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Once Again, College Football Coaching Salaries Are Hard to Wrap Your Head Around

Alabama's Nick Saban tops list where 21 coaches nationwide earn more than $5 million.

For the 15th consecutive season, USA Today has released results of its survey of college football coaching salaries, and the takeaway is you may be wondering why you didn’t pursue this career instead of becoming a lawyer or a doctor.

We know what Alabama’s Nick Saban is the highest-paid coach in the sport, earning more than $9.7 million. For one season.

But seven other coaches are making more than $7 million, 21 earn at least $5 million and 37 top $4 million. The top-50 all exceed $3 million and, amazingly, 86 head college football coaches collect paychecks worth upwards of $1 mil.

Stanford’s David Shaw checks in at No. 3 on the national list at $8.9 million — the only Pac-12 coach among the top 10.

UCLA’s Chip Kelly is next, at 12th overall, earning $5.6 million, just ahead of Utah’s Kyle Whittingham, who is 16th nationally at $5.2 million.

Cal’s Justin Wilcox, in his fifth season, checks in seventh among Pac-12 coaches and 43rd overall at $3.34 million.

Besides the raw salary numbers, there are some intriguing notes:

— Brian Kelly, who is Notre Dame’s winningest all-time coach with 107 victories, is just 60th on the just list with the relatively modest salary of $2.67 million. He’s actually making less than Jedd Fisch, still seeking his first victory in his inaugural season at Arizona.

— The buyout numbers for several coaches are just as mind-boggling as the salaries themselves. The buyout for another school to hire away Saban is more than $38 million. For Clemson’s Dabo Swinney it’s $47.5 million and for Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher — under contract through the end of 2031 — it’s $98.5 million. These guys aren't going anywhere.

— Former Cal coach Sonny Dykes ranks just 80th nationally at $1.3 million. A sweet deal right now SMU, which is 6-0 and ranked No. 23 in the AP Top-25.

USA Today College Football Coaches Salaries

The Top-10

1. Nick Saban Alabama: $9,753,221

2. Ed Orgeron, LSU: $9,012,917

3. David Shaw, Stanford: $8,924,683

4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson: $8,370,775

5. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma: $7,672,710

6. Dan Millen, Florida: $7,570,000

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7. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M: $7,500,000

8. Kirby Smart, Georgia: $7,133,600

9. Ryan Day, Ohio State: $6,614,693

10. Gary Patterson, TCU: $6,103,543

The rest of the Pac-12 Conference:

12. Chip Kelly, UCLA: $5,600,000

16. Kyle Whittingham, Utah: $5,200,000

23. Clay Helton, USC: $4,813,832

26. Mario Cristobal, Oregon: $4,402,917

38. Herm Edwards, ASU: $3,886,500

43. Justin Wilcox, Cal: $3,344,996

47. Karl Dorrell, Colorado: $3,240,000

49. Jimmy Lake, Washington: $3,040,972

51. Nick Rolovich, WSU: $$3,000,000

59. Jedd Fisch, Arizona: $2,683,449

62. Jonathan Smith, OSU: $2,444,000

Cover photo of Alabama coach Nick Saban by Doug Engle, Gainesville Sun

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo