Highest-paid state employees: usually a school sports coach, sometimes a med school dean

Good to see America's educational priorities on such sound footing:

You may have heard that the highest-paid state employee in each state is usually the football coach at the largest state school. This is actually a gross mischaracterization: Sometimes it is the basketball coach.

Based on data drawn from media reports and state salary databases, the ranks of the highest-paid active public employees include 27 football coaches, 13 basketball coaches, one hockey coach, and 10 dorks who aren't even in charge of a team.

...Coaches don't generate revenue on their own; you could make the exact same case for the student-athletes who actually play the game and score the points and fracture their legs.

It can be tough to attribute this revenue directly to the performance of the head coach. In 2011-2012, Mack Brown was paid $5 million to lead a mediocre 8-5 Texas team to the Holiday Bowl. The team still generated $103.8 million in revenue, the most in college football. You don't have to pay someone $5 million to make college football profitable in Texas.

Infographic: Is Your State's Highest-Paid Employee A Coach? (Probably) [Reuben Fischer-Baum/Deadspin]

(via JWZ)



  1. To be fair, in Indiana, basketball coaches are really more like religious leaders. I’d change Indiana to a blue state.

    1. Why the frown? Bama football has done more positive for Alabama’s image than the rest of the gubmint. Unless Charles Barkley gets elected governor. Then he should get all the money.

      1. But why is it a good thing for an over-paid sports team to have done more good for a state’s image than anything else?

        1. This article explains why: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomvanriper/2013/05/13/the-magic-of-nick-saban-everyone-wants-to-go-to-alabama/ Nick Saban’s paycheck has been an investment. The Athletics Department’s profits are soaring now and that money has been funneled into new science labs and more, better professors. This in turn has attracted higher quality students. Alabama now has more National Merit Scholars than any public university in the nation. Basically, paying the football coach more DID result in increased revenue which was invested back into education. This is a lifesaver as the state’s GOP has been working hard to gut public education.

          1. “invested back into education” is the key phrase here.  From my observation, sports revenues are much more often invested back into sports (new stadiums, etc.).

          2. Has the football coach been winning those games or the talent on the field?

            And hardly surprising to see a Forbes article pushing the line that a millionaire deserves his pay….

            These schools should be free anyway.

          3. However, with the recent sequester, these schools will likely become more expensive (I know mine is in the fall, and also cutting a number of grant opportunities and assistantships that students count on). Somehow, I imagine the coaches will still be living comfortably.

  2. I’d like to see what the infographic would look like if they included only money paid by the state. Take out things like Mack Brown’s fat Nike contract. I really don’t have a problem if a coach can make money by public speaking or wearing a companies clothes.

    1. Far exceeding these base salaries is the “additional compensation” that almost all of these coaches receive, which is tied to media appearances, apparel contracts, and fundraising. While this compensation does not come directly from the state fund it is guaranteed in the coaches’ contracts; if revenue falls short, the school—and thus the state—is on the hook to cover the difference. Plus, even it doesn’t come directly from taxpayers, this compensation is still problematic for all the reasons listed above.

       He goes into this further, too.  Did you actually read the article?

      1. I did. That’s what made me wonder what the reality actually is. Or are you suggesting that the infographic would look exactly the same? 

        The last sentence of what you quoted doesn’t make any sense to me. If a coach is able to generate income on his own, why is that a problem?

        1. It’s a problem because their contracts guarantee that if they don’t manage to make enough money on their own, the university has to make up the difference, as was mentioned above. 

          1. So, it might be a problem. But probably not.

            Those guarantees are mostly in place because the coach is accepting a smaller paycheck with the assumption that the reputation of the university will help him secure side-deals. If the university does something stupid that harms the program and destroys the coaches ability to earn as much money, the university is on the hook for that.

    1. That actually brushes up against a serious issue. The self-funding athletic departments paying these guys (and they’re all guys) are doing it on the backs of the “student-athletes.” Because the students are not remunerated for their labor there are universities that seem almost Prussia-like (i.e. a football team with a university, instead of vice versa) with coaches who get credit for putting money in the pot when the athletes are the ones really doing so.

      Or teaching, or whatever. I mean, we’re talking about a smaller percentage of people at big schools being money-sport athletes than live in any single dorm. 

      1. Why are there sports there at all except to make money? It has nothing to do with education. We react in horror when schools let in McDonalds or Coke to run food services for profit, but high schools and universities sold out to the sports media industry decades ago.

        1.  Most college sports fail to make a profit. Most schools make a profit in just one sport (if they make a profit at all).

          I wish athletics was mandatory for all able college students. A proper education leaves one sound in body and mind. Might make an impact on obesity in this country too.

          1. I wish athletics was mandatory for all able college students. A proper education leaves one sound in body and mind. Might make an impact on obesity in this country too.

            It would be easier to simply take children directly from the birth labs to the education centers, where they can be perfected for the good of society.

      1. That’s not fair at all. Some of them develop NBA talent as well, and MLB has focused more on college players. Sheesh.

        1. Sorry, you’re right.  I’m from the south and forget there are other sports sometimes.

          1. It’s more like a series of elite prep schools. Most basketball players are pretty much groomed to be pros fairly early on 

          1. The NHL tends to be fed from minor leagues like the OHL rather than being associated with Canadian universities. The players get a small stipend and generally live with host families.

    2. It’s one thing to make the football program an quasi-independent arm of the university, but it’s the overlap that kills me.  At my university (VA Tech before the dog guy), the priority for signing up for classes was: 1. Athletes. 2.  Honor Students. 3. Everyone else in a round-robin fashion depending on your SSN. I tried unsuccessfully for 2 semesters to get one of my core classes and didn’t get it until I got a letter from my coach (I was in one of those sports where you’d be lucky to get a dozen family members to watch).

      But they really lost my alumni dollars when they hosted the country’s biggest cycling event in the middle of our final exams and let everyone park in the student parking lots. Talk about circus.

  3. Another part of this that is misleading.. those athletic programs that pay those coaches big money also use a lot of that money under Title IX for other sports.  And most / if not all, the money for athletic departments is raised by the athletic department.  I believe in this state of TN, that’s by law.  No state money goes to the athletic department at all.   The only people who are paying these “public servants” are people who are buying their products.    So I’d wager that it’s not even right to call them publicly funded if none of their money comes directly from taxes/taxpayers.

    It’s still upsetting.  I’d like to see us switch to the European method of sports education.  Hire kids when they’re 12 and put them in pro sports run academies.

    1. US soccer is going that way and the academy system is not without its problems too.

      1. My solutions is allow athletes to “Major” in athletics, in the same way someone can major in art or finance. that way you can isolate them somewhat from the general student body and the pressures to pass them, teach them how to get jobs if the pros don’t work out with their athletic skills (coaches, gym teachers even nutritionist) and find a way to have them compensated somewhat for the  MILLIONS they make for the university.

  4. I think that graphic’s information is old/wrong, at least for New Mexico. The University of New Mexico’s football coach makes around $700,000, while the erstwhile UNM basketball coach made over $900,000. I can’t remember a time when the football coach was paid more than the basketball coach. Raises some concerns about the validity of the data for the other states. Judging from the comments on the original post, many more states are incorrect as well. 

    1. Alford (UNM Basketball Coach) was the highest paid, but he’s now an employee of California. His replacement Craig Neal will make $750,000 http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/9126982/new-mexico-lobos-hire-craig-neal-coach-replace-steve-alford, and Bob Davie, UNM Football Coach, makes $760,000 http://www.mwcconnection.com/2011/12/2/2606700/bob-davie-contract-details-new-mexico

      It’s football by a hair. I agree with you that it’s odd for the state, since it was basketball for so long, but please try to look past your gut and check the numbers before you call the validity of all the data into question.

  5. I feel the need to point out the fact that New Mexico, among many other states, are incorrect. The original article is misleading, not clearly stating whether or not these incomes are gross, net or include “additional compensation”. It also admits to making up data when it wasn’t available to be found, see the section about Ol Miss and Mississippi. 

  6. The tragedy here is that Illinois football is so bad. Groce should make at least as much.  Even so, the sports coaches are worth much more than the governor, the entire legislature, and what passes for a judiciary here. Also, as is noted above, I believe that the athletic department at University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) is self-funding. The state government at large is not (wanna buy some bonds?). 

  7. I hate to take the coaches’ side but the barrier to entry to being a top coach is unachievable by 99.9% of us. Almost anyone can get a teaching degree. When your services are rare and there is competition for your record of success and ability to recruit, of course you can demand a fair price.

    1. That’s a bit of a false argument.  First, most professors don’t have education degrees, they have PhD’s in their relevant field.  Your argument also suggests a top tier research professor isn’t worth as much as a head football coach because it’s easier to be a top tier research professor, and that talented university administrators with a proven track records of recruiting and retaining top tier researchers and high level students are a dime a dozen.  Believe me, there is a lot of competition for recruiting administrators, professors and students at a lot of universities.  They just don’t have deep-pocketed football fans paying their ways through life.

    2. I think the problem with these super-high paid jobs that the cronyistic system we have for setting their pay never asks the question “can we get the second (or third or tenth) place candidate for enough less that it makes sense to do so?”.

      Its much more like they pick the supposed superhero they want to hire, and then the question is how much they can possibly figure out how to give him/her.

      1. There’s no ground to disagree with any of you. Fact is there are 119 D1 football coaching jobs, 32 in the NFL. They exist in a high-revenue industry. Competition for those jobs is far more brutal, and lasts a lifetime for the top 1% of the top 1% of those who coach.

        I could line any 50 people on this board up, day 1, send 25 to college and grad school, and 25 to learn football and how to coach. What would the odds be – in each pursuit of our test group – of making 6 figures? Far higher for education.

        1. So, your argument is basically, because there are fewer of job A, it inherently is more valuable and deserving of more pay than job B?

          1. Come on, you know that’s not my argument. Coaching at the highest level is high-risk, high reward. The programs can easily afford the salaries. Getting fired is common. Track record is everything. And to minimize a coach’s deep, deep knowledge about how to manage a game and men and strategies and history and injuries just shows that you really don’t know how hard it is to put that team on the field every Sunday. Most coaches I know work longer hours than anyone else at any University.

            But the groupthink here is to hate them for success. Jump on in, you have the majority.

    3. It’s hard to count how many people settled for easy positions like Dean of Science or teaching neurosurgery because coaching football was too difficult. I think the Indians had to invent a new number for it.

    4. It is harder to win a Nobel Prize than to be a top tier football coach, yet football coaches still make more in states where Nobel laureates are attached to public institutions.

      1. Yeah, some men are capable of leading other men through battle or full-contact competition. 

        Most simply don’t have it. Not the respect, or the experience, or the guts. They do better in classrooms or meetings.

          1. I just choose to include football coaches in the group of humans that I don’t see a reason to hate on. If you don’t like them or respect their work, that’s your right.

  8. It’s important to know that at most schools, the coaches are paid with funds generated through means other than tuition, fees, and state funding.  It comes in the form of an Athletic Association and funded by boosters who pay tons for prime season tickets, and ticket, vending, and licensing fees.

    1. Unfortunately, those boosters are more worried about teams winning games than supporting the research and education mandates the universities are charged with.

      1. I know. That’s why they’re donating to the Athletic Association and not the university itself (though many do both.) Not something I’d do, but to each his own.

        1. How is this different from a University opening a casino on campus as a money-making operation?

      2. But it certainly seems as if the two can go hand-in-hand. I feel better about my alma mater when they do something great on a national stage (i.e. athletically) and I give them more money when I feel great about them. I certainly don’t give it to the athletics department (I buy the official Nike gear instead).

        To me the trick is not letting the effort at winning become an embarrassment. Be Duke or Notre Dame, not the U.

        1. Seriously, why should the academics at a university only benefit when the football team wins ten games?

    1. I guarantee that Montana  has managed to spectacularly fuck up their colleges in some other way though. Only thing to their credit is that whatever they’re doing to mess up was not covered by this article/study.

  9. I’m surprised to see that California’s highest-paid official is a coach.  We’ve got a lot of really highly paid public officials – my town’s hospital director makes something like $1.3M, unless the “don’t pay town officials more than the governor” local initiative passed, and several towns in Silicon Valley have police chiefs making over $300K, even though they’re not that big and most of their crime is white-collar, so I assume the bigger cities may be paying more.

    But hey, professional sports is a profit-making business, even if you call it “amateur”.

  10. I’ve always suspected that major universities (and the states they’re based in) expect to derive peripheral benefits to paying some coach the big money.  As someone who was in a marching band at a school in the running for a couple national championships, I’d wind up playing at several game-day on-campus events where boatloads of alumni seemed to be engaging in a whole heck of a lot of networking with one another.  I have absolutely no idea what those alumni might have been discussing, or if any benefits have been derived from that game-day networking, but the school seems to be doing well for itself, at least in some areas.

    Then again, maybe they were all just talking about golf.

  11. I work for the school Mack Brown coaches at.  I and a co-worker have long offered to co-coach the football team for half the price they pay Coach Brown, and would be more than happy to step down if there is dissatisfaction with our performance.  Two coaches for half the price!  How can they turn us down!

  12. Good thing NJ/Rutgers spends so much on its basketball coach.  If you don’t spend lots of money, who knows what sorta loser coach you could end up with.

  13. New Hampshire, practicing its “Live Free or Die” motto, has a hockey coach as its highest-paid employee. Hunh.

  14. How about just eliminating coaches altogether?

    Back when I worked for the Postal Service, higher management decided to perform an experiment at one of the stations.  They secretly had all the supervisory personnel stay home one day.; the supervisors were also told not to answer their phones if anyone called asking where they were.  Postal inspectors were hidden behind the one-way mirrors in the elevated catwalks, to observe what they thought would be a day-long display of fucking off by unsupervised employees.

    Nope.  When the supervisors didn’t show up, the carriers and other employees did their own jobs as usual, and decided amongst themselves the things supervisors would odinarily have decided.  (Who’d carry a section of a sick carrier’s route that day, etc.)  The one thing they did wrong was to NOT call the main PO to report the supervisors’ absence (because they didn’t want the supervisors to get in trouble).

    Why have some fat overpaid guy on the sidelines calling the shots?  Why not have the people actually playing the game decide their next play?

    OR, alternatively, we could crowdsource coaching.  With live TV broadcasts, high-speed Internet, and smartphones, we could do something like a real-time version of the “viewers call-in voting” they have on DANCING WITH THE STARS, only people watching the game could vote on what their team’s next play should be.

    1. I can’t even describe how much I doubt that the Postal Service story happened.

      Also, I pretty confident you’ve never played a team game of any sort. Coaches can see things you can’t as you do your job. It’s really hard to play a team sport well without one.

      BTW, the “build stadiums” comment above is also demonstrably false. It’s not hard to see when the big football stadiums in these states were built.

        1. Oh, and the stadium at Arizona State University is about four times the size it was when I attended.  I guess the Football Elves rebuilt it during the night.

        2. Oh, AND while I wasn’t there myself, according to the other carriers I spoke with with who said they were, the postal experiment took place at Osborn Station, Phoenix, AZ sometime around the early or mid-1980’s.  For what it’s worth.

    2. The gym where I was teaching yoga fired the manager. The place immediately began running more efficiently, and they never bothered to rehire.

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