Updated by Will Whitmore on August 19, 2021
College football coaching salaries have been on a seemingly nonstop trajectory, with Big Ten coaching salaries typically skewing far above the average college football coach salary. A new generation of top coaching talent has been cited as one of the main reasons behind the league’s improvement over the past decade. While all head coaches in the B1G earn handsome paychecks, some are larger than others.
As the season kicks off Aug. 28 with Illinois opening up conference play traveling to Lincoln for a road game against Nebraska, it seemed like a good time to revisit the annual salaries of the Big Ten football Head Coaches entering the 2021 season.
The Breakdown of College Football Coaches Salaries in the Big Ten
Ryan Day, Ohio State
Ryan Day was elevated from offensive coordinator to head coach following the retirement of Urban Meyer. After winning a Big Ten title and advancing to the College Football Playoff semifinals in year one, Day led the Buckeyes to a national championship appearance in 2021. In 2020, Day agreed to an extension that will keep him in Columbus through the 2026 season.
The Buckeye head coach’s deal is the largest overall in the league, totaling $54,375,000 over nine years. Day also is eligible for annual bonuses up to $725,000.
James Franklin, Penn State
Now the second highest paid coach in the Big Ten, Franklin is set to earn 6,700,000 annually with a $500,000 retention bonus if he remains with the Nittany Lions after the 2021 season. This is all part of the contract that Franklin signed in spring 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through 2025, Franklin will earn $38,200,000 total, as well as up to $1,400,000 in performance-related incentives each year. Additionally, Franklin has a life insurance policy that allows him to earn an additional sum, this one totaling $1,000,000.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Because Northwestern is a private university, they are not obligated to release information on coaching salaries.
But it was reported that Pat Fitzgerald received a 10-year extension in 2017, with USA Today reporting that the coach made $5.1 million that season. If true, that could make him one of the top paid coaches in both the conference and the sport.
Fitzgerald has built Northwestern and taken them to new heights during his tenure, and he’ll look to guide them to another new level over the life of his remaining deal.
Mel Tucker, Michigan State
After six years at Colorado, Tucker replaced Head Coach Mark Dantonio, the winningest coach in Spartan history. Tucker struggled in his first year in East Lansing, posting a 2-5 record during a COVID shortened season.
Tucker is in his second year of his six year $33,000,000 contract, and is set to make over $5,000,000 annually. With a $400,000 retention bonus to through 2026, Tucker hopes to be the coach to put Spartan Football back on the map.
Tom Allen, Indiana
Allen built off an impressive 8-4 2020 season, the Hoosiers soared to Big Ten title contention in 2021, posting a 6-2 (6-1 Big Ten) record as well as finishing ranked 13th nationally. Though Allen was rewarded a contract extension in 2020, Indiana doubled-down in 2021, restructuring Allen’s deal to pay the Hoosier head coach $4,900,000 annually through the 2027 season.
Allen’s new contract is a $1,000,000 increase from 2020 and in addition, Allen can earn as much as $750,000 per year in incentives.
Scott Frost, Nebraska
2021 can be considered a “prove it” year for Frost and the Huskers. Over his first three years, the former Nebraska star quarterback has not recorded a winning season in Lincoln. The pressure is on for the NCAA’s 17th paid highest coach as Frost is set to make $4,833,333 in 2021.
Frost’s struggles and recent NCAA violations have Cornhusker fans pondering the idea of a buyout. For a change to be made, it would require a hefty buyout price of $20 million for Frost to be fired without cause. As controversy continues to surround Frost, the pressure from Nebraska’s rabid fanbase mounts in Lincoln.
Jeff Brohm, Purdue
Jeff Brohm is another example of schools willing to invest large amounts of money for long-term stability at head coach. His $36,800,000 deal that’ll keep him in West Lafayette through 2025 magnifies the desire for perceived “mid-tier” Big Ten schools to compete at a high level consistently.
Just as lucrative as his base pay is the potential $1,125,000 annual bonus. That includes an interesting clause that awards Brohm incentives for top-25 recruiting classes, making Purdue the only school in the league to offer such a bonus, and proving it knows what it takes to get closer to an elite level.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Ferentz is in his fourth decade as Iowa’s Head Coach and year-after-year, Iowa seems to contend in the Big Ten with Ferentz at the helm. After their unexpected Rose Bowl appearance in 2015, the Hawkeyes signed Ferentz through 2026.
Ferentz is set to earn $4,670,750 annually through his lucrative 10-year $49,500,000 contract. Incentives include $200,000 if the Hawkeyes win the conference as well as a $650,000 retention bonus.
PJ Fleck, Minnesota
The Gophers were college football’s cinderella in 2019, with an 11-2 record and a late season loss to Wisconsin away from their first Big Ten Championship appearance. For their performance, Head Coach PJ Fleck was awarded a 7-year $33,250,000 extension through 2026.
After a dismal 2021 season, Fleck, one of the country’s most promising young head coaches will look to propel the Gophers back to contention in the Big Ten West. Fleck is set to earn $4,281,000 in 2021 with an annual $50,000 raise through 2026. If Fleck breaks his current contract in search of a job with a more distinguished program, he’ll have to pay $10 million as a penalty in the first year, $4.5 million in the second year, and decreasing penalties in the years after that.
Bret Bielema, Illinois
The Illini went in a different direction after a disappointing 2-5 season–hiring Bielema the long-time Wisconsin signal caller from 2006-2012. Bielema will look to replicate the success he had in Madison and is set to earn $4,200,000 annually over six years.
Incentives include a $100,000 bonus if Bielema takes the Illini to their first ever Big Ten Championship game and $200,000 if Illinois wins the Big Ten. In the case that Illinois makes a “New Year’s Six” bowl, Bielema will earn an additional $300,000.
With their last winning season coming in 2011, Bielema will look to elevate the Illini program in the always challenging Big Ten Conference.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
One of the most controversial coaches in college football, Harbaugh was on the hot seat for much of 2020. Last season, the Wolverines failed to meet lofty expectations with a dismal 2-4 record after starting the season ranked 18th nationally.
Michigan extended Harbaugh in 2020 but cut his salary almost in half. Harbaugh signed a five-year extension but is only set to earn $4,000,000 without incentives. Harbaugh could still earn up to $7,475,000 in 2021, but those earnings require a much improved product on the field this season.
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
Perhaps no Big Ten program outside of Ohio State has won as consistently over the past decade than the Wisconsin Badgers. For his steady performance, Wisconsin awarded Head Coach Paul Chryst an extension through the 2026 season.
Through the 2026 season, Chryst earns $4,250,000 annually with a $1,250,000 per year bonus. With Chryst at the helm, expect Wisconsin to contend in the Big Ten for decades to come.
Greg Schiano, Rutgers
Greg Schiano built Rutgers from nothing in the 2000s. With the program fallen back on hard times, it was time to reunite with their patron saint.
It wasn’t easy to lure him back. Schiano initially turned down an offer that was given to him right after the 2019 regular season. But a little more persistence on the part of RU made Schiano reconsider and soon, an eight-year, $32,000,000 deal was being signed.
Up to $975,000 each year will be up for grabs in incentives for Schiano. As if building the program for a second time wasn’t a big enough incentive.
Mike Locksley, Maryland
Mike Locksley arrived just outside of the nation’s capital from arguably college football’s capital over the past decade. The former Alabama offensive coordinator is on a six-year contract worth $15,000,000.
The deal is on the lower end in total worth among Big Ten coaches. But Locksley will be eligible for annual bonuses up to $775,000.
We’re adding more college football coaching salaries from other conferences here.
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