Football Coaches’ Bonuses

A recent study by USA Today shows that coaching college football has become a highly lucrative profession. Gone forever are the days of the top notch coaches scraping by on $25,000 per annum as Murray Warmath did in winning a national championship for Minnesota in 1960. Today, the average salary for a head coach in a Power V Conference exceeds $2 million, topped by Alabama’s Nick Saban’s $7,000,000 plus.

In addition to highly generous salaries, many coaches also enjoy substantial bonus systems. Urban Meyer of Ohio State can make his maximum bonus of $400,000 by coaching his way to the CFP (College Football Playoff) Final game.

Coaches, college presidents, and athletic directors come up with various ways to achieve bonuses.

Some, like Meyer, choose to be rewarded solely for coaching achievement. Others, like Minnesota’s Jerry Kill, strive also to be rewarded for improving the academic standings of their players.

The Golden Gopher coach can achieve his total bonus goal of $375,000 through on-field efforts of winning five Big Ten games ($50,000), playing in a bowl game ($50,000), reaching a home attendance average of 47,000 ($50,000), and being named Big 10 Coach of The Year ($50,000.) His remaining $175,000 may be achieved by his team having an Academic Progress Rate (APR) average over 960 ($75,000), a Graduation Success Rate of at least 70% ($50,000), and a cumulative Grade Point Average of at least 2.5 ($50,000.)

If Meyer gets to that title game, he will make sixteen times more in bonus money alone ($400,000) than Warmath got paid for winning a national championship ($25,000). In addition, Meyer would also collect his guaranteed coaching salary of $6,500,000, 260 times what Warmath made.

While coaching at Florida, Meyer saw thirty-one of his players arrested. Kill’s teams at Minnesota have been exemplary in their behavior both on and off the field. Warmath’s contemporary, Ohio State’s Woody Hayes, got fired for punching an opposing player who had the audacity to intercept an errant Buckeye aerial.

University of Minnesota graduates are very proud to have Jerry Kill coaching football for the Gophers. It is clear he realizes his responsibility to his players includes sending them on their way into life properly prepared, as did Warmath when he made sure every single member of his team graduated on time and then saw them go on to successful professional careers in business, education, government, marketing, and coaching.

It would seem Arizona coach Rich Rodriquez is, like Ohio State’s Meyer, much more interested in winning than in embracing academic achievement. Of his potential total bonus earning amount of $650,000, only $25,000 (3.8%) will come from a modest team achievement in APR.

Kudos to Coach Kill in keeping athletics and educational achievement in perspective. Memos to Meyer, Rodriguez and others to do likewise.

Halfway through the regular college football season, we have ten unbeaten teams and four one-loss teams vying for the four positions in the College Football Playoff. Coaches Corner will be providing updates and analysis as the season progresses. Stay tuned.

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4 responses to “Football Coaches’ Bonuses

  1. Robert Chambers

    Hey Coach, thank you for highlighting the disparity in emphasis on programs. Maybe the other programs give an incentive to someone other than the head coach for academic benchmarks achieved.

    I recently reviewed an article on the top paid state employees in each state. In summary head football coaches held the majority of top spots followed by head basketball coaches. Then there were a scattering of deans of colleges, administrators/presidents of colleges/universities and a few others.

  2. Coaches may indeed delegate responsibilities but when the head coach has money riding on academic progress, he’d better make sure the other coach in charge is handling it as if it were a true coaching responsibility no different than secondary play or special teams assignments.

  3. Not only that but coaches’ salaries will continue to increase like baseball players’ have in arbitration over time.

    If a coach who’s already not making the coin of a Meyer or a Saban wins a national championship, he can go to his school, or another, and say, “Hey, look what I just did. I should be making as much as they do.”

    And they’ll pay him accordingly because even if they up his salary a few mil, the school is still making a profit.

    I say more power to ’em and get it while they can, as long as, as you suggest, they’re doing it the right way.