College Football Coaching Salaries: SEC

Last Updated on January 17, 2024

The Southeastern Conference continues to excel on the field, with a member institution winning the College Football Playoff National Championship for the fourth straight season in 2022. But does that success translate to the pocketbooks of coaches? This article dives into the head coach salaries of all 14 coaches in college football’s most dominant conference.

Mike Elko, Texas A&M University

After firing Jimbo Fisher, the 58-year-old head coach who went 45-25 in six seasons in College Station, Texas A&M appointed Duke University head coach Mike Elko to lead its program. As part of the buy out in Fisher’s contract, the university reportedly owes him over $76 million, including $19.2 million in the first 60 days.

Elko, who compiled a 16-9 record in his two seasons at the helm of Duke football, signed a six-year contract, worth $42 million, according to CBS Sports. On top of his $7 million annual base pay, the head coach also has plenty of incentives in his contract. Elko will earn $1 million for a College Football Playoff appearance, $2 million for a CFP Semifinals appearance, and $3.5 million for a CFP National Championship.

Kalen DeBoer, University of Alabama

After 17 seasons and six National Championships at the University of Alabama, legendary head coach Nick Saban made the decision to retire from football after the 2023 season.

The university didn’t waste any time getting to work in finding Saban’s successor. They quickly landed on University of Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer, who was fresh off a 14-1 season that brought the Huskies all the way to the National Championship game. DeBoer’s contract has yet to be released. For context, the coach was making $4.2 million in his final season at UW. Now in charge of one of college football’s most historic programs, DeBoer is expected to earn a significant pay raise.

Hugh Freeze, Auburn University

After firing coach Bryan Harsin, Auburn looked to Liberty coach Hugh Freeze to bring the Tigers back to contender status in the competitive SEC West.

Freeze, a former SEC coach himself with the University of Mississippi, will be under contract for six years and an average of $6.5 million, according to ESPN sources. Freeze’s annual salary will be a raise of more than $1 million over Harsin’s yearly average. Auburn is also expected to contribute toward Freeze’s buyout figure from Liberty, according to reports.

Kirby Smart, University of Georgia

After leading Georgia to its coveted first national championship since 1980, Kirby Smart received the biggest contract in college football (well, until Nick Saban passed him by a couple weeks later, anyway). The 10-year deal is worth $112.5 million and will pay Smart $10.25 million in 2022, with salary increases of $250,000 every year of the deal.

If Smart continues his level of success, incentives will sweeten the deal further. Another national championship will ensure a $1 million bonus, while appearances and wins in the SEC championship can also add on to the total.

Brian Kelly, Louisiana State University

Brian Kelly bolted South Bend for Baton Rouge last winter, and LSU used a rich contract to lure the former Notre Dame coach to the SEC.

Kelly is set to make an average $9.5 million annually, starting at $9 million in 2022 and escalating until 2031, when that number will reach $10 million. The contract’s total value is 10 years and $95 million, along with incentives based around on-field performance, bowl eligibility and how long he stays around the LSU program.

Billy Napier, University of Florida

Hired to replace Dan Mullen, new Florida coach Billy Napier made the move from Louisiana-Lafayette this offseason and signed a seven-year, $51.8 million contract to coach the Gators. The contract starts with paying him $7.1 million in 2022, which ranks near the top of the SEC and among all new coaching hires.

If Napier can bring Florida back to contender status, the contract will provide plenty of incentives to hit. Along with those incentives, Napier will have a $7.5 million pool for assistant coaching salaries and additional funds for non-coaching staffers.

Mark Stoops, University of Kentucky

Stoops has left his mark on Kentucky since joining as the head coach before the 2013-14 season, raising the football program to the levels of the school’s basketball teams and keeping the Wildcats in bowl contention.

In December 2021, Stoops agreed to a contract extension that will keep him around Lexington until 2028 and boosts his annual salary from $4.85 million to $6.35 million. Crucially, the assistant coaching contract pool is also boosted as a result of the extension, helping Stoops keep pace with the rest of the loaded SEC competition.

Shane Beamer, University of South Carolina

First-time head coach Shane Beamer signed a five-year contract worth $13.75 million with South Carolina in December 2020. His $2.75 million annual salary is a combination of a $1.1 million base salary and $1.65 million from outside rights holders.

Beamer is eligible for a $200,000 bonus for an SEC Championship, $250,000 for winning the SEC Championship and $1 million for winning the national championship. He can also earn a $75,000 bonus for being named SEC Coach of the Year and $125,000 for being named national coach of the year.

Josh Heupel, University of Tennessee

Josh Heupel followed AD Danny White from UCF in January 2021, signing a six-year contract. In July, Heupel received a $1 million raise to his salary to reflect the program’s upward trajectory, boosting his salary to $5 million. The news was officially confirmed by UT officials last week.

Some of Heupel’s assistants also received raises, including offensive coordinator Alex Golesh crossing the $1 million annual salary threshold.

Eliah Drinkwitz, University of Missouri

Drinkwitz is midway through his six-year, $24,000,000 contract after leading Appalachian State to a 12-1 record in his first year as a head coach. Drinkwitz will make $4 million annually until 2025-26, but has a bonus of up to $850,000 per year (the lowest maximum bonus in the conference). 

Jeff Lebby, Mississippi State University

Jeff Lebby was hired to lead the Mississippi State football program in November 2023, just weeks after the school fired first-year coach Zach Arnett after just 10 games. Arnett was given a four-year contract the offseason prior, the longest allowed due to Mississippi state law.

According to The Clarion-Ledger, Lebby has a base salary of $4.51 million, with plenty of incentives. The coach will earn $50,000 for winning SEC Coach of the Year and $100,000 for winning national coach of the year. He will also earn $250,000 if the Bulldogs make the first round of the College Football Playoff, $500,000 if they make the CFP semifinals, $750,000 if they play in the national championship game, and $1 million if they win the national championship.

Lebby came to Starkville from the University of Oklahoma, where he served as the program’s offensive coordinator for the previous two seasons. He also held the same role at the University of Mississippi.

Lane Kiffin, University of Mississippi

In December 2021, Mississippi made Lane Kiffin one of the most well-paid coaches in both the SEC and all of college football, with a reported annual salary of $7.25 million. When Auburn came in search of a new coach, Mississippi rewarded Kiffin with another extension, which keeps him in the top tier of SEC coaching salaries.

Under the terms of the new extension, Kiffin will make an average of $9 million over an eight-year deal, according to Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger.

Sam Pittman, University of Arkansas

With Arkansas football emerging as a trending program in college football and the SEC, the Razorbacks made sure to keep coach Sam Pittman around. In June, the university and Pittman agreed to a new contract that will run until 2026 and reward him with a $6 million annual salary in 2022, with increases each season.

Like many of the other SEC coaching contracts, Pittman’s new deal comes with plenty of incentives, including an added year if the Razorbacks beat a Top 25 or Power Five team in a bowl game.

Clark Lea, Vanderbilt University

Lea was hired in 2021 and is Vanderbilt’s 29th head coach in the program’s history. A Vanderbilt alum, Lea served as the Notre Dame defensive coordinator over the past three seasons. The details of his contract were not released given Vanderbilt’s status as a private institution, but Lea looks to lead his alma mater to their first bowl victory since 2013.

We’re discussing more college football coaching salaries from other conferences here.

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