College football and basketball coaches are the highest-paid public employees — here are the biggest paydays

Football coach Nick Saban makes more money than any other public employee in Alabama.
Christian Petersen/Getty

  • The highest-paid public employee in most states is a college football or basketball coach, according to a new report from ESPN.
  • The University of Kentucky’s John Calipari is the highest-paid basketball coach — but his salary pales in comparison to football coaches for public colleges.
  • The salaries for the highest-paid public worker in every state range from $246,000 to $11 million.

The highest-paid public employee in your state is probably a college football or basketball coach.

ESPN recently published a report on the highest-paid public employee, which is someone paid by a state, county, or city institution. College athletic coaches dominated the list, often earning many times the salary of the state governor, probably the highest-profile public job.

Eight basketball coaches and 31 football coaches made the list, representing 39 out of 50 states.

Anyone who is not paid by the state — like coaches for private colleges — were excluded from the list, since salary data for a private employee is hard to come by. That means Duke basketball coach Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski and Stanford football coach David Shaw — the highest-earning college coaches in North Carolina and California, respectively — don’t appear on ESPN’s list.

The salaries for the highest-paid public worker in every state range from $246,000 — more than $50,000 above the highest salary for any governor— to $11 million. ESPN points out that nine of the coaches who were the highest-paid in their state in 2017 no longer hold the same job.

Of the 11 non-coaches who were the highest-paid public employee in their state, eight work in education and two are physician (several work at medical schools). Only one woman made the list: Mary D. Nettleman, a medical school dean.

See who the highest-paid public employee of 2017 was in your state and how much they made. For comparison, we included the governor’s salary and the median household income in each state via ESPN.

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