Ohio State’s Urban Meyer will make $7.6 million this season after receiving raise


SportsPulse: USA TODAY’s Steve Berkowitz says that if there’s one key takeaway from this year’s College Football Coaches Compensation Survey, it’s that the price tag for NCAAF head coaches keep going up.

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer will be paid $7.6 million for the 2018 season under a two-year contract extension approved Thursday by a committee of the university’s governing board.

Meyer’s pay would make him the nation’s highest-paid public-school football coach in 2018, based on documents collected and analyzed by USA TODAY Sports.

The deal, subject to approval by the full board at its meeting Friday, will give Meyer a $1.2 million raise over what he made for the 2017 season, according to a news release from the school. The school did not make public the actual contract document.

The extension means that Meyer’s deal with Ohio State now runs through the 2022 season.

Under Meyer’s previous terms, the largest components of his compensation package had to be raised by at least 6% each year — although the board increased those components by 8% last year. That meant he was set to make a minimum of nearly $6.8 million for the 2018 season.

“I want to thank President Michael V. Drake for his guidance and the Board of Trustees for its work in considering this extension,” Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said in a statement. “I think everyone will agree that we have one of the finest coaches and mentors in Urban Meyer leading our football program.”

DATABASE: College football coaches salaries

MORE: Ohio State raises pay for assistant coaches

There are two incumbent public-school coaches whose existing contracts already called for them to make at least $7 million for the upcoming season — Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($7.5 million) and Alabama’s Nick Saban ($7.125 million).

Harbaugh’s figure is based on a 10% increase in his base salary and pay for ancillary activities. Saban’s is based on his currently annual pay for this season, which is unchanged from the amount he received last year, when he also got a $4 million one-time signing bonus connected to a contract extension.

Texas AM and its new coach, Jimbo Fisher, have agreed on a 10-year deal worth $75 million that lured him from Florida State, according to announcement in December by AM. But the contract has not been released, so Fisher’s pay for this season is not yet publicly known.

In February, Smith appeared to criticize Texas AM’s deal with Fisher and Alabama’s decision to give Saban the $4 million bonus.

“I don’t even put Texas AM in our sphere because I’m considering Urban [Meyer]’s situation with three years left on his contract,” Smith said during an Ohio State Board of Trustees’ Talent and Compensation Committee meeting that was reported on by the school’s student newspaper, The Lantern. “Talking with [Susan Basso, vice president of human resources] and [Joanna McGoldrick, associate vice president of total rewards], that’s not even someone that we’re comparing with because it’s so ridiculous.

“It’s the same way with Alabama and their total salary. Take it off the sheet because it doesn’t matter. Because it’s just no value to it. It’s a reactionary type of management.”

Three other public-school coaches are scheduled to make more than $6 million for the 2018 season: Auburn’s Gus Malzahn ($6.7 million under a restructured contract disclosed in February), Clemson’s Dabo Swinney ($6.2 million under a deal made last summer) and Florida’s Dan Mullen ($6.07 million from an agreement that pulled him away from Mississippi State after last season).

Swinney had more than $8.5 million in pay last season, an amount that included a $1.5 million one-time signing bonus for a contract extension and an additional one-time amount of $1 million connected to a form of deferred pay. 

A wild card in all of this is Georgia’s arrangement with Kirby Smart. He led the Bulldogs to the Southeastern Conference title and the College Football Playoff championship game last season, which was the second year of a six-year contract that calls for him to make $3.75 million each year. He added $1.35 million in bonuses to that amount last season, but it will be no surprise if he and the school re-negotiate their agreement.

Ohio State had a 12-2 overall record this past season, winning the Big Ten Conference championship, falling just short of being selected to play in the CFP semifinals and then winning the Cotton Bowl. That gave Meyer a 73-8 record in six seasons with the Buckeyes, including a 46-3 mark in Big Ten play and the 2014 CFP national title. He has a 177-31 career record, with three national championships.  

Ohio State’s move with Meyer comes a little less than two months after the school announced dramatically increased compensation for its football assistant coaches. Two Buckeyes assistants are scheduled to make at least $1 million for the 2018 season, four at least $800,000 — and the 10-man staff is set to make a combined total of $7.06 million.

Ohio State paid its nine-man staff $4.485 million in 2017. (An NCAA rules change has allowed schools to add a 10th full-time, on-field assistant, beginning in January.) Through the 2017 season, the school never had paid an assistant coach more than $750,000 in annual base salary, according to data collected by USA TODAY Sports that dates from the 2009.

With one of the nation’s largest football stadiums, enthusiastic fans and national brand name, Ohio State’s athletics program consistently has been among the NCAA’s top five in annual operating revenue. But, like other Big Ten schools, it is getting an extra boost this school year from the conference’s new television agreements. The money from those deals, among other revenues, are shared equally among the conference’s longest-standing 12 members (Maryland and Rutgers, which each joined in 2014, receive smaller amounts.)  

Citing a document from the University of Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reported in June that it was projecting revenue from the Big Ten of $51.1 million for the 2018 fiscal year, up from $36.3 million for 2017. That document attributed most of the increase for 2018 to the new TV deals.