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SEC Pays Most to Assistant Coaches

You probably knew this, but maybe not the margin.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The USA Today put out its annual database of assistant coaching salaries today. There are a lot of interesting things in it, so look through it. As always with these things, data from private schools and even a few public ones (like the ones in Pennsylvania) aren't available.

I crunched a few of the numbers and found a few notable things.

Among the schools with available data (all but Vandy are public knowledge), the SEC far and away has the highest coaching staff salaries with an average of $3,567,401 and a median of $3,265,000 for the schools' entire staffs. The true average is something lower since Vandy probably wasn't spending a fortune on Derek Mason's staff. An estimated staff cost of $2.5 million—which would be the lowest in the league—still keeps the SEC's average at a shade under $3.5 million.

The next highest conference is the ACC at an average of $3,066,122 with a median of $3,066,835. Six of the 14 ACC schools don't have public data though: Boston College, Duke, Miami, Pitt, Syracuse, and Wake Forest. All except maybe Miami are likely to have staff salaries below the mean and median, so the real number for the whole league is probably below $3 million. An average of $2.5 million for those staffs seems like a reasonable (and potentially generous) estimate, and that would place the overall conference average at about $2.8 million.

The Big 12 is the next highest among Power 5 conferences with an average of $2,853,108 and a median of $2,825,163. The missing schools there are Baylor and TCU. There are definite tiers in this conference. OU's staff makes $4.07 million, and Texas's makes $3.84 million. Below them are West Virginia at $2.88 million, Oklahoma State at $2.83 million, and Kansas State at $2.81 million. Iowa State, Kansas, and Texas Tech then all are at roughly $2.1 million. I'd guess Baylor and TCU are in the middle tier, and estimating $2.8 million for each doesn't significantly move the league average.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are nearly identical. The former averages $2,704,197 with a median of $2,648,999, while the latter averages $2,702,541 with a median of $2,702,541. The missing schools for the Big Ten are Northwestern, which is probably below average, and Penn State, which is probably well above it given that James Franklin's salary is top ten nationally. With the Pac-12 it's Stanford and USC that are unknown, both of which I'd guess are probably are above the $3 million mark. For that reason, I'd guess that the true averages have the Pac-12 edging out the Big Ten. The difference is probably not huge, though.

In short, the SEC is way, way ahead of other conferences when it comes to assistant pay. The SEC's average is about $3.5 million per school. The ACC is the only other conference above $3 million in known pay, but it's probably around the Big 12's $2.8 million in actuality. That's a huge gap.

When it comes to big spenders, it should be no surprise then that the SEC has the most. Alabama and LSU paid assistants over $5 million this season. Auburn ponied up $4.6 million, giving the league three schools over $4 million. Only Oklahoma ($4.07 million) and Clemson ($4.45 million) went over that mark elsewhere.

Here are the schools that paid over $3 million for their staffs but less than $4 million:

  • ACC: Florida State, Louisville, Virginia Tech
  • Big 12: Texas
  • Big Ten: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State
  • Pac-12: Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, Washington
  • SEC: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M

You'll note Arkansas is there but Wisconsin is not. Bret Bielema said he left Madison in part due to assistant coach salaries. This year at Arkansas, his staff got $3.2 million. Wisconsin's got $2.3 million.

Only five assistants broke the $1 million mark this season. Three were in the SEC: Kirby Smart, Cam Cameron, and John Chavis. The others were Bud Foster and Chad Morris. Yes, that means LSU was the only school to pay both coordinators above $1 million. I will also note that two high profile firings were in the top 20 nationally in pay: Ellis Johnson made $850,000 at Auburn this year, while Mark Snyder got $708,000 from Texas A&M. One of those schools is likely to make Will Muschamp the next million dollar assistant at some point this offseason.