Before you get your dander up over the release of USA Today’s annual football coaching salaries database, know that the numbers aren’t necessarily what they seem to be.
According to the report, ten SEC coaches rank among the 25 highest paid coaches in the country:
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — $5.3 million
3. Bret Bielema, Arkansas — $5.1 million
4. Butch Jones, Tennessee — $4.8 million
7. Les Miles, LSU — $4.3 million
12. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina – $3.3 million
13. Mark Richt, Georgia — $3.2 million
17. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — $3.1 million
20. Gary Pinkel, Missouri — $2.8 million
22. Will Muschamp, Florida — $2.7 million
23. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State — $2.7 million
32. Gus Malzahn, Auburn — $2.4 million
49. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss — $2.0 million
40. Mark Stoops, Kentucky — $2.0 million
54. James Franklin, Vanderbilt — $1.8 million
We know what you’re thinking: Bret Bielema and Butch Jones make about $5 million… ahead of Les Miles?
No. They don’t.
In Jones’ case, USA Today has factored in the buyout that Tennessee paid to Cincinnati after landing Jones. Jones actually makes about $3.4 million (including a first-year $500,000 signing bonus). Toss in the $1.4 million buyout that UT paid the Bearcats and there’s your $4.8 million.
Bielema’s package at Arkansas is set to pay him $3.2 million. USA Today also added in his buyout from Wisconsin stating: “The gross amount that athletics department said was required to produce an after-tax payment of $1 million; the gross amount remains subject to change, based on the completion of a review of Bielema’s final tax situation.” So $1.9 plus $3.2, carry the one, and that’s $5.1.
Vanderbilt’s James Franklin is also listed at the bottom of the SEC ladder at $1.8 million. It’s been reported numerous times that Franklin is making about $3 million. Vandy’s private school status protects them from having to release exact contract details.
Two quick points:
1. As we’ve stated in the past, it’s near impossible to make apples to apples comparisons when it comes to schools’ budgets and coaches’ salaries.
2. It’s a bit misleading to list money paid to another school as a buyout as part of a coach’s “salary.” For example, if Tennessee’s Jones is going to be credited with anything the school is paying out in connection with its head coaching job, he should also be saddled with Derek Dooley’s buyout. But he’s not getting that money any more than he’s getting the money UT paid to Cincinnati. Ditto Bielema at Arkansas.
Expect a flurry of press releases from SEC schools stating that USA Today’s database doesn’t accurately reflect what their coaches are actually being paid.
It’s a nice effort by USA Today. It’s also an impossible one.