Ranking Big Ten football coaching salaries for 2021

·6 min read

It goes without saying that being a head coach in the Big Ten is a financially rewarding gig if you can get it. With the financial resources available to schools around the Big Ten, the coaches receive some big paydays even for a mediocre job. Every year, USA TODAY updates its database of coaching salaries so fans can see just how much many coaches around the country are being paid, which inevitably leads to debates over which coaches are overpaid and which deserve more?

And then there are the coaches who do not see their salary terms made public. Well, for the most part, that is. Not every school, including Penn State, has decided to make all of the financial details with their head football coach available for public consumption. But that won’t stop us from ranking the Big Ten’s coaching salaries based on what we do know.

So here is a ranking of Big Ten coaching salaries based solely on what the school is scheduled to pay their head coach in 2021. Note that these figures do not take into account any payment reductions as a result of restructuring during a pandemic.

Ryan Day, Ohio State

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $6,750,000

Ohio State is getting what they are paying for in Ryan Day. Day has continued on the Big Ten supremacy left behind by Urban Meyer and is coming off an appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship last season.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $5,748,179

Still one of the best coaches in the game, Pat Fitzgerald has taken Northwestern to the Big Ten championship game two out of the last three seasons. The 2021 season may not be going well, but there is little question Fitzgerald is earning every dollar in Evanston.

Mel Tucker, Michigan State

Syndicated: Detroit Free Press

Scheduled to be paid: $5,632,553

Michigan State had to overpay for Mel Tucker to get him to leave Colorado, and the first half of the 2021 season seems to have been worth it. Tucker had some rebuilding to do, but the Spartans appear to be heading in a competitive direction in the coming years with Tucker.

James Franklin, Penn State

AP Photo/Morry Gash

Scheduled to be paid: $5,500,000

Penn State did not report information to USA TODAY Sports, so we could be going off outdated information at this point. But in 2020, Penn State released some terms of Franklin’s contract, which included a guaranteed pay of $5.5 million in 2021. For now, we’ll go off that data for the purposes of completing this ranking.

Scott Frost, Nebraska

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $5,000,000

Nebraska has yet to play in a bowl game under their prodigal son, but it looks like Nebraska is strapped in on the Scott Frost experience until the end. With a massive buyout, Nebraska has no choice but to see if Frost can revive this once-proud program to being a regular contender in the Big Ten.

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Joseph Cress-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $5,000,000

The longest-tenured head coach in the Big Ten continues to do his thing in Iowa City. Ferentz may never be the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten, but Iowa has felt he has been worth every penny through his tenure. It could lead to another Big Ten title shot in 2021, and a possible spot in a New Years Six bowl game is within sight at the very least.

P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $4,420,000

PJ Fleck has brought a bit of an optimistic spark to Minnesota, a school that continues to invest more in football. But Fleck hasn’t quite been able to keep the magic running consistently for the Gophers. Injuries have derailed some of Minnesota’s plans in 2021 but Minnesota is all in on the PJ Fleck experience.

Jeff Brohm, Purdue

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $4,417,774

Purdue has never historically ponied up for a football coach, and Jeff Brohm may be the last time it happens for some time. Purdue bulked up Brohm’s contract after a good season saw his name pop up as a hot coaching carousel name to follow. Purdue did what it needed to do to lock him up, but the results have yet to live up to the hype.

Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $4,362,750

Wisconsin may be having some struggles in 2021, but Paul Chryst may be one of the most underappreciated coaches in the Big Ten. Wisconsin has been one of the more consistent programs in the Big Ten under Chryst’s watch with a few Big Ten championship game appearances (but no rings to show for it yet).

Tom Allen, Indiana

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $4,260,000

Tom Allen guided Indiana to one of its best football seasons ever in 2020, although success has been tough to duplicate in the win column midway through the 2021 season. Regardless, it is clear Indiana has been in good hands with Allen, whom Indiana has managed to keep happy in Bloomington with his contract rather than test the waters elsewhere.

Bret Bielema, Illinois

Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $4,200,000

Bret Bielema made his return to the Big Ten with the Illini in 2021, with Illinois prepared to pay Bielema well to do so with a massive rebuilding project on his hands. Bielema has a long way to go, but the Illini are hopeful the investment will pay off in the form of a regular Big Ten West contender.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $4,030,901

Michigan restricted a number of athletics contracts as a result of budget adjustments related to the pandemic, and Harbaugh was no exception to the cuts. Harbaugh took a 10% pay. In 2021, Harbaugh once again has Michigan in the top 10 and thinking about making a run at Ohio State for the Big Ten East Division crown.

Greg Schiano, Rutgers

Syndicated by Wilmington News Journal

Scheduled to be paid: $4,000,000

Rutgers loves Greg Schiano, which is why they may have paid more for him to return than any other school might have wanted to pay Schiano to be their head coach. But Schiano is Rutgers football, so it sort of made sense. Although Schiano has plenty of rebuilding to do with the program his second time around, signs of progress are evident and Schiano is a fan-favorite for many Scarlet Knight faithful.

Mike Locksley, Maryland

Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduled to be paid: $2,538,100

The lowest-paid coach in the Big Ten being Mike Locksley is no surprise. Maryland has been a university athletics department that joined the Big Ten to get a significantly more profitable paycheck form its conference, and that has led to the Terps structing their contracts a bit more scaled back compared to others. We’ll see how this could potentially change once Maryland (and Rutgers) begin getting full shares of Big Ten revenue

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