Take A Look At The Coaches’ Salaries In America’s Best Football Conference

David Hookstead | Reporter

College football is only 32 days away, and there is no better time than now to dive into the salaries of the top coaches in the Big Ten.

There is a lot that can be taken away from the salaries of coaches, but one of the most overlooked factors is cost-per-win on a coaches contract. A coach can have a massive contract, not win and it doesn’t provide a good return on investment for the school. On the flip side, a school can choose to save money, give out a relatively small contract, lose and it doesn’t get anybody anywhere.

It’s crucial for schools to hand out contracts to head coaches that give them a great cost-per-win. This number, generally speaking, should hover around $500,000 a win. However, if you factor in national championships and conference championships then a school can still get a bargain coach at anything less than $650,000 a win — if the coach is winning titles.

For the sake of this discussion we’ll look at the cost-per-win for the best coaches in the Big Ten for the pas two seasons. Breaking down the salary data provided and with a little extra Googling, the cost-per-win numbers look approximately as follows:

1. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh (20-6): $800,000

2. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer (23-3): $520,000

3. Penn State’s James Franklin (18-9): $477,000

4. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (20-7): $450,000

5. Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst (21-6): $240,000

There are three major takeaways from the data. First, Michigan at the moment is vastly overpaying Jim Harbaugh for the product he has provided them. He’s paid nearly three times per-win than Wisconsin’s Chryst and has won one fewer game. Obviously, Michigan is fine with this because it’s viewed as an investment. That cost-per-win number should come down in the following years as he hopefully wins more games than in either of the past two seasons.

Second, Urban Meyer is a national champion multiple times over, and Ohio State is getting a relative steal with his cost-per-win being only $520,000 a game. If you’re an Ohio State booster or administrator you’re very happy with that number.

Finally, Wisconsin getting 21 wins over the past two years at a cost-per-win of only $240,000 a game is insane. The reality of the situation is Chryst’s average salary of $2.5 million over the past two seasons is woefully underpaid, and combining that with his quick success means that Wisconsin has had the biggest bargain in college football the past two years. His cost-per-win will ultimately go up when he scores a new contract, which should net him more than $4 million a year. Even ten wins a year on that deal still puts his cost-per-win at $400,000 — a very low and reasonable number.

So there you go. Next time you’re at the bar talking with somebody about coaching salaries, you can sprinkle on them a little knowledge about one of the most overlooked factors in college football.

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David Hookstead



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