Bill Self
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Who Is the Highest-Paid Public Employee in Your State?

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Bill Self
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Your Tax Dollars at Work

In the vast majority of America, the highest-paid public employee in the state is not the governor or a Supreme Court justice, but a college coach. Football coaches at public schools top the list, but basketball coaches are cashing in big-time, as well. In a handful of cases, medical professionals, university administrators, or other positions command the biggest bucks, but if you want to get rich on the public dime, the safest bet is to learn your Xs and Os. It's worth noting that out of 50 states, 48 of the highest-paid positions are held by men.

Related: 19 Biggest Wastes of Tax Dollars

Nick Saban
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Alabama: Nick Saban

Annual salary: $9.1 million
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban was long the highest-paid college football coach not only in Alabama, but in the entire country. This year, however, he comes in at No. 2 thanks to a pay raise earned by Clemson's Dabo Swinney. In 2018, Saban signed a new deal that pays him handsomely through 2025. His original salary was $7.5 million, but that grows by $400,000 every year and he gets an $800,000 signing incentive every year through 2021 for a total of $9.1 million in 2020.

Juneau, AK
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Alaska: Angela M. Rodell

Annual salary: $371,475
Jim Johnsen, the president of the University of Alaska statewide system, was the highest-paid employee in the state. He was earning a little less than $385,000 — but he resigned July 1, and it's unclear who his replacement will be or how much that person will be paid. According to Open the Books, that passes the title to Alaska Department of Revenue Executive Director Angela M. Rodell, one of the rare women on the list.

Sean Miller
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Eric Musselman
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Arkansas: Eric Musselman

Annual salary: $2.5 million
Head basketball coach Chad Morris was the highest-paid public employee in Arkansas, but he was fired after just 22 games in 2019 when he led the University of Arkansas to a miserable 4-18 start. Eric Musselman left Nevada to take his place and signed a $12.5 million, five-year contract that comes with all kinds of big bonus opportunities, including perks ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 depending on if the Razorbacks make it to the tournament and how far they go.

Chip Kelley
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California: Chip Kelley

Annual salary: $3.5 million
UCLA head football coach Chip Kelley signed a five-year, $23.3 million deal that pays him a base salary of $300,000 per year for all five years. The real money, however, comes from the yearly "talent fee" he earns for showing his face at booster gatherings, media events, and university events. The first-year talent fee was $3 million, which rose to $3.2 million this year and continues up to $4.3 million by the time his contract expires.

Karl Dorrell
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Colorado: Karl Dorrell

Annual salary: $3.2 million
Mike MacIntyre had been the top-paid employee in Colorado until he lost his job as the head football coach at the University of Colorado Boulder. At the end of February, the school announced his replacement would be Karl Dorrell, who signed a five-year, $18 million contract that starts out at $3.2 million a year, grows by $200,000 annually, and tops out at $4 million.

Randy Edsall
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Connecticut: Randy Edsall

Annual salary: $1.1 million
University of Connecticut head football coach Randy Edsall signed a five-year, $5.5 million contract in 2017 that runs through 2021. It guarantees him $1.1 million per year, but comes with the opportunity to earn hundreds of thousands more in bonuses for things like winning titles. It also pays him a combined $500,000 in retention bonuses — $300,000 in 2019 and $200,000 in 2021.

Stanton Campus
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Dan Mullen
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Florida: Dan Mullen

Annual salary: $6.1 million
In 2017, University of Florida head football coach Dan Mullen signed a contract that pays him $6.1 million a year for six years. Not only does the deal make him the highest-paid public employee in Florida, but it makes him the No. 5 top-earning coach in all of college football — ever more than Jimbo Fisher of rival Florida State, who will earn $5.7 million.

Kirby Smart
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Georgia: Kirby Smart

Annual salary: $6.3 million
In 2018, the University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart signed a deal that pays him $500,000 a year — technically. His contract also includes giant sums of cash, which get bigger every year, in the form of "media compensation" and "equipment compensation" — oh, and he also gets sweet perks including a private jet.

Hawaii
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Hawaii: Jay Boughanem

Annual salary: $634,000
Hawaii is one of the rare states where it's traditional for the top job to go to a medical professional. Jay Boughanem, staff surgeon for Hawaii Health Services, is now and has for several years been the highest-paid employee in the state by far. 

Bryan Harsin
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Idaho: Bryan Harsin

Annual salary: $1.7 million
Idaho's open records site lists Boise State head football coach Bryan Harsin's salary at a hair above $1.65 million on a contract that apparently fluctuates slightly year to year. In 2017 he was paid $1.4 million as part of his seven-year, $9.75 million contract, which averages out to just shy of $1.4 million per year.

Lovie Smith
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Illinois: Lovie Smith

Annual salary: $4 million
Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith has had an abysmal run with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Even so, the school opted to extend his contract for several years. In the end, it was cheaper to keep him. His previous contract included a massive $12 million buyout clause, so the Illini opted to continue paying him his $4 million salary — but the renegotiation has a big and predictive caveat. It lowers Smith's buyout to $1 million in 2021.

Jeff Brohm
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Indiana: Jeff Brohm

Annual salary: $5.3 million
Purdue University head football coach Jeff Brohm recently got a raise as his salary increased to $4.8 million a year from $4.2 million starting in 2019. Since a signing bonus is spread out over the first two years of the seven-year deal, however, Brohm's salary spikes to $5.3 million, which makes him one of the 10 highest-paid coaches in college football.

Related: Why Billionaires Pay Less Tax Than You

Kirk Ferentz
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Iowa: Kirk Ferentz

Annual salary: $4.1 million
More often than not, University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz has earned more than double the salary of the next-highest-earning public employee since at least 2009. His salary was $4.8 million per year, but COVID-related budget cuts forced him and other top university brass to agree to a one-year pay cut of 15%. That takes his salary down to more than enough to retain his title of top dog in Iowa.

Bill Self
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Kansas: Bill Self

Annual salary: $3.6 million
Longtime University of Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self also agreed to a pay cut in the midst of pandemic-related financial woes. He'll forfeit 10% of his $4 million salary in 2020 — or $400,000 — which brings him down but still allows him to retain his status as Kansas' highest-paid employee.

John Calipari
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Kentucky: John Calipari

Annual salary: $8.2 million
A Hall of Famer and NCAA Championship winner, John Calipari is the longtime basketball coach for the University of Kentucky — a job that commands more than any other in the state paid with public dollars.

Ed Orgeron
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Louisiana: Ed Orgeron

Annual salary: $8.7 million
The  No. 2 highest-paid college football coach this year behind only Alabama's Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron is the head of the mighty LSU football program. His massive salary is part of a $42 million contract extension he signed in February, which includes a $6 million base salary and a $5 million split-dollar life insurance policy in the contract's first two years.

Related: The Most Expensive Home for Sale in Every State

University of Maine
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Maine: Joan Ferrini-Mundy

Annual salary: $350,000
One of the rare women on the list is Joan Ferrini-Mundy, the president of the University of Maine. Her pay — as of 2018, the last year for which data is available — is 523% higher than the university's average salary and 653% higher than the median.

Related: 11 Careers Where Women Are Paid More than Men

Mark Turgeon
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Maryland: Mark Turgeon

Annual salary: $3 million
Maryland, like so many other states, maintains a grossly disproportionate gender gap in terms of high-level public salaries — 47 of the state's 50 highest-paid positions are held by men. One of those is Mark Turgeon, head basketball coach for the University of Maryland, College Park. Turgeon earns $3 million annually after extending his contract in 2016 through the 2022-2023 season. He was hired in 2011.

University of Massachusetts
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Massachusetts: Michael Collins

Annual salary: $1.1 million
Michael Collins has been the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School since 2008. His salary is slightly higher — by a couple hundred thousand — than that of the state's No. 2 top public employee, Terence Flotte, the provost and executive deputy chancellor of UMass Medical School and dean of the School of Medicine.


Jim Harbaugh
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Michigan: Jim Harbaugh

Annual salary: $7.5 million
Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh is one of college football's highest-paid coaches, in the top three with Alabama's Saban and Clemson's Swinney until LSU's Ed Orgeron recently bumped him out.

P.J. Fleck
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Minnesota: P.J. Fleck

Annual salary: $4.6 million
Head football coach P.J. Fleck is riding out the biggest contract in the history of the University of Minnesota athletics. In 2019, he agreed to a  seven-year, $33.3 million contract that paid him $3.6 million that year and $4.6 million in 2020. That increase puts him in the upper half of the list of the highest-paid coaches in the Big Ten.


Lane Kiffin
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Mississippi: Lane Kiffin

Related: $3.9 million
When Matt Luke was the head football coach at Ole Miss, his $3 million salary was big enough to make him the state's highest-paid public employee, but he lost his job to Lane Kiffin. Kiffin  signed a $16.2 million, four-year contract that pays him even more — $3.9 million in 2020, which increases by $100,000 a year until he tops out at $4.2 million in 2023.


Cuonzo Martin
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Missouri: Cuonzo Martin

Annual salary: $2.9 million
In 2017, Missouri Tigers head basketball coach Cuonzo Martin signed a seven-year contract that was richer than that of any coach in the history of Mizzou athletics except for one — retired football coach Gary Pinkel earned $4 million in 2015. The 2020 portion for Martin's graduated contract pays him a base salary of $300,000 plus $2.6 million in supplemental pay. He averages $3 million a year (plus a whole bunch of impressive perks) over the course of the contract.

Related: 11 Places Where the Rich Hide Money From the IRS

Montana State Fund
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Montana: Laurence Hubbard

Annual salary: $342,308
Laurence Hubbard is the longtime president and CEO of the Montana State Fund. His salary, which is 881% higher than the average salary, makes him the state's top-paid employee.

Scott Frost
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Nebraska: Scott Frost

Annual salary: $5 million
Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach Scott Frost is among the sport's elite coaches who earn at least $5 million a year. He has committed to giving back some of his salary due to the pandemic, although it's unclear how much. Nebraska basketball coach Fred Hoiberg has committed to giving back some of his $3 million salary, as well.

Related: What Teachers Are Paid Around the World

Marcus Arroyo
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Nevada: Marcus Arroyo

Annual salary: $1.5 million
The $600,000 salary that Tony Sanchez earned as the head football coach for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was enough to make him the state's highest-paid employee. In 2019, however, he lost his job after five seasons to Marcus Arroyo, who signed a five-year deal that pays him $1.5 million a year currently and $1.6 million by the end of his term. It's the biggest athletic coaching contract in the history of the state.

University of New Hampshire
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New Hampshire: James W. Dean Jr.

Annual salary: $455,000
Jim Dean earns $455,000 a year as the president of the University of New Hampshire — and if the former president is any indication, the position is a gift that keeps on giving. According to New Hampshire Public Radio, the man Dean replaced, Mark Huddleston, was still collecting his full $425,000 salary after he retired in 2019.

Greg Schiano
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New Jersey: Greg Schiano

Annual salary: $4 million
The highest-paid public employee in the Garden State is Rutgers Scarlet Knights head football coach Greg Schiano, who earns roughly $4 million per year, according to Patch.com. The state's second most-lucrative position goes to Rutgers women's head basketball coach Vivian Stringer, who takes in roughly $1 million a year.

Related: 15 Graduate Degrees That Can Help You Earn Over $100K

Bob Davie
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New Mexico: Bob Davie

Annual salary: $822,690
The highest-paid public employee in the Land of Enchantment is the University of New Mexico head football coach Bob Davie. Davie earns a base salary of $422,690 as well as $400,000 in supplementary compensation, which he gets through a built-in Nike sponsorship.

Syracuse, NY
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Roy Williams
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North Carolina: Roy Williams

Annual salary: $3.9 million
Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski is believed to earn $9 million, but Duke is a private institution. That leaves Tarheels head basketball coach Roy Williams, who signed an extension in 2018 that takes him through 2028. The terms of his contract had previously been underreported by $1.7 million, according to The News & Observer, because those reports omitted contracts with Nike and a media corporation.

Bismarck, ND
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Ryan Day
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Ohio: Ryan Day

Annual salary: $5.4 million
Buckeyes head football coach Ryan Day was tasked with filling the big shoes of outgoing coach Urban Meyer, who retired after the 2018 season — and fill them he did. After leading his team to an undefeated regular season, a Big Ten title, and a spot in the playoffs,  Day earned a contract extensionthat takes him through 2026. Day earned $4.5 million in 2019, but after his stellar 2019 run, those numbers switched decimal places in 2020. He'll earn $6.5 million in 2021 and join the big boys of college football with a $7.6 million payday in 2022.

Mike Gundy
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Oklahoma: Mike Gundy

Annual salary: $4.1 million
Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons when he appeared publicly during the height of the George Floyd protests wearing a shirt emblazoned with the logo of a far-right conspiracy theory/news site. He was pilloried in the press and called out by his team and fans. In response, he agreed to forfeit $1 million in salary, to reduce his contract by one year, and to lower his guarantee and his buyout. He had been earning $5.1 million before his voluntary seven-figure concession.

Dana Altman
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James Franklin
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Pennsylvania: James Franklin

Annual salary: $5.4 million
Penn State head football coach James Franklin recently earned a six-year contract extension that runs through the end of 2025. His salary is $5.4 million, but if he stays through the year, he'll get a $300,000 retention bonus. His salary — and his retention bonus — grows every year, topping out at $6.5 million and $500,000, respectively, in 2025.


Warmest: Kingston, Rhode Island
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Rhode Island: David Cox

Annual salary: $711,344
University of Rhode Island head basketball coach David Cox earns a relatively modest salary in terms of NCAA coaching — but big enough to top the list of the 79 state employees who earn $200,000 or more. Half of the state's top-10 earning public employees work for the university, as do half of the top 30.

Dabo Swinney
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South Carolina: Dabo Swinney

Annual salary: $9.3 million
Clemson's head football coach Dabo Swinney knocked Alabama's Nick Saban off his perch to become the highest-paid coach in college football. After winning his second national title in three years, Swinney was rewarded with a 10-year, $93 million contract extension in 2019. Not only is the $9 million club incredibly exclusive, but he's one of only three college coaches to earn more than $8 million — the other two are Saban and LSU's Ed Orgeron.

Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, named for university benefactor and former football player Dana J. Dykhouse
Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, named for university benefactor and former football player Dana J. Dykhouse by Koncurrentkat (CC BY-SA)

South Dakota: Eric Henderson

Annual salary: $275,000
The highest-paid public employees in South Dakota are not filthy rich. When he was the South Dakota State University head basketball coach, T.J. Otzelberger earned $400,000. Replacement Eric Henderson earns even less but still holds the title of tops in the state. The school's head football coach earns just $255,000.

Jeremy Pruitt
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Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt

Annual salary: $3.9 million 
University of Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt earns more than anyone else on the state's public payroll, beating state Gov. Bill Lee's earnings of $119,000 a year.

Jimbo Fisher
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Texas: Jimbo Fisher

Annual salary: $7.5 million
Not only is NCAA icon Jimbo Fisher the highest-paid public employee in the Lone Star State, but the Texas A&M University head football coach is one of the top-paid coaches in the game and a member of the exclusive $7 million club. He's also a hard man to walk away from. If Texas A&M decides to part ways with Fisher, the school will have to contend with his gargantuan $60.6 million buyout.

Kyle Whittingham
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Utah: Kyle Whittingham

Annual salary: $4.1 million
In 2019, longtime University of Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham agreed to a contract extension that pays him through 2023, with base pay rising $200,000 annually. The five-year deal is worth a minimum of $23 million and his stated $4.1 million annual salary does not include bonuses.

Montpelier, Vermont
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Vermont: Steven Shapiro

Annual salary: $231,984
Vermont is one of the states where the highest-paid public employee works in the world of medicine, not college sports. According to OpenPayrolls, that title goes to the state's chief medical examiner, Steven Shapiro, and the pay is 294% higher than the average pay for state employees.

University of Virginia
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Virginia: Tony Bennett

Annual salary: $3 million
University of Virginia head basketball coach Tony Bennett led his team to its first national championship in the school's history. Naturally, UV offered Bennett an extension and a raise. Bennett accepted the extension but astonishingly, turned down the extra money. According to the News & Record, Bennett said, "I have more than enough, and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs and coaches, by not tying up so much [in men's basketball], that's my desire." He earned a $500,000 bonus, but he donated that to a UV career development program. His extension runs through 2027 and pays him the same base salary of $500,000 plus $2.5 million in supplemental income that he earned before the championship.

Jimmy Lake
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Washington: Jimmy Lake

Annual salary: $3 million
Incoming University of Washington head coach Jimmy Lake signed a five-year, $16 million contract at the tail end of 2019. In what is his second stint with the Huskies, he'll earn $3 million in 2020, and that number goes up and up to $3.4 million in 2024.

Bob Huggins
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West Virginia: Bob Huggins

Annual salary: $4.1 million
In 2017, West Virginia University head basketball coach Bob Huggins agreed to a four-year contract extension that runs through the 2020-2021 season. His contract started at $3.8 million, including a base salary of $250,000, but he gets a $100,000 raise every year.

Paul Chryst
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Wisconsin: Paul Chryst

Annual salary: $4.2 million 
University of Wisconsin Badgers head football coach Paul Chryst pay is up from $3.9 million thanks to a raise he got as part of a contract renegotiation. With bonus opportunities, he could grow his salary by $1.3 million depending on his team's performance.

Craig Bohl
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Wyoming: Craig Bohl

Annual salary: $1.4 million
University of Wyoming head football coach Craig Bohl signed a  seven-year, $12 million contractin 2017. He's guaranteed $1.4 million, but recently picked up several bonuses — performance- and retention-based — that bumped his salary by several hundred thousand dollars in 2019.