Coaches, Not Presidents, Top Public-College Pay List

It’s no secret that in more than 40 states the highest-paid public employee isn’t the governor or even a university president. It’s a public-college football or basketball coach.

Coaches’ salaries are well documented and are often cited in comparisons with the salaries of student-athletes ($0) or with professors and college presidents (considerably higher).

The Chronicle’s latest survey on executive compensation at public universities, to be published on Sunday, provides even more information for such comparisons.

While the focus of the survey remains the compensation of college presidents, this year it will include new information on the biggest earners at public universities aside from the chief executive. Not surprisingly, at many colleges, that’s a coach.

They aren’t just making a little bit more than the president, either. For coaches who are among the five highest-paid employees at their university, their average take-home compensation is $554,996 more than the university’s chief executive. That’s more than double the president’s salary at the typical university.

There’s a caveat here, however. Many coaches’ salaries are paid—at least in part—by athletic foundations, meaning it’s the alumni base and not the tax base that is supporting them. But as public support for public universities has declined, some presidents of the universities also receive a portion of their salaries from private university foundations.

The buzz when The Chronicle releases its annual compensation surveys is usually about the biggest presidential earners, and the increasing number of public-university chiefs who earn more than $1-million.

But college presidents make up less than 10 percent of those making more than $1-million. In fact, of the 154 public-college employees who crossed that threshold last year, 70 percent were coaches and 20 percent were doctors.

Check back on Sunday for more compensation details on more than 250 public-college leaders, and the coaches who last year (often) made more than them.

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