Alabama football coach Nick Saban will be paid $11.125 million this season under a three-year contract extension that includes a $4 million signing bonus approved Tuesday by the university board of trustees’ compensation committee.
Altogether, the eight-year deal running through Jan. 31, 2025, is scheduled to pay Saban $65 million, not including incentive bonuses that could total $700,000 each year.
The $11.125 million that Saban is set to receive for this season will be, by far, the greatest amount paid to a college athletics coach since USA TODAY Sports began tracking the compensation of football and men’s basketball coaches in 2006. It also likely makes him one of the nation’s most highly paid public employees — if not the highest-paid.
Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was credited with nearly $9.7 million in total compensation the 2011 calendar year, including bonuses and the value of all perks, according to the school’s federal tax returns, although $775,000 of that amount was deferred compensation that had been reported on prior years’ returns.
Within higher-education, there is perhaps one comparable situation to Saban’s — that of former Yale president Richard Levin. In 2015, when the school released its federal tax return that included pay data for the 2013 calendar year, Levin was listed as having received a total of more than $9.6 million. Just over $8.5 million of that was in the form of a special lump-sum retirement payment after his 20 years in the job ended June 30, 2013.
If Alabama fires Saban without cause, it would owe him a buyout of as much as four years’ worth of his base salary and the “talent fee” that is consideration for various TV/radio and endorsement rights — a total of $26.9 million.
It was the first time the school had altered Saban’s agreement since 2014, when an amendment gave Saban an eight-year contract that pays him just over $6.9 million each season.
At that time the deal made Saban the nation’s highest paid public school football coach. Since then he has been surpassed by Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, who is set to make $7 million this season and $7.5 million for the 2018 season. (Harbaugh made $9 million for the 2016 season, but that was because he drew an extra $2 million deferred compensation payment.)
Among all public school athletic coaches, Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari made just over $7.1 million this past season. He is set to make $7.45 million in 2017-18 and within two years will be making $8.05 million each season.
Saban’s contract annually includes a base salary, the “talent fee” and an annual contract-year completion payment that becomes payable if he is Alabama’s head coach as of the date of its final football game of each contract year, not including any postseason game or games.
In each year of the deal, Saban’s base salary will be $245,000 and his talent fee will be $6.48 million. The contract-year completion payments will vary.
After the 2017 season, when the contract-year completion payment would be $400,000, Saban’s deal is scheduled to pay:
- $7.125 million in 2018, including a $400,000 contract-year completion payment.
- $7.525 million in 2019 and again in 2020, including contract-year completion payments of $800,000.
- $10.325 million in 2021, including a contract-year completion payment of $3.6 million.
- $7.125 million in each of the deal’s final three years, during which each contract-completion payment is scheduled to be $400,000.