most surprising. Brian Kelly is the head of one of the most storied college football programs in the country but ranks closer to the median salary than the top salaries in the sport. He makes $2,129,638 in salary, with no bonuses shown.

Brian Kelly’s tenure has been up and down. There have been some 8-5 seasons, mixed in with a 12-1 year in which they made the BCS National Championship and a 4-8 season a few seasons ago. He has a 68.8% win percentage at Notre Dame, which is a little lower than the boosters would’ve liked, but Kelly surely doesn’t deserve to be ranked this low. Especially this season, as the Fighting Irish are 6-0 and fighting for a College Football Playoff spot.

There is a long list of coaches that are paid more than Kelly, that shouldn’t be. The most stunning part of this though is, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell is right behind him. Fickell is making $2,000,000 with bonuses of $625,000. Kelly left Cincinnati for Notre Dame after the 2009 season and the fact that the AAC program is right behind Notre Dame in terms of head coach salary is staggering.

Bryan Harsin, Boise State (overall rank 70)

Boise State is a program that is perennially good in the Mountain West. They are getting an absolute discount on a coach who has kept the Broncos winning football games. Harsin makes $1,650,010 in salary with a potential of $475,000 in potential bonuses.

Harsin spent one season at Arkansas State before becoming Boise State’s head coach in 2014. Since he has been in charge, the Broncos have a 76.3% winning percentage. Harsin has won two Mountain West Championship Games during his time, but looks like he is poised for more.

As for coaches who are paid more than Harsin, that list includes Colorado State’s Mike Bobo, Kansas’ David Beaty and Houston’s Major Applewhite. Harsin has achieved more than all of those coaches in his short time at Boise State.

Justin Wilcox, Cal (overall rank 74)

Justin Wilcox pay
Justin Wilcox (Photo by

Wilcox is the lowest paid power five coach in the FBS. He is actually outranked by several coaches in the group of five as well. Although he is relatively new to head coaching, Wilcox has exceeded expectations. He makes $1,500,000 in salary and can make $900,000 in bonuses.

He is in his second season in charge and Wilcox sports an 8-9 record. This is impressive given that when he took over, Cal was expected to be one of the worst programs in the power five. He has the Golden Bears at 3-2 with a big win over BYU. They have a chance to make a bowl game in year two if they play well through the Pac-12 schedule.

With all power five conference coaches ranking higher, Wilcox also gets paid less than Tulane’s Willie Fritz and Tulsa’s Phillip Montgomery. If he turns Cal into a team that consistently makes bowl games, his salary should soar up this list.

Rocky Long, San Diego State (overall rank 87)

At San Diego State, Rocky Long has never had a season at .500 or below. Unfortunately, he ranks in the bottom half of the FBS in terms of pay. Long earns a salary of $872,576 and has the potential bonuses of $720,000.

He has been at SDSU since the 2011 season and has a winning percentage of 69.7: Long has helped the Aztecs win two Mountain West Championships, and one three-way tie for the title, in his tenure. To go along with this, Long’s Aztecs put up good fights against power five teams, as they beat Stanford last season. He is old school and preaches running the ball and stopping the run, which has elevated the SDSU program.

Someone who has coached this well surely deserves to be paid above the median salary. Liberty’s Turner Gil, Utah State’s Matt Wells and UAB’s Bill Calrk all earn more than Long. None of which have won a conference title or had the success that Long has.


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