The 15 Highest Paid College Football Coaches

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So, you're wondering who the highest paid college football coaches are? Let's get in to it!

As college football teams kick off the 2023-2024 season, football fanatics and college alumni alike are tuning in week after week to cheer their team on to victory.

Related: The 15 Longest College Football Winning Streaks

College football coaches have a huge responsibility, as they are in charge of these young athletes and are tasked with getting them ready to play at such a competitive level. Many of the most successful college football coaches have been doing it for years and are unbelievably dedicated to their programs. These coaches are some of the most successful of all-time, and for that reason, they are the highest paid college football coaches in 2023.

Here are the 15 highest paid college football coaches for the 2023 season:

1. Kirby Smart ($11.25 million)

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  • Current Team: Georgia
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2016-Present (Georgia)

Kirby Smart’s college coaching career dates back to 1999, but it was not until 2016 that he had his first opportunity to be the head coach of a college program at the University of Georgia.

Smart can be credited with leading Georgia to becoming the successful program that they have proven to be in the past five years. Under Smart, the Bulldogs have won two SEC titles and back-to-back National Championships in 2021 and 2022. 

2. Dabo Swinney ($11.5 million)

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  • Current Team: Clemson 
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2009-Present (Clemson)

Dabo Swinney held several specialized coaching positions at Alabama in the 1990s before he came to Clemson in 2003. He was a wide receiver coach and then assistant head coach for the Tigers before he became the head coach in 2009. Under his leadership, Clemson has won eight ACC titles and two national championships, in 2016 and 2018.

3. Nick Saban ($10.7 million)

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  • Current Team: Alabama 
  • Years as Head College Coach: 1990 (Toledo), 1995-1999 (Michigan State), 2000-2004 (LSU), 2007-Present (Alabama)

College football coaching legend, Nick Saban, has been on the coaching staff of many teams since he started his coaching career in 1973. His early years were spent as position coaches for the defensive line. His first head coach position was in 1990 for University of Toledo, where he spent just one year before he went on to have his first stint as an NFL defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. 

Saban returned to college football in 1995 at Michigan State and then went on to become the head coach at LSU where he led the team to a national championship in 2003. Since 2007,  two-time AP College Football of the Year has been coaching at Alabama, which has become a notorious powerhouse in college football, winning six national championships in his time there.

4. Lincoln Riley ($10 million)

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  • Current Team: USC
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2017-2021 (Oklahoma), 2022-Present (USC)

Former college quarterback for Texas Tech, Lincoln Riley, recently signed a contract with the USC Trojans after several years of success coaching Oklahoma. The Sooners football team won four Big-12 Championships in Riley's time there. Now, USC is hopeful that he will emulate this success for the Trojans in the years to come.

5. Brian Kelly ($9.5 million)

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  • Current Team: LSU
  • Years as Head College Coach: 1991-2003 (Grand Valley State), 2004-2006 (Central Michigan), 2006-2009 (Cincinnati), 2010-2021 (Notre Dame), 2022-Present (LSU)

After coaching for a successful decade at the University of Notre Dame, Brian Kelly was brought on by LSU to become their new coach in 2022. Kelly led the Fighting Irish to two national championships while coach of Notre Dame, and is a two-time AP College Football Coach of the Year, among his many other coaching honors and awards.

6. Mel Tucker ($9.5 million)

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  • Current Team: Michigan State
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2019 (Colorado), 2020-Present (Michigan State)

At just 51-years old, Mel Tucker has had quite the coaching career in both the NFL and college football. His first role as a head coach in 2019, which was a couple of decades into his coaching career, at the University of Colorado. Since 2020, he has been the head coach of the Michigan State Spartans, and in 2021, he was honored as the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

7. Ryan Day ($9.5 million)

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  • Current Team: Ohio State 
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2019-Present (Ohio State)

Ryan Day’s coaching career began at his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, where he was the quarterback. He served in various coaching positions at a range of college football programs before he became a quarterback coach in the NFL for two seasons.

Day’s career at Ohio State began in 2017, and he became the acting head coach in 2019 after Urban Meyer left the program. The Buckeyes have won two Big Ten titles under his leadership, with Day winning the Big Ten Coach of the Year award in 2019.

8. Jimbo Fisher ($9 million)

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  • Current Team: Texas A&M
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2010-2017 (Florida State), 2018-Present (Texas A&M)

Jimbo Fisher was hired as the head coach of Texas A&M after seven successful seasons with the Florida State Seminoles football program, including one national championship in 2013.

9. Matt Rhule ($9 million)

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  • Current Team: Nebraska
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2013-2016 (Temple), 2017-2019 (Baylor), 2023-Present (Nebraska)

Before being named the head coach of Nebraska starting in the 2023 season, Rhule was the head coach of the Carolina Panthers for two seasons, and was the head coach at Temple and Baylor prior to that.

Rhule was a linebacker at Penn State in his playing days in the late 1990s. Nebraska is hopeful that Rhule will be a game-changing addition to their program in the coming seasons.

10. Lane Kiffin ($8.75 million)

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  • Current Team: Ole Miss
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2009 (Tennessee), 2010-2013 (USC), 2017-2019 (Florida Atlantic), 2020-Present (Ole Miss)

Football is in Lane Kiffin’s blood, as he is a former player, seasoned football coach, and the son of a former NFL coach as well. He has a year as an NFL head coach under his belt, as well as several head coaching roles at big college programs. Since 2020, Kiffin has been the coach of the Ole Miss Rebels.

11. Jim Harbaugh ($7.3 million)

  • Current Team: Michigan
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2004-2006 (San Diego), 2007-2010 (Stanford), 2015-Present (Michigan)

12. James Franklin ($7 million)

  • Current Team: Penn State
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2011-2013 (Vanderbilt), 2014-Present (Penn State)

13. Josh Heupel ($5 million)

  • Current Team: Tennessee 
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2018-2020 (UCF), 2021-Present (Tennessee)

14. Luke Fisckell ($5 million)

  • Current Team: Wisconsin
  • Years as Head College Coach: 2017-2022 (Cincinnati), 2022-Present (Wisconsin)

15. Mario Cristobal ($4.5 million)

  • Current Team: Tennessee 

Years as Head College Coach: 2018-2020 (UCF), 2021-Present (Tennessee)

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