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A Comparison of SEC Coaches Salaries for 2010

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In putting together the list of Alabama's football coaches salaries last week, I kept stumbling across stories that compared the Crimson Tide pay rates with one or another teams in the conference. The problem was none of those reports were at all consistent and it was pretty hard to discern if the numbers were indicative of the SEC as a whole.

With that in mind, I took a few hours and cobbled together a quasi-comprehensive list of the pay for each SEC team's head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator for the 2010 season (sans bonuses and perks). The sources for these numbers varied widely, but most often relied on newspaper reports of the various universities approving their particular coaches salaries.

For several schools I simply had to rely on the 2009 reported pay rate for the position since it was unclear if the numbers had stayed the same or changed for 2010. So this list should be treated as a rough comparison of the various teams coaches salaries rather than a definitive listing of the pay figures.

Team Head Coach Offensive Coordinator Defensive Coordinator



Nick Saban
Jim McElwain
Kirby Smart



Bobby Petrino
Garrick McGee
Willy Robinson



Gene Chizik
Gus Malzahn
Ted Roof



Urban Meyer
Steve Addazio
Teryl Austin



Mark Richt
Mike Bobo
Todd Grantham



Joker Phillips
Randy Sanders
Steve Brown



Les Miles
Gary Crowton
John Chavis



Houston Nutt
Mark Markuson*
Tyrone Nix


Miss. State

Dan Mullen
Les Koenning
Manny Diaz


South Carolina

Steve Spurrier
Shawn Elliott**
Ellis Johnson***



Derek Dooley
Jim Cheney
Justin Wilcox



Bobby Johnson
Jimmy Kiser
Jamie Bryant

One thing that is not readily apparent in this one-year comparison is the rapid increases in pay for top coaches. A decade ago it was unusual to find a head coach paid more than $1 million. Today the best paid coordinators are getting close to that amount. And its a trend that reaches much further than the SEC.

According to a recent report in USA Today, "nearly a dozen schools in the NCAA's 120-school Football Bowl Subdivision have made deals under which they will be spending at least 38% more on their offensive or defensive coordinator in 2010 than they did in 2009."

As much as sportswriters like to bemoan the rising rate of pay among coaches the fact is this is a business and one that has an immense amount of turnover in the marketable product -- the players on the field. There's nothing a school can do to keep players for any longer but they can ensure the system that attracts quality players and helps them reach their potential stays in place.

So you have to pay top dollar for top coaches and this is demonstrated by Alabama's outlay in terms of personnel. The Crimson Tide's coaches are paid on par with the upper echelon of the conference -- a fact that seems reasonable given the program's return to competitiveness at that level. And seen in comparison with the rest of the conference, the pay rates at Alabama aren't as out-of-whack as some pundits insist.

Hefty salaries don't ensure on-the-field success, though. The real upshot this policy brings to the program is retention -- by paying competitive salaries, you are more likely to keep these guys in house. The obvious counter example is the conference's other main power, Florida. The Gator assistants have lagged behind other SEC squads in terms of pay and the result is an exodus of coaching talent from Gainesville.

Dan Mullen was making $210,000 per year after three seasons as Florida's OC when he was lured away to take the Mississippi State head coach job in 2008 for a million-dollar payraise. Despite eight years of service as the Gator's DC, Charlie Strong was making just $290,000 annually when Louisville approached him with a $1.6 million offer to be the HC of the Cardinals last year. He took it.

The other thing that jumps out when you look at these numbers side-by-side is that SEC schools pay top dollar for defense. Half of the conferences defensive coordinators (or equivalent) make $500,000 per year or better while just one Offensive Coordinator makes that figure - Auburn's Gus Malzahn. In fact, just two schools (that we know of) pay their OC more than their DC - Auburn and Mississippi State.

Lastly, if there's a demarcation line between the conference's "have" and "have-nots," the salaries of the key coaching personnel are a good way to show it. The teams with the best paid coaches pretty much have the best conference records. To wit:

Team HC's 2009 Salary 2009 SEC Win%
Florida $4.00M 1.000
Alabama $3.90M 1.000
LSU $3.75M .625
Georgia $3.10M .500
Arkansas $2.86M .375
Ole Miss $2.51M .500
Auburn $2.50M .375
S. Carolina
$2.03M .375
Tennessee $2.00M .500
Kentucky $1.62M .375
Miss. St. $1.20M .375
Vanderbilt N/A .000

With the exception of Arkansas, who likely underperformed in relation to the pay of Bobby Petrino, and Tennessee, who seemingly over-performed in terms of Lane Kiffin's salary, the relationship held pretty much true to the mark for 2009. Unless you are paying your head coach northward of $2.5 million you shouldn't expect a winning season.

Certainly this isn't to argue a direct causal connection between the two but it does probably reflect the overall resources a given school is able to provide for its football program as a whole. Cue egg and chicken...


Information reflects 2009 salary figures. Unable to confirm if these are the same or have increased for 2010.

* Ole Miss has two co-offensive coordinators; Mark Markuson who is also the offensive line coach and the recently-hired Dave Rader, who also coaches quarterbacks.

** South Carolina's HC, Steve Spurrier, acts as the offensive coordinator and Shawn Elliott is run game coordinator and offensive line coach.

*** Ellis Johnson is South Carolina's assistant head coach in charge of defense. The defensive coordinator is a separate position.

**** As a private institution Vanderbilt is not obligated to release salary figures for its employees.

Thanks to our own outsidethesidelines, Team Speed Kills' CocknFire, A Sea of Blue's Truzenzuzex and T. Kyle King from Dawg Sports who provided info and input for this report. But not those jerks over at Red Cup Rebellion who never responded to my email.