How college coaches dominate state budgets: By the numbers

The Week

The odds are pretty good that the highest-paid employee in your state is a football coach — or some kind of sports coach

When people think of (and sometimes criticize) the pay earned by public employees, they don't usually think of college football coaches. But it's "a gross mischaracterization" that the football coach is the highest-paid employee in every state, says Reuben Fischer-Baum at Deadspin. "Sometimes it is the basketball coach."

Fischer-Baum combed through media reports and public records to find which state employee draws the biggest salary in each state. It's a real eye-opener. (See his infographic below.) The coaches probably aren't sucking up your tax dollars, Fischer-Baum notes, since most are paid out of the revenues their teams earn through ticket sales, licensing deals, and TV contracts. But most state college athletic departments actually would be heavily in the red if not for "student fees" and other "university subsidies."

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Besides, Fischer-Baum adds, it's not like coaches generate all that revenue on their own. If you think coaches earn their seven-figure salaries, "you could make the exact same case for the student-athletes who actually play the game and score the points and fracture their legs." Also keep in mind that it's not all coaches, says Daniel Luzer at Washington Monthly. "No matter what state you hail from," your highest paid public employee works at a public university, Luzer notes. "Remember this the next time public colleges cry poverty as an excuse to hike tuition. There's certainly money somewhere...."

Without further ado, here's a by-the-numbers look at who's earning the top dollar in our 50 states (and who isn't):

27
States where a football coach is the highest-paid public employee

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13
States where a basketball coach is the highest-paid public employee — there's one overlap, Wisconsin, where the basketball and football coach are both the highest-paid

1
State (New Hampshire) where a hockey coach is the highest-paid public employee

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4
States where a college president is the top-paid public employee

5
States where someone in the medical school (3 deans, 1 chancellor, and 1 plastic surgeon) is the highest-paid public employee

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1
State (Maine) where the law school dean is the top-paid public employee

$5.2 million
2013 compensation (excluding bonuses) of Mack Brown, the University of Texas football coach (2012-13 record: 9-4)

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$150,000
Salary of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)

$5.4 million
2013 compensation (with bonuses) of John Calipari, the University of Kentucky basketball coach (2012-13 record: 21-12)

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$151,643
Salary of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D)

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(Deadspin)

Sources: Ballotpedia (2), Deadspin, USA Today (2), Washington Monthly

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