Let’s say you’re a Power Five program in dire need of a coaching savior. (Or, for a number of these programs, your latest savior after another mistaken hire.)
How much would you be willing to pay for stability and success? Across the board, the answer is in the millions (and millions, and millions).
Several current head coaches are set to see major pay increases as schools in the Power Five become more and more willing to break the bank.
That includes current Power Five head coaches who could be poached by bigger-name brands, led by Kansas coach Lance Leipold, and a number of Group of Five coaches poised to factor heavily into searches conducted at the end of the regular season.
With five openings and counting in the Power Five, these coaches could see a substantial uptick in pay in the coming months:
Lance Leipold | Kansas
Total compensation: $2,400,000
Whether from Kansas, one of the two current Big Ten openings or a position set to become available at the end of the regular season, Leipold is in line to get a significant raise. Among head coaches at public schools, Leipold is tied for 63rd nationally and last among Big 12 public schools with basic annual pay of $2.4 million. He could earn more in bonus pay related to team success, including a $50,000 bonus for winning seven regular-season games and $50,000 for a Top 25 finish. The Jayhawks are 5-1 and ranked 20th.
Josh Heupel | Tennessee
Total compensation: $5,000,000
Heupel ranks third from the bottom among public-school SEC head coaches at $5 million for the 2022-23 season, ahead of Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz ($4 million) and South Carolina’s Shane Beamer ($2.75 million). Even as Heupel’s pay is good for a tie for 28th nationally — and, as one example, would rank no worse than fifth among Pac-12 coaches if including Lincoln Riley’s not-yet-disclosed pay from Southern California — this salary isn’t in line with the best coaches in the SEC. With the No. 8 Volunteers surging in his second season and star quarterback Hendon Hooker in major contention for postseason accolades, Heupel could see his pay rise into the top half of the conference in the near future.
Sean Lewis | Kent State
Total compensation: $530,000
Seen as one of the top young offensive minds in all of college football, the 36-year-old Lewis will be in the mix at Wisconsin, where he played, and at Arizona State, which is in need of a major reboot on that side of the ball. Since being hired in 2018, Lewis has accounted for two of the five bowl appearances and one of the two division championships in program history. In 2020, the Golden Flashes led the FBS in scoring at 49.8 points per game. All this for 2022-23 basic compensation of $530,000? If he does land a Power Five opening, Lewis could see his pay increase by five times or more.
Hugh Freeze | Liberty
Total compensation: $2,071,985
A successful run at Liberty has helped Freeze rebuild his reputation after the NCAA found rampant rules violations and a lack of institutional control during his tenure at Mississippi. He could be the perfect fit at Auburn, should the program eventually move on from an embattled Bryan Harsin. As a private school, Liberty’s most recently availble pay figure is from the 2020 calendar year. While Liberty and Freeze agreed to a contract extension with a likely raise last November that lasts through the 2028 season, a school such as Auburn would be able to offer a significant pay increase. Harsin is earning $5.1 million in 2022-23, and Freeze’s background and SEC experience — not to mention the Tigers’ desperation to get this hire right — could force Auburn to break the bank.
Charles Huff | Marshall
Total compensation: $755,500
After leading Marshall to seven wins and a bowl bid in his debut season, Huff put himself on the national map with last month’s upset of Notre Dame. A solid start to his career as a head coach joins a very strong résumé as an assistant, including stints at Vanderbilt and Penn State under James Franklin, one year at Mississippi State and two seasons as the assistant head coach and running backs coach at Alabama. During the 2022-23 season, Huff will earn $755,500 in basic annual pay with bonuses available for achievements, including winning seven games overall ($30,000) and making a bowl appearance ($50,000).