football Edit

Breaking down head coaching salaries in the Pac-12

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

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Chris Petersen
Chris Petersen (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 Pac-12 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.

Chris Petersen – Washington, $4.3 million

Average AP Ranking: 20

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 28

Current Recruiting Ranking: 22

It took big money to lure Petersen away from his spot at Boise State, but the investment is more than paying off as he turned the program back around in short order. Now Washington is near the top of the rankings on a yearly basis and made the College Football Playoff two seasons ago. Recruiting is also approaching elite levels, with the Huskies landing in the top 15 in the 2018 class and currently sitting in the top 25 this year. Petersen has been worth every penny and is likely at Washington for the long haul.

David Shaw – Stanford, $4.3 million

Average AP Ranking: 18

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 25

Current Recruiting Ranking: 30

Shaw had been anything but a fill in since taking over for Jim Harbaugh, picking up where Harbaugh left off and taking the program to even loftier heights. The Cardinal finished No. 3 in 2015, just narrowly missing a chance for the College Football Playoff. Shaw and his staff have also found a way to recruit and develop elite talent, even more impressive considering Stanford’s rigorous admission standards. Shaw has been mentioned for numerous jobs in college and the NFL, but he seems happy with his job leading the Cardinal.

Kyle Whittingham – Utah, $3.7 million

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 42

Current Recruiting Ranking: 88

Whittingham has been a staple at Utah for more than a decade and has successfully navigated the school's move to the Pac-12 with much success. The Utes have been in and around the AP Top 25 each of the last five years, including in 2015 when it tied for the Pac-12 South crown and won 10 games. Utah has always developed talent well under Whittingham, so the school’s recruiting marks can be deceiving. Reaching into Florida for talent has helped and the Utes had a top 25 class in 2017. This year, the recruiting efforts are off to a slow start and will surely need to pick up to compete with the rest of the Pac-12 programs.

Mike Leach – Washington State, $3.5 million

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 54

Current Recruiting Ranking: 81

Leach took Washington State from Pac-12 bottom dweller to regularly competing with the top half of the conference in a short time. The Cougars have been to three consecutive bowl games, winning at least eight games from 2015-17. That streak is likely to continue this year, as the Cougars have stormed out to a 5-1 start and are still in the mix for a spot in the conference championship game. When it comes to recruiting, Leach has always done less with more, and he's been consistent with his efforts since arriving in Pullman. This year, the Cougars are off to a slow start in recruiting, but a hot start on the field might help them finish strong.

Chip Kelly – UCLA, $3.3 million

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 19

Current Recruiting Ranking: 76

Kelly has been one of the hottest names on the coaching market over the last two years and UCLA got a relative discount when it hired him this past offseason. So far things aren’t going as planned on the field as the Bruins are looking for their first win of the Kelly era, but they did show improvement in Saturday’s close loss to Washington. Kelly came in and closed strong with a top 25 class in 2018 and UCLA fans will hope he does it again this year, because it’s clear he needs more of his own players to turn things around.

Mike MacIntyre – Colorado, $2.8 million

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 56

Current Recruiting Ranking: 32

MacIntyre took Colorado from one of the nation’s worst programs to a 10-win season and he has the Buffs undefeated to start this year heading into a showdown with USC this weekend. Despite some chatter that he might be on the hot seat entering the season, there’s no doubt that he’s earned his money since arriving in Boulder from San Jose State. Much like the school’s glory days, he’s also expanded the recruiting base to bring in new talent, with prospects from Florida, Texas and elsewhere flourishing for the Buffs.

Clay Helton – USC, $2.6 million

Average AP Ranking: 21

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 6

Current Recruiting Ranking: 20

Helton has been successful since he took over midseason for Steve Sarkisian in 2015, leading the Trojans to a Rose Bowl and a Pac-12 championship while winning 10 games in back-to-back seasons. But despite his success, USC fans are split on his future and as to whether he should be the man leading the program going forward. However, it’s hard to argue with his success on the field as well as in recruiting, where he regularly has the Trojans at the top of the Pac-12 and among the best in the nation

Mario Cristobal – Oregon, $2.5 million

Average AP Ranking: 17

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 13

Current Recruiting Ranking: 3

Cristobal has brought a new mentality to Oregon, changing the Ducks' image to a more blue-collar program while still embracing the flash that made the school nationally relevant. Currently the Ducks are recruiting at an all-time level and are poised to sign the program's highest-ranked class in the era. The team is also playing well on the field, and currently sits in the AP Top 25 heading into this weekend’s game with Washington. Cristobal waited a long time for his next shot at being a head coach and if things continue on their current path, Ducks fans will hope he sticks around for a long time.

Kevin Sumlin – Arizona, $2 million

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 19

Current Recruiting Ranking: 72

Sumlin has had a perplexing start to his time in Tucson, as most expected that the marriage between he and star quarterback Khalil Tate would be perfect. But Tate has struggled to show the flash he had last season and Wildcats are off to a 3-3 start, although they are two close losses away from being 5-1. Sumlin, known for his recruiting prowess at Texas A&M, has yet to hit his groove at Arizona, and the Wildcats will need to pick it up to avoid finishing outside the top 50 for the second consecutive season.

Herm Edwards – Arizona State, $2 million

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 36

Current Recruiting Ranking: 63

The hiring of Edwards was largely panned in the college football world, especially after his introductory press conference. But in his first year in Tempe, Edwards has surprised both on the field and on the recruiting trail, with Sun Devils fans hoping he can reel in some of the big fish that are strongly considering the school. It was a gamble hiring Edwards, but at his salary it’s a low-risk proposition and so far he looks like he will get his chance to make an imprint on the program.

Jonathan Smith – Oregon State, $1.9 million

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 67

Current Recruiting Ranking: 68

Smith returned to his alma mater to turn the program around and is off to a slow start on the field, albeit in tough circumstances. The Beavers appear to be showing signs of progress, especially on offense, where Smith made his bones as a coordinator before arriving in Corvallis. The jury is still out on how things will pan out, but after a rough finish to the Gary Andersen era, Beavers fans will likely be patient with Smith as he works to rebuild the program.

Justin Wilcox – Cal, $1.5 million

Average AP Ranking: Unranked

Average Recruiting Ranking Finish: 59

Current Recruiting Ranking: 28

It’s no surprise that Wilcox ranks last in the conference as he came in with little fanfare back in 2017. But he’s done a nice job since arriving in Berkeley, narrowly missing a bowl game in his first year and having the Bears in the AP Top 25 earlier this season. After two slow starts in recruiting in the 2017 and 2018 classes, the Bears are also flirting with a top 25 finish in the 2019 class. A bowl game will only help that cause but Wilcox will need a strong finish to make that happen.