The college football season all comes down to a final game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes on Jan. 11 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Pride is on the line for the players, many of whom are bound for the NFL draft this spring. There’s also money on the line for Alabama’s Nick Saban – but not for counterpart Ryan Day.
The College Football Playoff coaches are well-compensated
In case it escaped your attention, colleges and universities pay their football coaches a lot of money. In some cases, they are the highest-paid public employees in their states.
According to data compiled by USA Today, Alabama coach Nick Saban was the highest-paid FBS coach in the country this season at $9.1 million. The 10-year, $93 million extension signed by Dabo Swinney in 2019 makes the Clemson coach No. 1 in average annual money.
The top five this season:
- Nick Saban, Alabama, $9,100,000.
- Ed Orgeron, LSU, $8,687,500.
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson, $8,258,575.
- Jim Harbaugh, Michigan, $8,054,000.
- Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M, $7,500,000.
Ohio State’s Ryan Day ranked only 12th on the list at $5,748,264. However, it is worth remembering that Day is in just his second full season coaching the Buckeyes following the departure of Urban Meyer.
Nick Saban and Ryan Day have earned bonus money along the way
For the amount of money that the coaches pull down in base salary, it may seem ludicrous that their contracts contain bonus clauses. Sportico.com obtained copies of the coaches’ contracts and calculated the add-ons. By the website’s maths, Nick Saban of Alabama had already made $750,000 in bonuses ahead of the College Football Playoff title game, and Ryan Day of Ohio State collected $700,000.
Saban made $125,000 by virtue of Alabama winning the Southeastern Conference championship game and $400,000 more when the Crimson Tide were selected to play in the national semifinals. Beating Notre Dame, 31-14, to reach the championship game earned Saban another $200,000. The remaining $25,000 of his bonus money thus far came from being named SEC coach of the year.
Day had a number of similar incentives built into his contract. The bonuses started flowing with the $50,000 that came with winning the Big Ten East Division, followed by $100,000 for downing Northwestern for the conference crown.
Having the Buckeyes selected for the national playoff triggered a $450,000 payment, and beating Clemson in the semifinals was worth $100,000 more. He would have matched Saban’s bonus total dollar for dollar, but Day did not collect on the $50,000 provision for the conference coach of the year award.
Do Nick Saban and Ryan Day get bonuses for winning the championship?
Lest one think that college football coaches’ pay is all pegged to wins and losses, there is money to be earned based upon the academic performance of the players. Nick Saban’s bonus tops out at $100,000 if Alabama’s graduation rate ranks in the top four of the SEC. Meanwhile, Ohio State pays Ryan Day up to $150,000 based upon the Buckeyes’ grade-point average.
Sportico reported that it was unclear heading into the championship game whether either coach cashed in on the academic component.
All that remains, then, s the matter of bonus money for winning the national championship. Only one of the two coaches in the Alabama-Ohio State showdown had money at stake.
Ohio State’s Day does not have a provision in his contract for extra money tied to winning the national title. On the other hand, beating the Buckeyes would land Saban $200,000 more, bringing his total bonus money to $950,000.