The SEC is flush with great coaches, which means it’s also home to big salaries. When considering SEC football rankings of the league’s top men, there are all kinds of ways to break things down. For the purpose of this piece, we’ll be listing the highest paid SEC football coaches by their yearly salaries for 2015. The results are below, save Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason, whose salary from the private university is undisclosed.
Highest Paid SEC Football Coaches
1) Nick Saban: $7.1 Million
With four national titles, five SEC championships and eight SEC West titles, there’s little surprise Saban is the highest paid coach in the Southeastern Conference. Not only is he the league’s best coach, he’s tops in the entire nation. Saban has created a culture where two-loss seasons are a disappointment. His record at ‘Bama is 86-10 over eight years, meaning he averages 10.75 wins per season. That breaks down to $660,000 per win over the course of his career with the Tide – quite a discount when you consider there were rumors of a $10 million/year payday floating around not two years ago.
2) Kevin Sumlin: $5 Million
Sumlin is the perfect example of a “lightning in a bottle” coach. He came in at A&M when the program was bottoming out under Mike Sherman. He effectively pulled the rug out from Texas and claimed the state as the Longhorns were sputtering under Mack Brown. He let Johnny Manziel work his magic in the first year of SEC expansion, thus garnering all sorts of positive pub. And now he sits with a $5 million salary. Interestingly enough, Sumlin’s win total has decreased each year in College Station (11, 9, 8). He’s earning roughly $538,000 per victory.
3) Hugh Freeze: $4.3 Million
Whereas Sumlin’s win total has backslid during his three years in College Station, Hugh Freeze has increased each year at Ole Miss. After leading the Rebels to a nine-win campaign in 2014, super agent Jimmy Sexton leveraged Freeze’s hot name on the coaching carousel to a pay bump up to $4.3 million. Freeze is riding the wave of some banner recruiting classes and the first three-year run of increased wins since 1988-90. With a 24-15 record during his tenure at Ole Miss, Freeze earns $538,000 per win (the same as Sumlin).
3) Les Miles: $4.3 Million
Of all the head coaches in America, there’s no better mix than Les Miles and LSU. Miles is a little off, and it strikes the perfect chord with the crazy bayou crowd. Beyond that, though, Miles wins and he produces talent. He may be tied for third in salary, but he’s one of only three coaches in the league to have a national championship under his belt. He’s also never lost fewer than eight games in a season during his decade in Baton Rouge. LSU pays him $417,000 per win.
5) Bret Bielema: $4 Million
Bielema is an interesting case study, given the fact that he joined Arkansas on the heels of back-to-back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances with Wisconsin. His first season and a half with the Razorbacks were abysmal, but the team started turning things around during the latter half of 2014. Building up through the trenches, Bielema has the Hogs looking primed for a breakout 2015. With only 10 wins in two years at Arkansas, he’s getting paid $800,000 per victory (in fairness to Bielema, his record at Wisconsin was a stellar 68-24 – an average of 9.7 wins per season).
5) Dan Mullen: $4 Million
Dan Mullen hung around and hung around and hung around until one banner season with a stifling defense and Heisman-caliber quarterback earned him a significant pay raise. Prior to 2014, Mullen had never won more than four conference games in a year (he notched six last season). The 2014 campaign was also the first time a Mullen-coached team had won double-digit games in a season. He has turned Mississippi State from SEC doormat into a contender, and is now earning $609,000 per win for the effort.
5) Mark Richt: $4 Million
Mark Richt is quite the enigma. He has won the division six times in 14 years, only had one losing record, has pushed out some of the NFL’s best players (Matt Stafford and AJ Green of late), and yet Richt still has his fair share of critics. The 2014 season is a prime example of the Mark Richt experience: owning a schedule that lines up perfectly and skunking eventual SEC East champ Missouri, but losing to lesser opponents Florida and South Carolina. There’s debate over whether he’ll ever take UGA to the promised land, but there are few coaches more consistent than Mark Richt. At $412,000 per win, Richt could be considered a bargain compared to other coaches in the country (not to mention some in the country).
5) Steve Spurrier: $4 Million
The third coach (behind Saban and Miles) to own a national championship. When his career is all said and done, Steve Spurrier will go down as one of the greatest to have ever walked the sidelines. He turned Duke into a winner, created a dynasty at Florida (at least in terms of conference finishes) and has resurrected South Carolina. Spurrier is also the winningest coach at both UF and SC. By locking down some of the state’s top talent – Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney, etc. – he has transformed South Carolina into a destination for recruits. The Gamecocks pay the Head Ball Coach roughly $476,000 per win.
9) Gus Malzahn: $3.8 Million
Malzahn first made a name for himself at Auburn’s offensive coordinator during its 2010 title run. After a brief hiatus at Arkansas State, Malzahn returned as the Tigers’ head man in 2013 and proceeded to make an immediate impact. Already housing a conference title and a national championship appearance under his belt only two years into the job, Malzahn looks to take the program up another notch thanks to his signing of stud defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Auburn pays the Gus Bus $380,000 per win.
10) Butch Jones: $3.6 Million
Butch Jones stepped into the black hole created by Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley to start a reclamation project at Tennessee. He only went 5-7 in his first year, but jumped two wins in his second season, and appears to have the Vols back on track to relevancy. Jones has also proven to be a solid recruiter by pulling down the No. 7 and No. 4-ranked classes over the past two cycles. With 12 wins under his belt in Knoxville, Tennessee is paying out $600,000 per victory.
10) Mark Stoops: $3.6 Million
Kentucky may be a basketball school, but damned if Mark Stoops isn’t fighting tooth and nail to balance the national perception. Though he’s yet to have a winning record in two seasons with the Wildcats, Stoops jumped his team from two victories in 2013 to five the following season. With his squad a coming within one controversial call from starting last season 6-0, Stoops has proven that, if nothing else, he can field a competitive team inside Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky is paying Stoops roughly $1.03 million per victory.
12) Jim McElwain: $3.5 million
After riding the roller coaster of emotions with defensive minded players’ coach Will Muschamp, the Florida Gators brought in offensive orchestrator Jim McElwain as a replacement. Early reports out of Gainesville show that McElwain is more CEO and architect than coach, as he’s taken to reworking every facet of the program. McElwain has yet to coach a game at UF, but he did go 22-16 in three years at Colorado State.
13) Gary Pinkel: $3.4 Million
Perhaps the biggest bargain of the entire bunch is Gary Pinkel. While flashier coaches such as Sumlin and Malzahn garner more publicity, Pinkel has quietly led Missouri to the past two SEC championship games (the only coach on this list to have that distinction). In 14 seasons at Missouri his staff has had the least amount of turnover of any SEC program. He’s also notched double-digit victories in three of the past five seasons. Missouri pays Pinkel roughly $421,000 per victory.