25 Highest Paid College Basketball Coaches in 2024

November 27, 2023

highest paid college basketball coaches

College sports are a big business. And among college athletics, football is by far the most lucrative: college football programs earn an average of $31.9 million per school per year. In fact, college football brings in more money than the next 35 college sports combined. But that’s not to say that the money in college basketball—the next highest-earning NCAA sport—is chump change. College basketball programs earn an average of $8.1 million per school per year. And March Madness is a serious cash cow for the NCAA, as the tournament regularly records revenues upwards of $1 billion. So given the amount of money floating around the sport, it should come as no surprise to learn that the highest-paid college basketball coaches boast some seriously rich salaries—albeit not as rich as their counterparts on the gridiron.

Highest Paid College Basketball Coaches – Some (Important) Preamble

There are a couple of important things to address before we get to contemplating the salaries of this year’s highest-paid college basketball coaches. First, college athletics is a system made possible by unpaid labor. The players—the product that we pay ticket fares and streaming service subscriptions to see—are not paid for their performance. That rule—that college athletes are “amateurs” and therefore not to be compensated for their on-the-field performance—has been enshrined in NCAA policy for decades. In 2021, the NCAA agreed to allow athletes to earn money via endorsement deals, social media advertising, selling autographs, and other ventures that capitalize on their NIL (name, image, and likeness).

But the NCAA hasn’t changed its basic stance of “amateurism”: official policy still bars college athletes from being paid for their labor. And the NIL rule change isn’t as sweeping a reform as you might at first think: only 17% of all Division I athletes even participated in NIL activities, and student-athletes earned a median of just $65 per NIL activity in 2022.

Highest Paid Basketball Coaches (Continued)

There’s also the issue of gender equity. A 2021 study found evidence of “systemic gender inequity issues” within the NCAA. One of those gender inequities came in the form of the unequal monetary investment in marketing the men’s and women’s teams. For example, the NCAA dedicated $2.4 million to signage promoting the men’s NCAA tournament, but only $783,000 to promote the women’s tournament. Despite sold-out crowds, star players’ increasing visibility on social media, and record-breaking viewership for last year’s women’s March Madness, the report found that the NCAA spent just $2,588 for each participant in the women’s tournament, but $4,285 for each participant in the men’s tournament—a difference of $1,697 per athlete.

The disparity in pay can also be seen at the level of coaches. Women’s college basketball coaches make significantly less than men’s college basketball coaches. LSU’s Kim Mulkey, for example, recently signed a contract with an average annual value of over $3 million per year, making her the highest-paid women’s college basketball coach. The highest men’s college coach—John Calipari of Kentucky—makes more than double that.

Highest Paid college basketball Coaches

1) John Calipari – $8.53 million

Coming in at the top of the list of highest paid college basketball coaches is John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats. Coach Cal came on as Kentucky’s head coach back in 2009, and in 2019 he signed a 10-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.6 million per year. That kind of AAV puts Calipari in football coach compensation territory; he’s the highest paid coach in basketball by a margin of more than $2 million.

And it’s not like his tenure in Lexington has been without its accolades. Four Calipari teams have made appearances in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. In 2012, Calipari’s Wildcats, led by future number one NBA draft pick Anthony Davis, beat Kansas to win the NCAA national championship. Calipari’s lifetime win-loss record in college basketball is 794-252, which makes him the 14th winningest college basketball coach of all time.

2) Tom Izzo – $6.2 million

Michigan State University fixture Tom Izzo ranks second on the list of highest paid college basketball coaches. In 2022, he signed his “Spartan for Life” contract extension, a rolling five-year deal with an average annual value of $6.2 million. The specifics of the deal say a lot about Izzo’s MSU legacy: it includes a base salary of $2.43 million, another $3.09 million in supplemental income, $400,000 annually from Nike, and the use of a personal private jet. Plus, whenever he wants to retire, his contract would allow him to transfer into a role as an advisor to the athletics director. Were he to exercise that option, he’d make his full coaching salary of $6.2 million his first year, and three quarters of a million annually from there on out.

Izzo has never recorded a losing season in his 28-year tenure as Michigan State head coach. He’s led the Spartans to eight Final Four appearances, winning it in 2000 and finishing runner-up in 2009.

3) Bill Self – $5.96 million

Bill Self has been the head coach of the University of Kansas basketball squad since 2003. During that time, he’s won 81.8% of his games, led the Jayhawks to three NCAA Final Four appearances, and won the national championship twice—in 2008 and in 2022.

As is common practice when it comes to structuring these multi-year mega deals, Self’s contract is loaded with incentives. If he wins AP Coach of the Year honors, he pockets another $100,000. A $50,000 incentive kicks in for just making the NCAA tournament; that number jumps to $100,000 for a Sweet 16 appearance, $150,000 for a Final Four appearance, and $200,000 for winning the whole thing.

4) Rick Barnes – $5.77 million

Rick Barnes became the University of Tennessee’s head basketball coach in 2015. His first two seasons as skipper weren’t pretty, but in 2018 he led the Volunteers to a 26-9 overall record and a second-round appearance in the NCAA tournament. In 2022, the Volunteers finished top-5 in the final AP poll, an accomplishment that brought Barnes another $400,000 in incentive money.

Another interesting statistical tidbit to mull over as we work our way through the list of highest paid college basketball coaches is the coach’s salary as a percentage of team revenue. The University of Tennessee basketball program, for example, brought in just upwards of $16 million in revenue in 2021. That means that Barnes’ salary accounts for more than a third of total team revenue!

5) Bruce Pearl – $5.65 million

Bruce Pearl’s coaching career began back in 1982, when he was an assistant coach at Stanford University. Since then, he’s had head coaching gigs at Southern Indiana, Milwaukee, Tennessee, and, most recently, Auburn. Last year, he signed a contract extension that’ll make him Auburn’s head coach until 2030. The deal has a base salary of $5.4 million annually, bumping up a quarter of a million dollars each year. That means that in the final year of his deal, he’ll make $7.15 million.

Pearl’s record at Auburn thus far is 186-109. In 2019, the Tigers went on a deep run in the NCAA tournament. They knocked off #4 seed Kansas, #1 seed North Carolina, and #2 seed Kentucky to break into the Final Four for the first team in team history. And in 2022, the Tigers achieved a #1 ranking in the AP Poll for the first time ever.

6) Kelvin Sampson – $5 million

Kelvin Sampson has been the head coach at University of Houston for eight years. Overall, his time there has been overwhelmingly positive. Under Sampson, the Cougars have made five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, and in 2021, they broke into the Final Four. Samson is the only coach in school history to record eight 20-win seasons in a row, and he’s now the second-winningest University of Houston coach of all time.

7) Tony Bennett – $4.8 million

Like so many other of the highest paid college basketball coaches, Tony Bennett is a basketball lifer. Bennett played point guard at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he was a consummate three-point shooter. To this day, Bennett ranks as the NCAA’s all-time leader in 3-point field goal accuracy. In 1992, Bennett entered the NBA draft and was selected by the Charlotte Hornets. For three years, Bennett played backup to point guard Muggsy Bogues. However, an ankle injury ended Bennett’s time in the NBA. His coaching career started later in the decade: in 1999 he became an assistant coach at Wisconsin, and in 2009 he landed the head coaching job at University of Virginia.

Since then, he’s been collecting accolades. Bennett has led the Cavaliers to four 30-win seasons, his teams won ACC tournaments in 2014 and 2018, and in 2019, Virginia won the NCAA tournament championship. Coming off that championship, Bennett signed a contract extension through the 2025-26 season but turned down a pay increase. Instead, he asked for raises for his assistants and increases in funding for other Virginia sports programs.

8) Brad Underwood – $4.2 million

In 2021, the University of Illinois extended men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood through the 2026-27 season. That makes sense, because Underwood has led the Fighting Illini to three NCAA tournament appearances in a row, boasting an overall record in his six-year tenure of 114-79. With his annual compensation rising to $4.5 million in the final year of his deal, he’s sure to remain on the list of highest paid college basketball coaches over the years to come.

9) Mick Cronin – $4.1 million

Mick Cronin has only been stewarding the UCLA Bruins since 2019, but in that time, he’s had the Bruins in serious and consistent contention for the NCAA tournament championship. In 2021, he led the Bruins to their first Final Four berth since 2008. In 2023, they entered the tournament with the No. 2 seed, their highest seeding since 2008. As a result, UCLA locked Cronin into a six-year contract that’ll make him Bruins head coach until 2028.

Highest Paid College Basketball Coaches (Continued)

10) Eric Musselman, Arkansas – $4.1 million

11) Buzz Williams, Texas A&M – $4.1 million

12) Dana Altman, Oregon – $4 million

13) Tommy Lloyd, Arizona – $4 million

14) Kevin Willard, Maryland – $3.9 million

15) Ed Cooley, Providence – $3.75 million

16) Scott Drew, Baylor – $3.7 million

17) Greg Gard, Wisconsin – $3.64 million

18) Juwan Howard, Michigan – $3.61 million

19) Jeff Capel, Pittsburgh – $3.6 million

20) Matt Painter, Purdue – $3.58 million

21) Jamie Dixon, Texas Christian – $3.5 million

22) Andy Enfield, Southern California – $3.5 million

23) Chris Holtmann, Ohio State – $3.5 million

24) Kenny Payne, Louisville – $3.49 million

25) Nate Oats, Alabama – $3.41 million

Highest-Paid College Basketball Coaches – Additional Resources

We hope you enjoy our article on the highest-paid college basketball coaches. You may also find the following blogs to be of interest:

In the upcoming weeks, we will also be covering the following athletic-related topics:

  • Largest College Football Stadiums
  • Best College Football Stadiums
  • Who has the Most College Football Championships?