College Football's Top 10 Assistants and What They Should Be Paid
With the top head coaches in college football earning a cool $5 million a year, what do the top assistant coaches make?
And given that compensation doesn’t always reflect results, which guys should make more?
In other words, does the salary scheme for assistants reflect that of head coaches, where—according to USA Today—Michigan’s Brady Hoke (7-6) made $4.1 million in 2013, while Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio (13-1) made $1.9 million?
To answer this, we’ve taken 10 of the top assistants in college football and compared their total pay—according to USA Today’s salary database—to that of guys who do the same job at the same level.
Taking things one step further, we’ve used the comparative data to recommend raises and pay cuts for each.
Statistics courtesy of College Football Statistics, unless otherwise noted biographical information courtesy of each coach’s school bio.
Glenn Spencer, DC, Oklahoma State
Total Pay: $462,000
Should Be Paid: $550,000
After coaching the defensive line and linebackers at Oklahoma State from 2008-12, Glenn Spencer got the nod for the coordinator role in 2013.
Spencer played defensive tackle at Georgia Tech and started out as an assistant coach at West Georgia in 1990.
Under Spencer, Oklahoma State ranked No. 19 in scoring this season, allowing only 21.6 points per game in the score-happy Big 12. This was a significant improvement over the 28.2 points per game from 2012 and was enough to earn the Cowboys the No. 1 ranking in the conference.
Spencer may not have the credentials of others on the list, but he was nominated for this year’s Broyles Award and deserves a fatter paycheck.
The top-paid assistant in the Big 12 in 2013 was Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who was making $650,000 before getting sacked in September.
The next highest-paid defensive coordinator in the Big 12 is Oklahoma’s Mike Stoops, also making $650,000.
Based on Spencer’s 2013 defense outgunning Stoops’ in scoring, he’s up for a sizeable pay raise.
Mike Norvell, OC, Arizona State
Total Pay: $702,420
Should Be Paid: $600,000
Mike Norvell has been the offensive coordinator at Arizona State since 2012.
Norvell played receiver at Central Arkansas, where he also got his start in coaching in 2005. He hooked up with coach Todd Graham at Tulsa in 2008, following him from there to Pitt and Arizona State.
Norvell took a Sun Devil offense that averaged 33.2 points per game in 2011 to 38.4 points in 2012 and 39.7 points in 2013. This season’s unit ranked No. 10 in the FBS in points.
The top-earning offensive coordinator in the Pac-12 in 2013 was Cal’s Tony Franklin, who made $550,000. The Golden Bears ranked No. 97 in scoring this season, averaging 23 points per game.
The good news for Norvell is his accomplishments have been recently recognized in the form of cold hard cash.
According to Zach Buchanan of AZCentral, Norvell has been promoted to deputy head coach, including a salary bump of $200,000.
The new salary of $702,420 makes Norvell the second highest-paid Pac-12 assistant after Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who made $800,004 in 2013. Wilcox has moved on to the same role at USC.
Philip Montgomery, OC, Baylor
Total Pay: Not Available
Should Be Paid: $600,000
As the guy who calls the plays for Baylor’s No. 1 scoring offense, Philip Montgomery has been with the Bears since 2008.
Montgomery played at Tarleton State (Texas), where he also got his start in coaching. He has worked with Art Briles on-and-off for 15 years, including stops at Stephenville High School (Texas) and the University of Houston.
He was named the national Offensive Coordinator of the Year in 2011 by Rivals.com and earned the same honors from FootballScoop.com this season. His Bears have ranked in the top five in points each of the last three seasons.
The top-paid offensive coordinator in the Big 12 in 2013 was Texas’ Major Applewhite at $650,000. The Longhorns ranked No. 65 in scoring this season with a considerable advantage over Baylor in talent.
Next up is Oklahoma’s OC Josh Heupel, who pulled in $556,000 with the No. 40-ranked scoring offense.
Montgomery is a guy off most people’s radar, but based on results, he deserves to be one of the top-paid assistants in the Big 12.
Jeremy Pruitt, DC, Florida State
Total Pay: $503,450
Should Be Paid: $675,000
Jeremey Pruitt became the defensive coordinator at Florida State in 2013 after serving as an assistant at Alabama from 2007-12.
Pruitt played defensive back at Middle Tennessee and Alabama before getting his start in coaching as a graduate assistant for the Crimson Tide in 1997.
Pruitt’s only other college coaching experience came as the defensive backs coach at West Alabama in 1999; other than that he’s spent his career at the high school level.
Though Pruitt was handed a full deck at Florida State in 2013, he still managed to lead the ‘Noles to a No. 1 ranking in scoring defense and a national championship.
Despite returning just four starters this season, Florida State’s defense gave up 2.6 fewer points per game and gained five spots in the scoring rankings.
The highest-paid defensive coordinator in the ACC in 2013 was Clemson’s Brent Venables, who made $800,000 leading the 24th-ranked scoring defense.
Next up is Georgia Tech’s Ted Roof, who made $601,000 with the 29th-ranked scoring defense.
While Pruitt shouldn’t make a million dollars in the next couple of years, he will need to be paid more to keep him in Tallahassee.
Derek Mason, DC, Stanford
Total Pay: Not Available
Should Be Paid: $801,000
After spending 2010 as the defensive backs coach for Stanford, Derek Mason was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2011 when David Shaw took over at head coach.
Mason played cornerback at Northern Arizona and got his start in coaching in 1994 at Mesa Community College. He’s had nine stops as a college assistant and also spent two seasons (2007-09) as the defensive backs coach with the Minnesota Vikings.
Mason’s defense at Stanford has never allowed more than 22 points per game and has been ranked in the top 11 in scoring each of the last two seasons.
The top-paid assistant in the Pac-12 for 2013 was Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who made $800,004 before moving on to serve in the same capacity for USC.
Under Wilcox, the Husky defense gave up 24.2 points per game in 2012 and 22.8 in 2013.
Based on time on the job and results, Mason should be making more than $800,000 per year.
Bud Foster, DC, Virginia Tech
Total Pay: $535,785
Should Be Paid: $805,000
Bud Foster has been the defensive coordinator at Virginia Tech since 1995, leading one of the most consistent defenses in the FBS.
Foster played linebacker at Murray State in the late '70s and started as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 1981. Other than six seasons at Murray State, his entire coaching career has been at Virginia Tech.
In the past seven seasons, only twice (2010 and 2012) have the Hokies finished out of the top 11 in scoring defense, finishing as high as No. 3 in 2007.
The highest-paid defensive coordinator in the ACC in 2013 was Clemson’s Brent Venables at $800,000. In two seasons at Clemson, Venables’ defenses haven’t finished better than No. 24 in scoring.
Next up is Georgia Tech’s Ted Roof, who made $601,000 with the No. 29-ranked scoring defense.
It’s criminal that Foster doesn’t earn more money for his loyalty and his consistent ability to pump out top-ranked defenses.
Pat Narduzzi, DC, Michigan State
Total Pay: $558,908
Should Be Paid: $855,000
Pat Narduzzi has been the defensive coordinator at Michigan State since 2007 and served in the same capacity at Cincinnati, Miami (OH) and Rhode Island.
He got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Miami (OH) in 1990 after playing linebacker at Youngstown State and Rhode Island.
Narduzzi’s first Spartan defense ranked No. 56 in scoring, allowing 26.6 points per game. The unit hit the top 10 in 2010 and has never looked back, ranking No. 3 in 2013 and giving up a mere 13.2 points per game.
Narduzzi makes $292,492 less than the top-paid assistant in the Big Ten, Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Michigan’s defense ranked No. 66 in 2013 in scoring, giving up 26.8 points per game.
Narduzzi should be the top-paid assistant in the Big Ten.
Chad Morris, OC, Clemson
Total Pay: $1,309,650
Should Be Paid: $1,000,000
Chad Morris was the highest-paid assistant in college football in 2013.
Morris has been the offensive coordinator at Clemson since 2011, a role he took after serving in the same capacity at Tulsa in 2010.
Other than Tulsa and Clemson, Morris’ coaching experience has all come at the high school level in Texas. He shares a resume item as head coach at Stephenville High School (2004-07) with Art Briles, who coached there from 1988-99.
Morris didn’t play college ball but graduated from Texas A&M.
Clemson’s offense has been ranked in the top 10 in scoring and has eclipsed the 40-point mark each of the last two seasons.
The next highest-paid assistant in the ACC is Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who made an even $800,000.
Morris makes a cool $609,650 more than the next highest-paid offensive coordinator in the FBS, Al Borges from Michigan. He also makes $159,300 more than Alabama’s defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Though Morris’ pay reflects other programs’ interest in his services as a head coach, you can still make a strong argument that based on the scale, he is overpaid.
John Chavis, DC, LSU
Total Pay: $1,116,667
Should Be Paid: $1,350,000
John Chavis has been the defensive coordinator at LSU since 2009, and he is the third highest-paid assistant in the FBS.
Chavis played guard at Tennessee and got started as a graduate assistant at this alma mater in 1979. From there, Chavis has been the DC at Alabama State, Tennessee and LSU.
Since taking over at LSU in 2009, the Tiger defense has dropped out of the top 12 in scoring rankings only once, in 2013 when it finished No. 21.
Highlights include the No. 2-ranked unit in 2011, which gave up only 11.3 points per game.
Though Chavis may not warrant a higher salary than Alabama’s Kirby Smart, he does deserve a bigger paycheck than Clemson’s offensive coordinator, Chad Morris.
Morris makes $192,983 more than “the Chief.”
Kirby Smart, DC, Alabama
Total Pay: $1,150,350
Should Be Paid: $1,375,000
Kirby Smart was the second highest-paid assistant coach in the FBS in 2013.
He has been the defensive coordinator at Alabama since 2008 and in all has had six stops as an assistant at the college level. Smart spent a single season (2006) in the NFL as the safeties coach under Nick Saban at Miami.
Smart played defensive back at Georgia and kicked off his coaching career at his alma mater in 1999.
Alabama has been ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense each of Smart’s six seasons as the DC and has been a top-five unit since 2009.
Smart’s pay in 2013 came in at $159,300 less than FBS-leader Chad Morris, the offensive coordinator at Clemson.
He deserves to be the top-paid assistant in college football.