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1. Nick Saban: Alabama
11-year win %: .868 | 6 Championships | No. 1 Salary: $11.1 million
It’s hard to argue against the value of possibly the greatest college football coach of all time. Although he might be the highest paid coach, it could be said that there is really no limit on Nick Saban’s value. If you are a school interested in creating a football dynasty that will forever be known in college football history then Saban’s worth is practically immeasurable.
2. Urban Meyer: Ohio State
5-year win %: .901 | 3 Championships | No. 4 Salary: $7.6 million
Urban is arguably the second-best college coach currently in the game, yet he is only ranked as the No. 4 highest paid coach. Anything below at least the third highest paid coach and Urban Meyer instantly becomes a steal.
3. Dabo Swinney: Clemson
10-year win %: .771 | 1 Championship | No. 2 Salary: $8.5 million
Depending on who you talk to the answer may vary but most people will agree; Dabo is either the second or third best coach currently on the field. He has given historic life back to a football-heavy school that was desperate for rejuvenation. I would say he was been well-worth the high price tag.
4. Kirby Smart: Georgia
2-year win%: .750 | 1 Championship Appearance | No. 7 Salary: $7 million
After last year’s performance, you could make an argument that Kirby deserves to be considered at least in the top 5 best coaches currently. Leading the Georgia Bulldogs back to the standard their fans expect, Kirby nearly got a national championship in only his second year as head coach. At the No. 7 highest paid coach, that is like finding a new pair of Yeezys at Target.
5. Mark Richt: Miami
2-year win%: .731 | No. 18 Salary: $5 million
After his successful career at Georgia, Richt took his talents to South Beach and proved The U could be successful once again. For $5 million a year, I would say Miami feels the price is well worth the chance to be talked about as national contenders once again.
6. Chris Petersen: Washington
4-year win%: .685 | 1 Playoff Appearance | No. 19 Salary: $5 million
Like the Pac-12, Chris Petersen seems to be one of those guys that goes relatively unnoticed for the average football fan. That being said, he is easily in the top 10 best coaches currently but just barely in the top 20 highest paid.
7. Gus Malzahn: Auburn
5-year win%: .672 | 1 National Championship | No. 5 Salary: $7 million
Although each year it seems like it could be his last at Auburn, Gus has done the impossible for the in-state rivals of the Nick Saban Crimson Tide and won an SEC title. For that alone, Gus is worth every penny.
8. Gary Patterson: TCU
18-year win%: .737 | No. 14 Salary: $5.5 million
He may never win a national championship but so much more can be said about Gary Patterson. He started as the head coach of a MWC school and continuously dominated until TCU moved to the Big 12, where he continued to dominate and even win a conference title. For TCU, Gary has earned plenty more than he is paid.
9. James Franklin: Penn State
4-year win%: .679 | No. 8 Salary: $6
What seemed like an impossible task after the Paterno disaster, Franklin has been rebuilding the Nittany Lions back to glory with a winning record every season he has been there. He has even managed to claim a conference title away from the Buckeye’s tight grip.
10. Mark Dantonio: Michigan State
11-year win%: .690 | No. 22 Salary: $4.5 million
For a little brother school like Michigan State, Mark Dantonio has brought them so much success. Of the 9 Big Ten Conference Titles the Spartans hold, Dantonio is responsible for 3. Prior to Dantonio, they hadn’t won a conference title since 1990. For just barley over half what Michigan pays Harbaugh, the Spartans get another win over their rivals for value.
11. David Shaw: Stanford
7-year win%: .768 | No. 10 Salary: $6 million
David Shaw took a nearly forgotten football program and turned them into a national brand. Since the creation of the Pac-10 in 1978, Stanford has claimed 5 conference titles, 3 of which came under Shaw. In fact, only two of the 7 years Shaw has run the Cardinals have they not won at least their division. He has yet to experience a losing season and likely never will.
12. Charlie Strong: USF
1-year win%: .833 | No. 89 Salary: $1 million
When it comes strictly to wins-per-dollar, no coach is more valuable than Charlie Strong right now. Yes, he did not do as well as hoped with the Longhorns. Whether you blame that failed experiment on his inability to fit the necessary pieces together or the Texas administration, he clearly did something right at Louisville and seems to be at it again with the Bulls. Going 10-2 in his first season is impressive and while he was granted an excellent team, his ability to recruit in Florida should prove to pay off with a consistently successful AAC team.
13. Lincoln Riley: Oklahoma
1-year win%: .857 | No. 28 Salary: $4 million
To be fair, it’s hard to gauge Lincoln Riley’s true value as a head coach yet. He was essentially handed-down the best team in the Big 12 with the best quarterback in college football. That being said, Oklahoma won their conference and made it to the playoffs as the first Big 12 representative since the FBS playoffs were created. For how little Oklahoma had to pay Riley compared to what he accomplished in one year, I would say he was well worth his price tag.