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#pounditSunday, November 27, 2022

15 college football coaches outperforming their 2017 salaries

Brian Kelly

Sometimes, schools are fortunate enough to hire the perfect coach for their program — a figure who can take them to new heights and make them among the most successful in the nation. If they’re really lucky, they can get the coach to sign a pretty good deal — turning them into a national power for below market value.

Here is a list of 15 college football coaches who have earned their salary — and then some — in 2017.

Scott Frost, UCF ($2 million)

Frankly, it’s only a matter of time before Frost gets his big payday. For now, he’ll have to take solace in the fact that he has UCF unbeaten and climbing into the top 15. The quality of their opposition has been limited, but the Knights have handed Memphis the only loss they’ve suffered all season. An unbeaten campaign for the Knights is well within their each. No wonder at least one power conference team — and probably more — are eyeing up Frost for a bigger job.

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame ($1.6 million)

There were rumors that Kelly’s job wasn’t secure at this time a year ago, but those have certainly subsided. Notre Dame’s blowout loss to Miami hurt, and it more or less ended their College Football Playoff hopes, but the fact that those hopes existed in the first place is a credit to Kelly. The Irish are still in the top ten, and deservedly so. Kelly comes he’s surprisingly cheap for the Irish, working at a comparatively paltry $1.6 million compared to his big-name counterparts, though it’s uncertain if he earns additional money from other endorsement-type deals.

Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma ($2.1 million)

Riley inherited a very strong team after Bob Stoops abruptly retired in June, but it’s still not easy to walk in as a first-year head coach and maneuver your team into College Football Playoff contention. That’s exactly what Riley has done. The Sooners sit at 9-1 with their Playoff future likely in their own hands. Riley deserves a lot of credit for taking on a task that couldn’t be easy and passing the test with flying colors.

Matt Campbell, Iowa State ($2.1 million)

Campbell’s Cyclones are a modest 6-4, but they’ve been a giant thorn in the side of the Big 12’s major contenders all season long. First they went to Oklahoma and handed the Sooners their only defeat of the season. Three weeks later, they beat then-ranked No. 4 TCU. They had every chance of making it three of three against the cream of the crop, with only a controversial call preventing them from taking Oklahoma State to overtime with every chance of winning. Keep in mind that Iowa State was 3-9 last season in Campbell’s first season on the job.

Mike Leach, Washington State ($3 million)

With a win over in-state rival Washington next weekend, Leach can take the Cougars to the Pac-12 championship game. Even if that doesn’t happen, they’ve already enjoyed an impressive season and beaten both USC and Stanford. If not for a pair of disappointing losses, they could even be in the playoff conversation. Leach only barely makes the top 40 in terms of salary, but the results have been, on the whole, very good. It’s been 15 years since Washington State was this relevant nationally.

Paul Chryst, Wisconsin ($3.2 million)

Bret Bielema and Gary Andersen both turned their successes at Wisconsin into other jobs elsewhere, and it hasn’t gone well for either of them. Chryst, meanwhile, is on the verge of taking the Badgers to heights they haven’t achieved in a decade, if not longer. He has Wisconsin sitting pretty at 10-0, already having clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game and in full control of their College Football Playoff destiny. They haven’t received their toughest tests yet. Michigan looms, and if Ohio State wins out, they’ll be the foe in the conference championship. But for a salary barely in the top 40 of NCAA coaches, Chryst is giving Wisconsin all the bang for their buck they could ask for.

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State ($4.4 million)

A year ago, people were questioning whether Dantonio had lost his magic. The Spartans were 3-9, had fallen far behind Michigan, and appeared to be in their most chaotic place since the coach took over a decade ago. Now, the fact that Dantonio still has the Spartans in the hunt for a Big Ten title is nothing short of a miracle. They beat Michigan and Penn State, and while a blowout by Ohio State demonstrated just how far they still have to go, the fact that they were able to play that game in November for control of their own Big Ten destiny is remarkable.

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