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The Most Overpaid Offensive Coaches in College Football 2018

Who got paid? Who got their money’s worth?

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Georgia Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

I’m obsessed with value. It’s not always the finest way to evaluate things, but it can be elucidating. Today, I want to explore the value of coaching staffs. Using actual dollar value as a metric, let’s see who is overpaid, who is underpaid and who is really delivering on what they are paid to do.

How will I determine this?

Every year, USA Today aggregates and releases all of the publicly available coaching salaries in college football, both assistant and head coaches. You can find that data here:

Additionally, SB Nation’s own Bill Connelly produces his own set of analytics called the S&P+. If you aren’t familiar, you can find an explainer here. In the most reductive sense possible, it measures a team’s efficiency based on the idea that the most efficient teams are the best teams. The final 2018 rankings can be found on Football Outsiders.

I’m gonna do a simple mash-up of the data for each side of the football, plot it out and drop in a trend line for a basic analysis indicating who are overpaid, who are underpaid and who are paid just about right. I’ve added filters by conference, so we can also do some high-level looks at what conferences are paying for production.

What’s Missing?

Private schools largely don’t make coaching salaries public. Now and again the terms of a contract may get released, but even then, it’s typically only a coordinator in an entire staff. For that reason, I have no choice but to exclude them, as that would only convolute the data pool. Thus, the following schools will not be represented in the data set:

  • Air Force
  • Army
  • Baylor
  • Boston College
  • BYU
  • Duke
  • Hawaii
  • Liberty
  • Miami (FL)
  • Navy
  • Northwestern
  • Notre Dame
  • Penn State
  • Pittsburgh
  • Rice
  • SMU
  • Stanford
  • Syracuse
  • TCU
  • Temple
  • Tulane
  • Tulsa
  • USC
  • Vanderbilt
  • Wake Forest


Here’s an embedded, interactive version of the chart:

You can find the link here.

Let’s Talk About LSU

LSU fell below the trend line again, just as they have every year that I’ve been tracking this. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that things seem to be trending in a positive direction. Here’s the link to the 2017 chart. First, LSU’s S&P+ climbed from 30.50 in 2017 to 30.90 in 2018. It’s only a slight improvement, but considering the staff replaced the QB, top two RBs, top two WRs and a handful of OL starters, that’s actually decently impressive.

But the bigger win here is the regression in pay. In 2017, LSU paid over $3.2 million, the most of anyone in the nation, for modest offensive production. Orgeron’s firing of Matt Canada and subsequent promotion of Steve Ensminger actually lessened the offensive coaching salary pool by nearly $1 million dollars. Ultimately this means that while LSU is still only churning modest production, they at least aren’t paying tippy top dollar for it. Still, at an unacceptable level. Here are the year-over-year numbers since I began tracking:


Year S&P+ Total Salary
Year S&P+ Total Salary
2014 30 $3,035,035
2015 39.7 $3,239,102
2016 37.3 $2,967,500
2017 30.5 $3,215,000
2018 30.9 $2,345,000

This is the lowest paid offensive staff in a half decade, and performed squarely in the middle. So, not an utter nightmare, especially considering the amount of new faces.

The Good

  • Oklahoma’s offense is ungodly and for only 50K more than what LSU spent. That said, it doesn’t factor Lincoln Riley’s salary and he’s a major component of their offensive success.
  • Alabama, Clemson & Ohio State are paying mega-bucks but getting mega-production. Dollars well spent. Fittingly, Ohio State promoted their OC to the head gig. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Clemson’s Co-OCs in the near future. You have to think they’ll be coveted sooner than later.
  • The Aggies got solid value out of year 1 Jimbo, falling above the trend line. But then, offense had never really been their issue. Should be interesting to see what they can do without a dominant RB, since Trayveon Williams is heading to the NFL. He really softened the blow when Kellen Mond’s play fluctuated. A dip in production and they could fall like a rock below that trend line.
  • Jim Chaney is so fascinating in that he seems to consistently put out a good product that people always wind up hating. Georgia is well above the trend line, finished with a top 5 offense and yet, Chaney is off to Tennessee to try and rectify that mess. He might be the most undervalued OC in America based on sex appeal.
  • Props to Frank Solich for consistently churning out quality offenses at Ohio. Getting tremendous value for that production.
  • West Virginia and Houston are both well above the trend line, but WVU isn’t appreciably ahead of Houston enough to explain why they were so quick to jettison Major Applewhite for Dana Holgorsen. Don’t get me wrong, I would do that too, but the numbers here don’t justify the math. Holgo and co. cost more and didn’t produce that much better on offense.
  • Florida were well below the trend line in 2017, ranking 108th nationally in offensive S&P+. Florida. Mullen didn’t waste anytime. The Gators were 21st in 2018 paying right about the same amount. Dude can coach.
  • Washington State is paying the least of any P5 school for their offensive staff and getting tremendous production. Of course, Leach’s salary isn’t factored.

The Bad

  • Sam Ehlinger already declared Texas back, but they finished below the trend line even featuring an offense that finished 26th nationally in S&P+. The trouble is the over $3 million dollar price tag doesn’t meet that bar, which also doesn’t include Tom Herman’s contributions to the offense.
  • Michigan is just below the trend line and worse yet they can’t really seem to find an identity. It reminds me a bit of Les Miles where they are recruiting these spread-style players (Shea Patterson) and then plopping them into a more traditional system. Maybe the Josh Gattis hire will push them along?
  • Auburn’s offense languished despite the presence of Jared Stidham and thus, yet another OC comes to the plains under Gus. Marred with OL issues in 2018, Gus needs to get it figured out before he’s looking for a new gig himself.
  • Nebraska’s just below the trend line and frankly that’s probably a win. Midseason, they looked like a lost cause but while undergoing an absolute scheme shift Scott Frost got the Huskers very close to delivering value. Things are looking up in Lincoln.

The Ugly

  • Tennessee should be glad Tyson Helton up and left for the Western Kentucky gig. Their offense stunk and they paid a dime for it at over $3,000,000.
  • I hated the Willie Taggart hire at FSU and he’s done nothing to discourage my notion that he’s overrated based on his meager accomplishments. FSU fielded one of the worst offenses in the nation (110th nationally in S&P), AND paid top dollar (3rd most nationally) for it. And that doesn’t even factor that Taggart himself is an offensive coach. Things are going up in smoke fast in Tallahassee. I know Nole fans will blame the OL, but man alive.
  • Central Michigan had the worst offense in the country so they went out and hired... Jim McElwain?