In the SEC, it's the norm to throw money at coaches. According to USA Today research, there were nine college football head coaches making $3 million or more last season. Five resided in the SEC.
The bank trucks literally park outside the homes of Nick Saban and Les Miles. Saban received a raise and contract extension worth $5.62 million a year in May. He's set to receive $5.32 million in 2012, with a $50,000 raise next year and then $100,000 annually.
Miles is sitting second in the conference with a salary of a little more than $3.8 million.
But those coaches have brought SEC and national titles to their respective schools. Hauling in the big bucks is no surprise for coaches who have consistently won in college football's toughest conference. Saban has averaged 11 wins a year during his five seasons at Alabama, while Miles has averaged 10.7 wins during his seven seasons with the Tigers.
So who are the bargain gets in the SEC? While it could be tough to consider some coaches in the conference "bargains" because of the high salaries (Florida coach Will Muschamp makes $3.22 million and he only has been in the league a year), there are a few who have done a little more than their salary has implied.
Immediately you look at South Carolina's Steve Spurrier. Now Spurrier did get a significant raise this year, thrusting him into the $3 million club after his contract went up to $3.3 million per year through the 2015 season. He even had his contract bonus enhanced late last month. Before his raise, Spurrier wasn't very high on the SEC salary totem pole.
He was set to make a little more than $2.8 million in 2012, then $2.95 million in 2013, 2014 and 2015. That's much higher than the $1.25 million he came in making in 2005.
But this certainly has been a bargain for South Carolina. Spurrier has truly revitalized the program, making the Gamecocks serious contenders in the SEC East. A program that averaged just four wins a year during its first eight years in the SEC then struggled with inconsistency during the five years before Spurrier's arrival is now a team that could be playing in the program's second SEC championship game. The first came under Spurrier's watch in 2010.
Spurrier is 55-35 in his seven seasons at South Carolina, and with 10 wins this season he will pass Rex Enright as the Gamecocks’ all-time winningest coach.
Spurrier has picked this program up and made it respectable, and he's done so by keeping some of the top in-state talent for himself. Alshon Jeffery and Stephon Gilmore came in 2009. Now Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney and Shaq Roland are on the roster.
In only a short time, Spurrier has resurrected this South Carolina program and put the Gamecocks on the national map, and he did it for cheap. His raise was more than just well-deserved.
Here are a few more bargain-priced SEC coaches:
Mark Richt, Georgia: Richt, who is set to make $2.9 million this year, is the longest-tenured coach in the SEC (11 years). In that time, he has compiled a 106-38 record, had seven seasons with 10 or more wins, is 2-2 in SEC championship games and 2-1 in BCS bowls. He currently has the Dawgs poised to compete for a second straight SEC East crown.
Gene Chizik, Auburn: While Chizik is third on the SEC salary list at $3.5 million a year, he's still considered a bargain after what he's done in just three seasons. He has a national championship squeezed between two eight-win seasons and a Heisman Trophy winner. He's done a great job recruiting in his three years and should have another impressive class in 2013.
Gary Pinkel, Missouri: According to USA Today, Pinkel's salary is at $2.7 million a year, but he has done so much for this Missouri program. He enters his 12th year at Missouri with an 85-54 record that includes six straight seasons with eight or more wins. Before Pinkel arrived in 2001, Missouri had been to just two bowl games since 1983. He's now taking his rather deep Tigers team into its first season in the SEC and should contend in the East.