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College Football Coaches’ Pay, Top Secret?


By Dr.Al Lee –

Does the public have a right to know how much state employees earn, including college football coaches’ pay?  That issue has been tied up in litigation for years in Pennsylvania. Back in 2002, a reporter for the Harrisburg Patriot-News asked the State Employees Retirement System for the annual salaries of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and three other Penn State officials.

The State Employees Retirement System okayed the request, but Penn State tried to block it… all the way up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which recently ruled 4-2 in favor of the newspaper. According to a report on, the ruling applied not only to college football coaches’ pay, but also to the salary of any Penn State worker enrolled in the retirement system. This is similar to the case in California concerning public worker pay, and the result is the same.

So how much has Joe Paterno been earning? Keep reading!

Do You Know What You're Worth?

How College Football Coaches Are Paid: Revealed!

How much does Penn State college football coach Joe Paterno earn?  Some speculated that the collegiate gridiron legend was scoring $1 million a year.  When he was hired back in 1966, Paterno was earning a reported $20K a year. According to, the 80-year-old earned a college football coach salary of $427,220 during the first 10 months of 2007, which means he should clock in at $512,664 for 2007. In 2006, he was reportedly paid $490,638.

College Football Coach Salary and Other Salaries

Now that the cat is out of the bag, what will be the ramifications? The university notified 6,252 workers, who participate in the State Employees’ Retirement System, that their salaries could be subject to disclosure. Bill Mahon, a Penn State spokesman, stated, “Penn State has always believed the salaries of its employees should be confidential.”

Well, that’s not what the court thought. Justice James J. Fitzgerald wrote for the majority: “Individuals and private entities cannot reasonably expect the Commonwealth to keep secrets from its citizens regarding the disbursement of public funds, past, present or future. The public has a right to know how the Commonwealth spends its money.” At the time this decision was made, Penn State received $349 million from PA taxpayers.

College Football Coaches Salary Comparison

How did Paterno compare to other coaches? He was actually below the average college football coach salary of $950,000. That’s not counting benefits, subsidized housing, incentives or any other perks, according to In fact, 42 of the 119 Division I-A coaches were earning $1 million or more in 2006; Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops earned $3 million annually.

Coaches Jim Tresse (Ohio State) and Mack Brown (Texas) were among nine coaches earning more than $2 million. According to The New York Times, some of the highest paid college football coaches once included Alabama’s Nick Saban with an eight-year deal worth almost $32 million and Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione with a $2.09 million annual salary. Today, college football means big bucks, for some.

Highest Paid College Football Coaches vs. The Players

Michael Lewis, author of “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” said “In 2005, the 121 Division 1-A football teams generated $1.8 billion for their colleges.” Lewis suggests that college players should be paid for generating this massive income.

The players are not paid, due to the NCAA’s long-held belief that college sports should “never be commercialized.” This is a strange statement; if sports are not supposed to commercial, shouldn’t college football games be shown on PBS without commercial interruption? Why the invention of “TV time-outs” to fit in more commercials? Perhaps commercials don’t represent commercialization; that idea requires doublethink to understand…

Wondering whether you are the Joe Paterno or Bob Stoops of your career? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale’s full salary survey.


Dr. Al Lee

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