Nov 14, 2023 - Sports

Top college football coaches hit the jackpot when they get canned

Data: AP; Chart: Axios Visuals

Texas A&M firing Jimbo Fisher has put renewed attention on just how much college football coaches make — even if it's to leave a program.

The big picture: Fisher, who earned over $9 million a year as A&M's head football coach, will net around $76 million in buyout money when the payout from the university ends in 2031.

  • Fisher was set to earn nearly $95 million from 2021 to 2031, according to The Athletic.
  • Since he was fired without cause, A&M must give Fisher 25% of his remaining contract money — about $19 million — within 60 days of his dismissal.
  • When adding in the cost of dismissing Fisher's coaching staff, A&M will pay over $100 million — and that's before they start the search for his replacement.

By the numbers: Fisher's buyout is more than triple the next-highest total for college football coaches.

  1. Guz Malzahn: When Auburn fired Malzhan after a 6-4 season in 2020, he was owed $21.5 million of an original $49 million, seven-year contract.
  2. Charlie Weiss: Notre Dame relieved Weiss of his coaching duties in 2009, paying him a total of $19 million over the next six years.
  3. Willie Taggart: Florida State fired Taggart in the middle of his second season with the Seminoles. Signed initially to a six-year, $30 million deal, Taggart was owed $18 million, but that was reduced when he took a job at Florida Atlantic thanks to a clause that offsets the remaining buyout with his current salary.
  4. Ed Orgeron: LSU dismissed Orgeron — who won a national championship — in 2021 with $16.9 million left on his contract.
  5. Tom Herman: The former Texas Longhorns coach was due $15.4 million after being dismissed in 2020. With his coaching staff added into the mix, Texas paid $24 million.

Between the lines: Schools are also typically on the hook for paying the buyout for whoever they hire next. In Herman's case, Texas went on to hire Steve Sarkisian and paid the University of Houston his $2.5 million buyout fee.

The bottom line: Coaching college football at an elite level is a lucrative business. In many states, a head football coach is often the highest-paid state employee.

  • Nice work, if you can get it.
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