The Atlantic Coast Conference began its first week of action on Labor Day Weekend, two weeks before the SEC and over a month before the first scheduled games in the Big Ten and Pac-12.
The ACC–long dubbed as the second southern conference–was all one of just two power five conferences whose teams played a non-conference contest. The league is home to some schools whose football traditions mirror that on SEC campuses, as well as universities with near-Ivy League academic traditions.
Often times, coach salaries are good indicators of a school’s dedication to football. So where do the 15 ACC schools stand in this regard?
Note: This list does not account for pay cuts taken by coaches as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Breakdown of College Football Coaches Salaries in the ACC
Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Dabo Swinney built Clemson from a run-of-the-mill program into arguably the best college football team year-in and year-out. Having made the College Football playoff every year since 2015 and having won an ACC title each of those seasons, Swinney deserves every penny on his deal.
Three months after blowing out Alabama to win the 2018 National Title, he inked in a 10-year extension worth $9,300,000 annually. Swinney is eligible for up to $1,025,000 in bonuses each year and will collect an extra $1,000,000 in 2021 and ’23 if he remains as Clemson.
One noteworthy clause of Swinney’s deal is that his buyout–currently standing at $3,000,000 but poised to drop by two-thirds over the duration of the contract–would be increased 50% if he were to leave Clemson for Alabama. Swinney, a Bama alum, has been rumored as a replacement for Nick Saban.
Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente had been on a number of program’s short lists for possible coaching hires. Sensing that their coach was a hot commodity, Virginia Tech upped Fuente’s contract after the 2018 season.
Through 2024, the Hokies’ head man will earn an average of $3,814,000 per year. He’ll also make nearly the same amount in the form of a one-time retention bonus.
Virginia Tech is still looking to find its identity after the departure of longtime coach Frank Beamer in 2016. But Fuente commands the support of the administration in Blacksburg still, and has a substantial job security in place to bring back the Hokies to where they strive to be.
Mike Norvell, Florida State
It goes without saying that Florida State is not where they want to be as a program in 2020.
Jimbo Fisher left Tallahassee for Texas A&M after 2017, and Willie Taggart went from home run hire to former FSU coach in less than two season. The Seminoles brought in Mike Norvell to help guide them in their long quest back to national prominence, leaving a Memphis program he had inherited from Fuente.
Buying out Taggart was expensive for FSU. So is paying their current head coach. Through the 2025 season, Norvell is set to make $4,416,667 per year. If he can bring a national title to the university, he’ll make all of a $1,400,000 bonus, one of the conference’s highest possible figures.
Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia
Bronco Mendenhall left a respectable BYU program after 2015 to take over a longtime conference doormat in Virginia. He’s been impressive enough in Charlottesville to have earned an extension in the 2019 offseason worth $4,075,000 per year that runs through 2024.
His bonus structure is also the most lucrative in the league: $2,050,000 for a national title. Mendenhall is also rewarded for excitement around the program, earning $20,000 each time Scott Stadium is sold out.
Having advanced to an ACC title game for the first time ever in 2019, it’s safe to say that Mendenhall has things going in the right direction.
Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech
Geoff Collins was hired by Georgia Tech to bring the football program into the 21st Century, after the Jackets ran a triple-option offensive scheme under Paul Johnson.
His contract sees him make $3,300,000 per year on average, which is actually slightly less than Johnson was making at the end of his tenure. Still, his deal through 2024 represents all of what it will take to win at Atlanta, a city that Collins calls “the epicenter of college football.”
Collins is also up for as much as $1,300,000 annual bonuses.
Mack Brown, North Carolina
Mack Brown returned to North Carolina in time for the 2019 season. He had previously been the coach of the Tar Heels from 1988-97 before leaving for Texas.
Many pendents were skeptical that Brown, 69, could still take a football program near the levels he achieved in Austin. They, so far, have been wrong.
Brown is making $3,500,000 annually through 2024. He also receives up to $1,000,000 in incentives. Having changed the culture and on-field product in Chapel Hill, UNC can know that its investment in the championship-winning coach was a wise one.
Scott Satterfield, Louisville
Louisville football was a mess before Scott Satterfield arrived from Appalachian State in 2019. PR headache Bobby Petrino had been given a second chance by the Cardinals but fell flat at the end of his tenure, going 2-10 in 2018.
Satterfield earns a relatively modest $3,025,000 annually, as well as a bonus structure worth as much as $975,000 annually. The life of his deal runs through 2024. But with him having win eight games in 2019, it’s possible Louisville is saving a lot of money while still getting closer to where they want to be as a program.
Dave Doeren, North Carolina State
North Carolina State may not be a national blue blood, but Dave Doeren has brought consistency to Raleigh.
His deal earns him the same $3,025,000 that Satterfield makes, albeit with a contract that expires a year shorter (2023). Doeren’s bonuses range upwards to $1,350,000 per year. Having made a bowl game in each but two of his years with the Wolfpack, it’s safe to say the university is buying some coveted stability in the unstable world of major college football.
Private University Salary Breakdown
Seven ACC members are private or semi-private schools that are not obligated to release salary figures for its coaches. However, for each head coach below, some details are independently reported. Business of College Sports lists what information is known for each ACC coach.
Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh is known as a “state-related” university, which in practice means it resembles a hybrid between a public and private institution. This allows it to not disclose coaching salary figures as if it were a full-fledged independent college.
Narduzzi most recently got an extension after the 2017 season, one that concluded with an upset win over No. 2 Miami. The financial terms have been kept internal, but the deal lasts for seven years.
Manny Diaz, Miami
Manny Diaz became the Miami Hurricanes head coach in an unorthodox manner. He had served as the defensive coordinator under Mark Richt for three seasons but left after 2018 to take the head coaching job at Temple.
But when Richt abruptly stepped down as head coach after an ’18 bowl loss, Diaz was hired back away from Temple to replace Richt less than a day after Richt retired.
Diaz’s deal runs through 2023. According to the Miami Herald, he made $3,100,000 in 2019, which is on the lower end of ACC contracts.
Dino Babers, Syracuse
The Syracuse Orange finished the 2018 season 10-3 and ranked No. 15 in both major polls. Dino Babers was rewarded with a new extension.
All details of the deal were kept undisclosed. However, a social media leak revealed that the contract may run through 2024.
No other details have been leaked or reported by any outside outlet.
Jeff Hafley, Boston College
Jeff Hafley led one of the nation’s best defenses in 2019 as coordinator at Ohio State. Now, he is taking full advantage of his shot as head coach.
Sports Illustrated reported in December ’19 that Hafley’s deal is worth $3,000,000 per year.
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
Dave Clawson had led Wake Forest to four straight bowl appearances. Those kinds of results as a program like WF means favorable treatment from administration.
Clawson is under contract through 2026, thanks to an extension signed by Clawson before the 2019 season.
The Demon Deacons–like other private universities–have kept the financial terms confidential.
David Cutcliffe, Duke
David Cutcliffe has brought respect to a Duke program that is overshadowed by basketball. The Blue Devils may not be Clemson, but they had gone to a bowl game in six of the seven seasons before 2019, which is unprecedented in Durham.
He received an extension before the 2019 season through 2022. Terms were not released, but USA Today reported that Cutcliffe makes $2,669,345 per year.
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Notre Dame is independent from all conferences in football. However, due to the dynamics of the 2020 season with COVID in the forefront,the Fighting Irish elected to play the season as a full ACC member. Normally, Notre Dame is an associate conference member, playing five games per year against ACC teams while being a full member in non-football sports.
While the Irish are a national blue blood, Kelly’s salary is low compared to coaches at peer programs. Tax documents released by the Catholic university revealed that Kelly made under $2,000,000 in 2018. Kelly received an extension in September that lengthened his deal to 2024 to 2021.
We’re adding more college football coaching salaries from other conferences here.
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