College Football’s Highest-Paid Coaches Know How To Inspire A Team

The best part of a Saturday during football season is that you get to watch your favorite college teams duke it out on the gridiron. But, without a skilled coach at the helm, these teams would be nothing special. Even the greatest college stars need a strong leader to eke out a win–which is why we rounded up the best coaches at the college level.

There may be no magic formula to a great football program, but, whatever the “secret” is, these coaches have managed to bring home trophy after trophy—and get paid millions for doing it, too. Here are the richest college football coaches, who managed to create lightning in a bottle at their institutions. 


Urban Meyer

Position: Head Coach 
School: Ohio State 
Annual Salary: $7.6 million*

Urban Meyer is a former college football player and coach. He was the head coach of the Bowling Green Falcons, starting his tenure in 2001 and ending in 2002. From there, he coached the Utah Utes and the Florida Gators before he moved to Ohio State, which was the school he became best-known for.

He is currently retired, having announced his retirement in 2019 after the Rose Bowl. His Bowl record is 12-3. Famous alumni that Meyer has coached include Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot, widely considered one of the best RBs in the NFL. Meyer is also a published author.

Jim Tressel

Position: Head Coach 
School: Youngstown State 
Annual Salary: $300,000*

Former Ohio State football coach and sweater vest enthusiast Jim Tressel is the current president and head football coach for Youngstown State University. He has a 5-4 Bowl record, and he is also the author of two books: The Winners’ Manual and Life Promises for Success. Tressel’s overall coaching record is 229-72-2.

Tressel coached at Ohio State before he was succeeded by Urban Meyer. Tressel brought home six Big Ten championships and a record of 94-22 with OSU. He is tied with Meyer as the only OSU head to win seven straight games against OSU’s biggest rival, Michigan State.

Steve Spurrier

Position: Ambassador/Consultant 
School: University of Florida 
Annual Salary: $5 million*

Steve Spurrier’s nickname is “Head Ball Coach.” The University of Florida alum was a quarterback with the Florida Gators in his day before he played for a decade in the NFL as a punter and backup quarterback. He was inducted in 1986 into the College Football Hall of Fame while still a player.

Spurrier moved from school to school as a coach (not uncommon in this profession), most notably coaching for Duke. It was at Duke that he began to create his innovative, unique offensive system that would later become his signature coaching style. His coaching record overall is 228-89-2.

Gus Malzahn

Position: Head Coach for the Auburn Tigers
School: Auburn
Annual Salary: $6.7 million*

Gus Malzahn has had a long, storied career in college football. He started his coaching career in more minor positions at Auburn in 2009 to 2011, with the team winning the national championship in 2010, and Malzahn taking home an award of his own for his assistant coaching.

After being recognized as the top assistant coach in the country, he was highly sought after, ending up as head coach at Arkansas State University in 2012. After a brief stint at University of Tulsa, Malzahn found his way back to his beloved Tigers, and led them to victory many times over, garnering several coach of the year awards along the way.  

Dabo Swinney

Position: Head Coach 
School: Clemson University 
Annual Salary: $9.3 million*

Dabo Swinney is one of the highest-paid coaches on this list, with an annual salary of $9.3 million. It is well-earned, as his record as the head football coach at Clemson is 130-30. Swinney was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1969, and he played for Alabama as a wide receiver from 1990 to 1992. He became a coach in 1993 at his alma mater.

Swinney took over for the Clemson Tigers in 2008, midway through the season, which was highly unusual. It was a strange situation, as the former Clemson coach, Tommy Bowden, resigned abruptly. Swinney helped turn things around for the team that suffered from inconsistent leadership. 

Mike Gundy

Position: Head Coach 
School: Oklahoma State
Annual Salary: $5 million*

Mike Gundy has a long history with Oklahoma State. He was born in Oklahoma, and he played for Oklahoma State as a quarterback from 1986 until 1989. He became a wide receiver coach for the university in 1990. He became the head coach in 2005.

Gundy is known for being protective over his players. When one of his quarterbacks was criticized in the media, he voraciously defended him, stating that the media should leave his player alone and instead go after him (Gundy). Though heavily criticized at the time, that incident has had a lasting positive effect on his image.