Are you a college football coach who took a team to its first Playoff or took your first trip as a coach? Well, friend, you’re probably in line for a raise.
Of the 10 coaches who have taken teams to the Playoff, each has received a contract extension at some point afterward. Eight have received those extensions directly after making the dance for the first time.
Success is handsomely rewarded in college sports, as far as coaches and administrators are concerned, and here’s how it’s done at the top level.
Note: because most coaching deals incrementally escalate, the amounts listed are raises the coach earned in the season immediately following his extension.
Urban Meyer, Ohio State: $900,000 raise and six-year extension
To the first champion went the spoils. Meyer was scheduled to make $4.9 million before his deal got re-done. His contract averaged out to $6.5 per year, and the immediate amount in total compensation was $5.8 million for the 2015 season. He was briefly the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten.
Mark Helfrich, Oregon: $1.15 million raise and five-year extension
Ahh, what a simpler time for the Ducks. For the second time in five seasons, they’d come fewer than 60 minutes away from a national title and still had all the swag you could ask for. Included in that extension was a pretty hefty buyout bump.
Oregon’s extension for Mark Helfrich, signed after 2014, entitled him to nearly $12 million in buyout money.
Meanwhile, the program was atrophying due to a reliance on long-tenured coaches. Oregon ended up paying the piper when getting rid of him.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: About a $1 million raise and eight-year extension
The extension was announced a week before FSU got drubbed by Helfrich’s Oregon in the Rose Bowl. At the time, it pushed Fisher into the $5 million club of annual earners in total compensation. He was one of only six coaches in the club.
This was Fisher’s second consecutive offseason with an extension, which likely limited his Playoff bump. After winning the title in 2013, he’d had a salary bump from $2.75 million to about $4 million.
Nick Saban, Alabama: Nothing, technically
Saban got his $1.4 million raise following the 2013 season in response to what was reportedly a $100 million offer from Texas to lure him from T-town to the 40 Acres. But the broader details of the extension had not been official until June 2014.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson: Nothing, yet
The second Playoff featured three first-time entrants. Swinney wouldn’t get an extension until after the 2016 season, when his Tigers won the title, but the coach he beat in the 2015 semifinal did:
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: $150,000 raise and six-year extenstion
Stoops’ deal didn’t have a gargantuan raise at the time, but it did alter the incremental escalation structure.
What changed in the OU head coach’s contract is the automatic raise he receives every season. This year, he’ll receive a $150,000 raise. The deal escalates to $175,000 per year in 2017 and 2018. From 2019-21, it will rise by $200,000 a year. The deal is worth $37.6 million over the next six years.
Stoops had already gotten bumped into the $5 million per year club in 2014.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: $630,000 raise
Chris Petersen, Washington: $725,000 raise and a seven-year extension
Petersen’s new contract started at $4.125 million in its first year (up from $3.6 million) and escalates to $5.625 by its final year. Petersen’s deal was, at the time, the highest in the Pac-12.
The other three coaches had all been to the Playoff before. After years of ceding salary to beef up his assistant salary pool, Swinney got an eight-year extension, making him the third-highest paid coach in the sport.
Kirby Smart, Georgia: $2.9 million raise and a seven-year extension
Smart made $3.75 million in 2017. He’ll make considerably more than that in 2018 after inking a major extension to nearly double his salary. He’ll make $6.6 million in 2018, and Smart’s now in rarified air.
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($8.49 million) is the highest-paid coach in the FBS in terms of average annual salary, followed by Alabama’s Nick Saban ($8.28 million), Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($7.73 million) and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher ($7.5 million).
Smart’s contract matches the seven-year, $49 million contract Auburn’s Gus Malzahn signed in December, which is fifth highest among FBS coaches.
Smart’s come a long way since his days at Valdosta State.
$8,000: What Kirby Smart made as defensive backs coach at Valdosta State in 2000 (*Job included helping to build the locker room.)— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 3, 2018
$19,178: What Kirby Smart will make PER DAY, 18 years later, as Georgia's head coach. pic.twitter.com/4krJghH5AV
Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma: $1.7 million raise and a five-year extension
OU’d been to the Playoff before, but not under Riley. After Stoops abruptly retired, Riley took over. If he stays through 2023, then he’ll earn over $5 million during that season. But the amount he’ll earn in 2018 is curious for one big reason:
Lincoln Riley will make $4.8 million next year, making him the highest paid person on OU’s football team. Kyler Murray is second at $4.7 million— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 19, 2018
Riley is being rewarded for a successful season. Like Smart and Helfrich, he was an unproven coach whose salary immediately jumped into the upper echelon.
But one has to think that there’s no way Riley’s extension was going to have him earning one cent less than his quarterback’s MLB signing bonus.
The average raise for taking a team to the Playoff for the first time: $1.1 million and a five-year extension.
And this doesn’t even include the performance bonuses every coach has in their contracts for making the Playoff and winning conference titles. For example, Dantonio’s deal includes:
-National title bonus: $375,000
-CFP semifinal win: $300,000
-CFP semifinal appearance: $275,000
-Conference title bonus: $100,000
-Conference regular season division title bonus: $100,000
This is also a reminder that while coaches and admins make raises of varying degrees for success in college sports, their players still don’t.