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.
With the conference’s season set to commence the weekend of Oct. 24, it’s a good time to revisit some of the sums that its coaches will be owed over the next handful of years.
Note: This list does not account for pay cuts taken by coaches as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. We’re tracking coaches who have taken cuts here.
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 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.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
The total value of Day’s contract is higher than any conference counterpart, but Jim Harbaugh earns more per year than any coach in the Big Ten. The former Michigan QB is still on his original deal in Ann Arbor, signed after his four-year stint with the San Francisco 49ers.
Harbaugh’s current contract is worth $52,100,000 with an annual base salary averaging $6,512,500. It comes with an additional $2,000,000 per year for life insurance as well as annual bonuses up to $1,325,000. Negotiations for a new contract were underway in the spring, but were paused after the pandemic opened a hole in the U-M athletic budget.
James Franklin, Penn State
While Harbaugh and Michigan couldn’t get a new deal done before COVID, James Franklin was able to ink in an extension just before social distancing became the de facto law of the land.
Through 2025, Franklin will earn $38,200,000 total, as well as up to $1,400,000 in performance-related incentives each year. Like Harbaugh, Franklin has a life insurance policy that allows him to earn an additional sum, this one totally $1,000,000.
Tom Allen, Indiana
The Indiana Hoosiers aren’t historically known for being a football powerhouse. So when head coach Tom Allen logged an impressive 8-4 regular season mark at IU in 2019, he made sure to get paid.
Paid he will. $27,300,000 over seven seasons in fact. Each year the program qualifies for a bowl game, the contract is extended an extra year. In addition to a $1,000,000 signing bonus, Allen will be able to earn as much as $750,000 per year in incentives.
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.
Mel Tucker, Michigan State
Mel Tucker had been at Colorado for just one season before Michigan State made an irrefusable offer.
$33,000,000 over six years puts Tucker in the upper tier of paid coaches in the Big Ten. In comparison, the ex-Georgia Defensive Coordinator just over $2,500,000 per year as the Buffalos’ head coach.
Throw in a $450,000 annual bonus after fulfilling incentives, and it’s safe to call Tucker’s deal lucrative.
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.
Lovie Smith, Illinois
The longtime NFL coach found himself back in the Land of Lincoln after being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Smith earned an extension to the initial deal signed after the 2015 season. That will keep him in Champaign through his eighth year.
The contract is worth $29,000,000 over the eight years, with an annual bonus of up to $800,000.
With the deal set to expire after the 2022 season, perhaps Smith will look to replicate his program’s signature win over Wisconsin in 2019 when seeking a new, long-term deal.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Kirk Ferentz’s tenure at Iowa predates the current millennium. He has also turned down seemingly more lucrative college and NFL jobs. So it made sense to the Hawkeyes to lock him down for another decade after the 2016 season.
Through his current extension, he is earning $49,500,000 over 10 years, plus up to $900,000 in bonuses each year. The all-time Iowa wins leader looks all set to continue to win and develop talent in Iowa City.
PJ Fleck, Minnesota
A 2019 to remember for the Minnesota Golden Gophers resulted in a payday for head coach PJ Fleck via a big extension.
An 11-2 campaign that featured signature wins over Penn State and Auburn means that Fleck will now earn $33,250,000 through 2026. And if he keeps up the good work in the Twin Cities, he’ll be seeing big chunks of bonuses each year that may add up to $850,000.
Scott Frost, Nebraska
The former Husker quarterback returned to Lincoln after guiding Central Florida to an undefeated season in 2017.
Earning $45,000,000 through 2026 after a two-year extension was signed last December, Frost is facing the tall task of building the Big Red back to national prominence. If a $950,000 annual bonus structure isn’t enough to motivate him, certainly the always sold out Memorial Stadium will be.
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 payed 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.
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.
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
Perhaps no Big Ten program outside of Ohio State has won as consistently over the past decade than the Wisconsin Badgers have. UW athletic director and former head coach himself Barry Alvarez is making his praise known for Chryst with his pocketbook.
Through the 2024 season, Chryst will earn $20,750,000. While that figure is on the low end among Big Ten coaches, the bonus structure in place—worth $1,250,000 per year—is the second largest in the conference.
We’re adding more college football coaching salaries from other conferences here.
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