Most Underpaid Coaches in College Football
College football coaches are often paid handsomely, but several program leaders deserve a salary bump.
With the help of USA Today's salary database, we've identified a collection of coaches whose accomplishments merit recognition—and maybe an amendment to their contracts.
The list looks specifically at head coaches, not assistants. Plus, everything is relative, so conference affiliations are considered. A non-power conference can't be expected to match SEC salaries.
While future agreements may bring raises—like those Dabo Swinney (Clemson), Tom Herman (Houston), Ken Niumatalolo (Navy), Larry Fedora (North Carolina) and Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) recently received—for the following coaches, right now, they're underpaid.
Terry Bowden, Akron
Four years ago, Akron was the laughingstock of the Mid-American Conference. The 2012 season marked the third straight 1-11 record.
But then, the Terry Bowden reclamation project hit phase two.
The Zips posted consecutive 5-7 campaigns before registering an 8-5 mark last year. Akron claimed its first bowl victory in program history while Bowden earned $406,000—the seventh-lowest listed total for Football Bowl Subdivision coaches.
Bowden's club may compete for a MAC East Division title in 2016, though it'll need to knock off the next guy in the process.
Frank Solich, Ohio
Frank Solich didn't enter a dreadful situation at Ohio like Bowden at Akron, but it still wasn't great. The Bobcats had mustered only 11 wins during the previous four campaigns.
After a 4-7 debut, Solich guided the program to nine victories—the second-highest single-season total in school history—and its first bowl appearance in 38 years.
Since then, Ohio has notched at least six wins during eight of nine seasons and claimed a couple of postseason triumphs.
The 71-year-old Solich—whose $564,260 total compensation ranked 96th nationally—has won 80 games since taking over the Bobcats program.
Matt Wells, Utah State
Utah State hasn't dropped off the Mountain West radar since Matt Wells replaced Gary Andersen in 2013. Last season, the program reached its fifth straight bowl game.
Yes, the Aggies were 6-7 in 2015, but they battled key injuries while dealing with a tough schedule. Wells' crew fell to Pac-12 foes Utah and Washington and dropped a trio of one-possession games.
More importantly, Utah State had a pair of players (Nick Vigil and Kyler Fackrell) drafted in the third round or sooner for the first time in 48 years. That exposure is invaluable for a "Group of Five" program.
Wells' $752,900 total compensation checks in at No. 8 in the Mountain West and 84th nationally.
Doc Holliday, Marshall
Doc Holliday's tenure wasn't an immediate success. Marshall managed five, seven and five wins from 2010-12 before going 10-4 in 2013 and 13-1 the following year.
But the 2015 season is arguably equally as impressive as the 2014 finish. Despite losing record-smasher Rakeem Cato, the Thundering Herd went 10-3, mostly with a true-freshman quarterback.
Holliday has signed four straight No. 1 classes in Conference USA (per the 247Sports composite rankings) and earned four consecutive postseason victories.
The future is bright in Huntington, West Virginia, and Holliday should see a steady rise from his $758,250 compensation.
David Cutcliffe, Duke
After Steve Spurrier left Duke in 1989, the football program suffered. During the next 18 years, the Blue Devils had one winning season compared to four winless campaigns.
David Cutcliffe has reversed the trend dramatically.
He needed four years to revamp the roster, reached a bowl game in 2012 and claimed the ACC Coastal Division in 2013. Entering the upcoming season, Duke is riding a program-best stretch of three straight years of eight-plus wins.
Cutcliffe has lifted Duke out of the ACC cellar and sustained the success. His $2.05 million salary—which was 10th in the conference—doing the same would be a well-deserved reward.
David Shaw, Stanford
According to the USA Today database, 46 coaches earned more than David Shaw. Only a handful has achieved more, however.
He took over after Jim Harbaugh moved to the NFL and has guided Stanford to four 11-win campaigns in five tries (12 wins in 2012 and '15). Shaw is 54-14 overall and boasts three Pac-12 titles and two Rose Bowl victories.
Nevertheless, Shaw is listed at $2.2 million. That ranks ninth in the conference, behind Andersen (Oregon State), Todd Graham (Arizona State) and Rich Rodriguez (Arizona).
Shaw has consistently helped the Cardinal stand atop the Pac-12. It's reasonable to suggest his total compensation matches that.
Gary Patterson, TCU
Football success typically drives an athletic program. The school had enjoyed a few seasons of previous success, but Patterson's promotion to head coach marked a swift improvement in performance.
He oversaw the transition from the WAC to Conference USA, the move to the Mountain West and the switch to the Big 12. During Patterson's 15 years, TCU has 10 double-digit-win seasons, nine bowl victories and just two years with losing records.
Without Patterson, the school's slice of the money pie would be considerably less than the projected $30.4 million. He was worth every penny of the $3.9 million—and much, much more.