Alabama Football: The most overpaid coaches in college football


It was not many years ago when the salary of Alabama Football coach, Nick Saban was big national news. When the GOAT was at $4M per year, some in national media decried the salary was outrageous. A few even called it obscene.

For the Alabama Football program and the University of Alabama overall, it has turned out Saban’s salary then and now is a bargain.

A byproduct of Alabama’s bold approach and Saban’s success is many athletic directors have become convinced it is possible to buy championships through massive coaching contracts. Often, reality tells another story.

Since the impact of NIL money on college athletics, there have been claims the result is a new, no rules, Wild Wild West in college football and men’s basketball. Writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Michael Cunningham had a different take.

"College football is out of control. Boosters are pooling money to attract talent to their favorite program.The real Wild West in college football is exploding salaries for coaches."

Alabama Football and Nick Saban have set the market

An argument can be made in a market economy, the price of goods and services is set by demand. In sports, the demand for championships never recedes. Add the huge dollars from media deals to the seemingly limitless dollars from boosters, and the explosion in coaching salaries was perhaps inevitable.

Still, throwing dollars at coaches is far from foolproof. Dan Mullen was earning over $7.5M a year when Florida fired him. Clay Helton, even at only $4.5M per year, was a USC investment that earned it just one Pac 12 Championship in eight seasons and no CFB Playoff spots.

Currently Most Overpaid College Football Coaches

  1. Scott Frost – Nebraska –  Frost has a career win record of 48.6%. It is just 34.1% in four Cornhuskers’ seasons. A dollop of sanity is Frost’s salary went from $5M in 2021 to $4M in 2022.
  2. Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern – Fitzgerald has a career win record of 54.8% in 16 seasons for the Wildcats. His teams have never won a Big Ten title, though he was chosen as the conference’s COTY in 2018. For what can only be defined as mediocrity, he earns $5.75M.
  3. James Franklin – Penn State – Franklin has a career 65% win percentage that is only slightly diminished by his three seasons at Vanderbilt. His Penn State record is 66.3%. In eight seasons with the Nittany Lions, his teams have never made the CFB Playoff and have one Big Ten Championship in 2016. He earns $8.5M per year.
  4. David Shaw – Stanford – In 11 Stanford seasons, his teams have won 67.4% of their games. Shaw has won three Pac 12 titles, in 2012, 2013 and 2015. His 2019 team lost eight games and last season’s team lost nine games. Shaw makes close to $9M per year.
  5. Jimbo Fisher – Texas A&M – Jimbo is a National Championship winning coach, but what he has done in College Station does not justify what he earns. In four seasons, his Aggies have won 70.8% of their games but not one SEC West Division championship. His $9M per year contract is justified by a couple of strong recruiting classes and beating Alabama Football and Nick Saban once. That is not much of a return on investment (ROI).

Future Most Overpaid College Football Coaches

Any future list must start with Auburn’s Bryan Harsin. Also in consideration are three guys with new teams and large contracts. They are Mario Cristobal at Miami, Bryan Kelly at LSU and Lincoln Riley at USC. All three are highly respected coaches. All three may do very well at their new schools. Also, any of them, two or three seasons from now, may have to do what Jim Harbaugh did at Michigan – take a huge pay cut to keep a job.

Note: Coaching records provided by

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Will the explosion in coaching salaries ever slow? Are the huge salaries bad for college football? Answers vary, and the ROI is hard to measure, everywhere but in Tuscaloosa.