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Iowa Football: Head Hawkeye Kirk Ferentz Falls Down List of Highest Paid College Football Coaches

Kirk Ferentz’s contract has long been a point of contention in Iowa City, but his salary continues to fall down the conference and national rankings.

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Miami Ohio v Iowa
Is it time for Ferentz to plead his case for a contract extension?
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

The USA Today released their annual report on college football coaching salaries earlier this week. While there are likely some inaccuracies (as someone who’s salary was previously public, I can assure you the published figures are never totally accurate), they have long been lightning rod for Iowa fans and fans of several college football programs around the country.

For Hawkeye fans, the issue hasn’t always been with the amount of money Ferentz is paid - though that is an issue for some - but rather the structure of his contract. Specifically, the buyout, length of the contract and bonus structure have long been criticized.

Despite those criticisms, Ferentz’s standing among coaches nationally on a pure salary basis has fallen. Not far, to be sure, but a year ago, KF boasted an annual salary of $4.7 million. That was good enough for 17th nationally and 6th in the Big Ten.

Fast forward to this year and Ferentz’s $100,000 annual raise wasn’t enough to hold his spot as he’s fallen to 18th nationally. That’s still good enough for 6th in the Big Ten, but some of the moves around him have been interesting.

Last year (which, the way these things work is actually 2017), Lovie Smith was paid more than Kirk Ferentz.

*** pauses for dramatic effect ***

I’m going to say that again, Lovie Smith made more than $5 million in 2017, more than the $4.7M Kirk Ferentz made. Yuck.

Wisconsin v Illinois
Fear the beard!
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

(Maybe it was a prepayment for that win against Wisconsin?)

By USA Today’s math and what I can assume was some contract wizardry, Smith is now 10th in the conference and 29th nationally at only $4M for 2018.

The other coach to fall behind Ferentz in the conference this year is Ohio State’s head man as they saw Urban Meyer and his $7.6 million depart to be replaced by Ryan Day and just $4.5M (we can debate elsewhere whether Day deserves to be paid much more like Meyer or if this just shows you it doesn’t really matter who is coaching the Buckeyes).

That makes two Big Ten teams to have their coach fall behind Ferentz. Since Ferentz stayed at 6th in the conference, that makes two that had to jump him. First is Jeff Brohm of Purdue, who signed a new deal following last season to keep him from jumping ship.

At the time, there were few quibbles from Iowa fans as Brohm had bested Ferentz in back-to-back seasons and seemed like an offensive genius. Now, Purdue is 2-5 and Phil Parker held the genius to just 20 points (and let’s be honest, they were gifted 7 of those by Nate Stanley) in Iowa’s first win against Brohm. Oh, and Brohm is now the 8th highest paid coach in the country and 2nd in the Big Ten at a staggering $6.6M a year.

The other coach to jump Ferentz in the Big Ten is Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, who is the second longest tenured head coach in the conference behind Ferentz. Fitz is now north of $5.1M for the 2018 season. Interestingly, USA Today reports no buyout for Fitzgerald, a stark contrast to Ferentz’s $21.6M buyout.

As big as that number seems, it’s tiny when compared to the $60.6M buyout for Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M or the $50M buyout for Dabo Swinney at Clemson. And ultimately, we can all acknowledge the buyout number is pretty meaningless for Ferentz as he isn’t getting fired from Iowa. Ever.

Here’s a look at the full list.

Screen grab via USAToday.com

Some observations:

  • We all consider Nick Saban the greatest coach in the game, but he isn’t the highest paid.
  • What has Willie Taggart done to warrant $5M a year?
  • Where is USF getting all their money?
  • How’s Scott Frost working out for you, Nebraska?
  • Paul Chryst is underpaid.
  • Ed Orgeron is about to get a fat pay raise.
  • Rutgers could save themselves several million dollars a year by just paying me to not win them any games.

What stands out to you?