Big Red Business: An analysis of Scott Frost’s contract
When Nebraska hired Scott Frost to restore the glory to the football program, his salary bar was raised high: $5 million a year over seven years.
Frost’s $35 million contract still looks like to be a notch above the going rate in terms of starting salary compared to the money shelled out over the last two years to other hot names on the coaching carousel, according to a HuskerOnline analysis.
Of the seven newly hired head football coaches in the Power Five conferences in 2019, no one signed for more than Frost’s deal. And only one coach, Rutgers’ Greg Schiano, signed on for more years than Frost. Schiano agreed to an eight-year, $32 million deal to return to the Scarlet Knights.
HuskerOnline reviewed the contract terms of the seven coaches hired to fill vacancies at schools in the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, and the SEC. In addition, at least seven coaching jobs have been filled so far in the Group of Five schools, such as Florida Atlantic, Memphis, and Appalachian State.
To clarify this analysis, Jimbo Fisher also changed jobs at the same time as Frost. But his whopping 10-year, $75 million contract at Texas A&M would break the bank at all but a handful of schools so it is certainly not the norm.
There were two notable raises handed out in the Big Ten after the regular season for Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck and Indiana’s Tom Allen. A year ago, it was Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, who flirted with alma mater’s job opening at Louisville and was rewarded with a new seven-year contract valued at $36.8 million to stay with the Boilermakers. With performance bonuses and other supplemental income, Brohm’s contract averages out at $5.2 million a year, according to news reports.
To round out the money tree, HuskerOnline reviewed the contracts for eight head coaches hired after the 2018 season at the biggest programs among the Power Five schools, including Ohio State, Kansas, Kansas State, Miami, North Carolina, and Colorado. None of those coaches received Frost-like money, nor did any have seven-year deals.
The bottom line: Nebraska opened up the vault for Frost, and is willing to give him time to turn the program around.
Many of the other newly hired head coaches were hired at shorter turnaround cycles and for less money. Some schools, however, bumped up the salary pool for assistants and support staff that goes beyond Nebraska’s standards.
Frost’s two-year record at Nebraska stands at 9 wins, 15 losses and no bowl appearances.
Near the end of 2019’s disappointing five-win, seven-loss season, Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos tacked on two more years to Frost’s contract. The former Nebraska quarterback will now be paid $5 million a year through the 2026 season.
His buyout is $5 million if he leaves by the end of 2024. It drops to $2.5 million in the final two years.
While Frost was arguably the hottest young gun hired after the 2017 season, that distinction in 2019 went to Mike Norvell.
He left Memphis, in the American Athletic Conference, for Florida State, where he’ll earn $4.42 million annually over six years for a total of $26.5 million. He’ll also receive annual retention bonuses of $250,000. That makes him the 23rd highest paid coach, according to USA Today’s salary database last updated before the 2019 season.
Norvell earned $2.6 million a year at Memphis, while Willie Taggert, his predecessor at Florida State, earned $5 million a year.
Taggert lasted two seasons with the Seminoles. After being let go, he was named head coach at Florida Atlantic, where his five-year contract pays him $750,000 in base salary annually.
Among other notable hires after the 2019 season:
*Eliah Drinkwitz, who had one year of head coaching under his belt at powerful Appalachian State, took the Missouri job after Barry Odom was let go. Missouri, whose athletics program has operated in the red the past two seasons and is on NCAA probation, will pay Drinkwitz $24 million over six years. That’s a jump from the $750,000 he earned during his one-year stay at App State, which also marked his first year as a head coach.
Odom, who landed at Arkansas as a defensive coach, earned $3.05 million in his final year in Columbia.
*Sam Pittman will earned $3 million annually over five years at Arkansas.
* Lane Kiffin agreed to a $16.2 million contract over four years at Mississippi, a paycheck that ranks near the bottom in the SEC.
*Jimmy Lake agreed to a five-year contract at Washington, which begins with $3 million in guaranteed compensation. That’s middle-of-the-pack money in the Pac-12. The conference’s highest paid coach is Stanford’s David Shaw, at $4.6 million annually.
*Boston College also made a coaching change after the regular season, with the hiring of former Ohio State defensive coach Jeff Hafley. But his contract terms have not yet been revealed.
Among the coaches hired after the 2018 season, no one matched Frost’s terms.
For example, Mack Brown was hired for his second tour of duty at North Carolina for $3.5 million annually through 2024, while Scott Saterfield left App State for the Louisville job and a $3.25 million annual paycheck for six years. Kansas hired Les Miles for r $2.77 million a year over five years, and Chris Kleiman took the Kansas State job for a six-year, $2.3 million a year contract.
The Big Ten's upper echelon
The Rutgers job was the only one that opened up in the Big Ten after the 2019 season.
Greg Schiano agreed to a second stint at Rutgers for $32 million over eight years, or $4 million a year. That made him the highest-paid head football coach in Rutgers’ history. His predecessor, Chris Ash, was paid $2.3 million annually.
In other off season moves, MInnesota rewarded head coach P.J. Fleck with a seven-year contract extension of $4.6 million a year, up from $3.6 million.
At Indiana, Tom Allen signed a seven-year contract extension worth $3.9 million annually.
Then there’s Ryan Day, who succeeded Urban Meyer at Ohio State at the end of the 2018 season. Day, who guided the Buckeyes to a conference championship and a spot in college football’s final four this year, is currently paid $4.5 million a year for five years.
While the salary bowl is still fluid with incentive payouts for bowl season appearances added in, Frost still ranks in the top half of Big Ten conference coaches in terms of total annual compensation.
According to USA Today’s salary database, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is the highest paid coach in the conference, earning $7.5 million annually. He’s also the third highest-paid coach nationally, behind Clemson’s Dabo Swinney at $9.3 million annually and Nick Saban’s $8.55 million payout at Alabama.
Around the conference, Penn State’s James Franklin earns $5.65 million, followed by Brohm at $5.2 million annually, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald’s $5.14 million payout, and Frost at $5 million.
Nationally, the Big Ten had five coaches among the top 15 highest paid in 2019. Besides Harbaugh, Brohm is No. 8, Franklin is No. 11, Fitzgerald is No. 12, and Frost is 14th.
Steve Rosen writes about the business of sports for HuskerOnline.com. Questions, comments, story ideas? Reach Steve at email@example.com.