football Edit

Breaking down head coaching salaries in the ACC

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Dabo Swinney
Dabo Swinney (AP Images)

USA Today released its annual college football head coach salary database last week and, unsurprisingly, Alabama’s Nick Saban was at the top of the list with an annual compensation of $8.3 million per season. While there’s no doubt Saban is worth every penny, what about the rest of the list?

Today we break down the coaching salaries in the ACC and take a look back at their average finish in the AP Top 25 over the last five years as well as their average finish in the team rankings to see which programs are getting the most bang for their buck.

Note: Average numbers include the current AP rankings and all salary figures are according to USA Today.

COACHING SALARIES: Which programs are getting most bang for the buck? | Salaries in the SEC | Big Ten

  Dabo Swinney – Clemson, $6.4 million  

Average AP Ranking: 6

Average Team Rankings Finish: 11

Current Team Ranking: 4

Swinney has made the College Football Playoff in each of the past three seasons and has a Top Five recruiting class committed for the Class of 2019. With that list of accomplishments, it’s no wonder that he’s the conference’s highest-paid coach. Nationally, he’s ranked at No. 7 overall, so the Tigers are actually getting quite the bargain in Swinney.

As the team has had more success on the field the school’s recruiting footprint has also expanded, and now it’s not a shock to see them pull elite talent from coast to coast. With former No. 1-ranked player Trevor Lawrence at the helm, the Tigers are expected to be in the conversation for the playoff for years to come.

  Willie Taggart – Florida State, $5 million  

Average AP Ranking (At USF 2014-16, at Oregon 2017, at Florida State 2018): Unranked

Average Team Rankings Finish (At USF 2014-16, at Oregon 2017, at Florida State 2018): 39

Current Team Ranking: 12

Taggart’s start in Tallassee has gotten off to a bumpy start, but the Florida native appears to be finding his way, even if the 'Noles just lost a heartbreaker to rival Miami.

Recruiting has never been an issue for Taggart, as he put together a Top 20 class in his only year at Oregon and also recruited some impressive talent to USF before that. He finished with a Top 10 class in 2018 at Florida State and looks well on his way to doing it again in 2019. The jury is still out on whether or not Taggart will be the right man for the job as he shapes his roster with prospects he recruited.

  Mark Richt -  Miami, $4 million  

Average AP Ranking (At Georgia 2014-15, at Miami 2016-18): 17

Average Team Ranking (At Georgia 2014-15, at Miami 2016-18): 11

Current Team Ranking: 21

Richt returned to his alma mater after a long stint at Georgia, and so far the Canes have returned to relevancy under his watch. Last season, the introduction of the turnover chain helped the school regain some of the swagger of its glory days and for most of the season Miami was also in the playoff discussion.

Richt’s ability as a recruiter has never been questioned, and is evidenced by the fact that he’s signed three top 10 classes over the last five years. As long as Miami is in the mix in the Top 15 in the country in both recruiting and on the field, Miami fans will be happy with what Richt is doing in Coral Gables.

  Justin Fuente – Virginia Tech, $4 million  

Average AP Ranking (At Memphis 2014-15, at Virginia Tech 2016-18): Unranked

Average Team Ranking (At Memphis 2014-15, at Virginia Tech 2016-18): 57

Current Team Ranking: 35

After turning Memphis around, Fuente was one of the hottest coaches on the market, and he headed to Blacksburg to take over the for the legendary Frank Beamer. Since arriving on campus, he has the Hokies in and around the Top 25 while also improving the results on the recruiting trail. His efforts were highlighted in the Class of 2018, as Virginia Tech landed in the Top 25 for the first time since his arrival. Fuente’s quick rebuild of the program has made him more than worth his salary so far.

Bobby Petrino – Louisville, $3.9 million  

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Team Ranking: 34

Current Team Ranking: 59

Petrino's stock was high after he rehabbed his image in his second stint at Louisville, recruiting quarterback Lamar Jackson and taking the program to a new level. But now that Jackson is gone things have gone south on the field for the Tigers, who are just 2-4 on the season with more tough games coming up.

Recruiting is also at the lowest level it’s been during the Petrino era, with the Cardinals sitting at just No. 59 in the country, a number that would be 20 spots worse than his lowest-ranked class. If he can’t turn things around, it’s possible Petrino finds himself on the hot seat or off this list altogether.

  Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia, $3.5 million  

Average AP Ranking (At BYU 2014-15, at Virginia 2016-18): Unranked

Average Team Ranking (At BYU 2014-15, at Virginia 2016-18): 65

Current Team Ranking: 37

Mendenhall has been upfront about needing to bolster the talent on campus in Charlottesville, and this year’s recruiting class could be the best of his head coaching career. The Cavs class is ranked No. 37 in the country, with his previous best being No. 58 overall in 2017. Last season, he led the team to a bowl game for the first time since 2011 and this year the team is 3-2 with a chance to go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2004-05. It took a big offer to lure Mendenhall away from BYU, but thus far it’s been well worth it.

  Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech, $3 million  

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson (AP Images)

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Team Ranking: 49

Current Team Ranking: 54

Johnson has been Mr. Consistent since taking over the Georgia Tech job in 2008, starting his tenure off with seven straight bowl games, culminating in a Top 10 finish and a trip to the Orange Bowl in 2014. But the team has struggled a little bit in recent years, missing bowls two out of the last three seasons. The year, Georgia Tech is 3-3 and looks to be back on the road to the postseason, especially coming off back-to-back 60-point offensive performances. Johnson’s recruiting peaked during that Orange Bowl season with the nation’s No. 39 class, and fans are hoping to see the school keep some of the talent close to home in future years.

  Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh, $3 million  

Average AP Ranking (2015-18): Unranked

Average Team Ranking (2015-18): 42

Current Team Ranking: 44

Narduzzi has come under fire recently from Pitt fans who have high expectations for the program, especially considering its rich tradition. Last year was the first time the school hasn’t reached a bowl game since 2007 and this year it could be a struggle again, considering the 3-3 start.

Narduzzi has improved recruiting efforts quite a bit since arriving, and the team is set to once again sign a top 40 class nationally. Assuming he can get the Panthers to a bowl game this year, Narduzzi should be back on the sidelines for the school in 2019.

  Dave Doeren – NC State, $3 million  

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Team Ranking: 39

Current Team Ranking: 19

Perhaps the best deal in the conference, Doeren ranks right in the middle of coaches in the ACC, despite being a hot name on the coaching market last offseason. Since arriving in Raleigh he has helped the program reach four consecutive bowl games, with that number likely to be five, assuming the team’s hot start to year continues. The 5-0 Wolfpack are also having their best year on the recruiting trail, ranking No. 19 nationally, the highest in the Doeren era.

  Larry Fedora – North Carolina, $2.5 million  

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Team Ranking: 25

Current Team Ranking: 65

Things have slipped both on the recruiting trail and on the field for Fedora and the Tar Heels, who look poised to miss a bowl game for the second consecutive season. Fedora guided the team through NCAA uncertainty, all while building the roster into one of the ACC’s best that culminated in a near trip to the College Football Playoff in 2015. Since then, things have taken a step back, with a 3-9 season last year and a 1-3 start this year. Maybe more concerning is the team’s No. 65 ranking in the team recruiting rankings, which would be 35 spots lower than any class Fedora has brought in during his tenure. Once a hot name on the coaching market, Fedora could be coaching for his job this season.

  David Cutcliffe – Duke, $2.5 million  

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Team Ranking: 56

Current Team Ranking: 48

It could be argued that Cutcliffe is the best bargain on this list, especially considering he ended a nearly 20-year bowl drought and has the Blue Devils regularly in and around the Top 25. The rebuilding effort took time, but now the school is competitive on a yearly basis in the ACC, including a 4-1 start to this season. The school’s academic profile has also helped land some impressive prospects during Cutcliffe’s tenure, and that was exemplified by the No. 31 overall class nationally in 2016. This year, the Blue Devils are back in top 50 nationally and as long as things keep humming along, Cufcliffe will likely be the man at the helm until he decides to retire.

  Steve Addazio – Boston College, $2.5 million  

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Team Ranking: 62

Current Team Ranking: 39

Addazio’s hiring from Temple was a bit of a surprise at the time, but in retrospect it looks like a smart move because the team has reached bowl games in four of the past five seasons.

After a bit of a lull on the recruiting trail, things have also rebounded and this year’s class looks like it will be the best Addazio has had since taking the job. Add in the team’s 4-2 record and flirtation with the Top 25 and it seems like things are only getting better for the program.

  Dino Babers – Syracuse, $2.4 million  

Average AP Ranking (At Bowling Green 2014-15, at Syracuse 2016-18): Unranked

Average Team Ranking (At Bowling Green 2014-15, at Syracuse 2016-18): 73

Current Team Ranking: 94

Babers brought his high-powered offensive attack to Syracuse in 2016, and while he’s yet to lead the team to a bowl game, things are looking up, as the Orange currently sit at 4-2. The one concern for Syracuse fans might be the recruiting efforts, with the school’s early returns looking more like a class Babers would recruit at his previous stop, Bowling Green. Assuming Syracuse can make it to a bowl game for the first time since 2013 and it can add some more talent in the class, Babers will continue to look like a good hire.

  Dave Clawson – Wake Forest, $1.8 million  

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Team Ranking: 61

Current Team Ranking: 52

It’s almost surprising to see Clawson rank as last in the conference in pay, especially considering that he’s led the Demon Deacons to back-to-back bowl games. This year’s recruiting class could also be his best yet, with a chance to finish well within the top 50 in the country. Clawson’s ability to turn things around in Winston-Salem, combined with the ability to recruit to an academically rigorous school, makes him seem like quite the bargain.