As you might expect, College Football head coaching contracts vary drastically from school to school. Some colleges pay their coaches a ridiculous amount of money, such as Alabama with Nick Saban. Others will put little into the programs and focus on academics, which means their head coaches don’t get paid much.
But this amount of variation brings up an interesting question of what coach gets undervalued the most by their university. In other words, who has the most undervalued contract in the entirety of College Football?
After a significant amount of research, one person’s name came to the forefront. Kyle Whittingham’s contract at the University of Utah pays a lot less than he deserves based on his on-field success. This agreement was a relatively new one as he signed an extension right before the 2019-2020 season. Let’s dive into his contract details to show you what he earned last year before discussing why it’s below market value.
Kyle Whittingham’s 2019-2020 Contract Details
Total Guaranteed Compensation
Whittingham’s contract states his guaranteed yearly compensation is split into four sections: base salary, radio and television revenue, additional compensation, and outfitter agreement compensation.
His base salary is the amount of money Whittingham gets paid annually, regardless of whether he coaches that season. For instance, if he couldn’t perform his job and misses a season, Utah would still have to pay him this amount.
Radio and television revenue consists of how much Whittingham gets from what his team generates in revenue every season. He also gets a sizable amount of money( additional compensation) for scheduled appearances and public speaking events.
Whittingham’s outfitter agreement compensation is for agreeing to endorse Utah’s chosen clothing brand (Under Armor). For instance, he earns this money for wearing their merchandise on the sideline during game days.
- Base Salary: $1,300,000
- Radio and Television Revenue: $1,105,000
- Additional Compensation: $1,135,000
- Outfitter Agreement Compensation: $462,917
Overall, Kyle Whittingham pulled in a total of $4,002,917 in salary during 2019-2020. You might think this amount is a lot, but it’s rather average. His guaranteed compensation wasn’t even in the top 25 among College Football coaches. This amount of money could be increased based on reaching specific incentives during the year. Our next section will outline these performance bonuses and what ones he earned.
Whittingham’s potential bonuses are separated into performance incentives, academic incentives, and coach recognition incentives. If the team earns these accomplishments, he stands to make quite a bit of additional income. But obviously, these aren’t guaranteed every year, and a lot of them are quite difficult.
- Bowl Season Incentives
- Team Plays in College Football Playoff or New Year’s Six Bowl Game: $400,000
- Participates in any other bowl game: Two month’s base salary ($216,666)
- Wins New Year’s Bowl Game: $100,000
- PAC-12 Achievement Incentives
- PAC-12 Division Champion and Play in Championship Game: $100,000
- PAC-12 Division Champion and Doesn’t Play in Championship Game: $50,000
- Final Ranking Incentives (can earn one)
- Listed in the Top 25 in the final year-end AP Top 25, the College Football Playoff Rankings, or the Coaches Poll: $100,000
- Listed in the Top 25 of any of these polls during the year: $15,000
Whittingham’s Utah Utes had a relatively successful season, finishing with an 11-3 record and winning their PAC-12 Division. But his team didn’t win the PAC-12 Championship Game or appear in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. Their season instead ended in the Alamo Bowl with a loss against Texas and a number 16 ranking in the AP poll. As a result, he netted $416,666 in performance incentives during last season.
- Team’s APR (Academic Progress Rate) Incentives (can only earn one)
- Team’s APR is at least 980: $75,000
- Team’s APR is at least 970: $50,000
- Team’s APR is at least 960: $25,000
- Team’s APR is at least 950: $10,000
- Team’s GSR (Graduation Success Rate) Incentives (can only earn one)
- Team’s GSR is at least 80%: $75,000
- Team’s GSR is at least 70%: $50,000
- Team’s GSR is at least 60%: $25,000
- Team’s GSR is at least 50%: $10,000
Whittingham’s Utah Utes had an impressive showing in the classroom during 2019-2020. The team’s APR was an incredible 988 and had a GSR of 94%. Due to these figures, their coach earned another $150,000.
Coaching Recognition Incentives
- Named National Coach of the Year: $150,000
- Named PAC-12 Coach of the Year or Co-coach of the year: $55,000
Ed Orgeron won every National Coach of the Year award last season due to LSU dominating College Football. But the Utes’ impressive showing did ensure Whittingham won Pac-12 Coach of the Year and obtained an additional $55,000.
Total 2019-2020 Earnings
Kyle Whittingham’s total compensation for 2019-2020 ended up being $4,624,583. If this amount were his guaranteed salary, it’d still barely make him top 20 in coaching annual salary. His guaranteed compensation will change over the next few years of his extension. Let’s take a quick look at these changes to ensure we have a full view before diving into why he’s undervalued.
Future Contract Changes
Whittingham’s contract will undergo two pivotal changes regarding his total guaranteed compensation over these next three years (his contract ends on January 1, 2023). You’ll see below that his base salary and radio/television revenue increase by specific amounts each year:
- Base Salary (increases by $150,000 per year until the contract ends)
- 2020-2021: $1,450,000
- 2021-2022: $1,600,000
- 2022-2023: $1,750,000
- Radio and Television Revenue (increases by $50,000 per year until the contract ends)
- 2020-2021: $1,155,000
- 2021-2022: $1,205,000
- 2022-2023: $1,255,000
- Total Guaranteed Compensation
- 2020-2021: $4,202,917
- 2021-2022: $4,402,917
- 2022-2023: $4,602,917
Even in Whittingham’s final year, his guaranteed salary barely makes it into the top 20 among head coaches. His salary would fall right between what Washington’s Chris Peterson and Ohio State’s Ryan Day made last year. This amount would still be behind Scott Frost, Dan Mullin, Charlie Strong (who was fired), and Jeff Brohm earned in 2019-2020. None of these coaches’ achievements at their current schools hold a candle to Whittingham’s accomplishments at Utah.
Utah’s Accomplishments During His Tenure
After Urban Meyer took a job at Florida, Kyle Whittingham began his tenure as Utah’s head coach in 2005. He has held this title for 15 consecutive years and amassed an impressive 131-64 record without any signs of slowing down. During these 15 years, he had one perfect season in 2008 and was the Pac-12 South Division champion three times (all in the last five years.)
Whittingham has maintained an excellent standard for a decade and a half. In fact, he’s made the team into a Pac-12 powerhouse who’s in contention for the conference championship every year. Utah hasn’t ever sustained this level of success for such a period. Even in Meyer’s tenure, he was only there for two years before Whittingham took over. He then springboarded the team into another 15 years of respect and success.
But he gets paid an average coaching salary of a top-tier non-Power 5 school coach. His yearly salary should instead be near the top of what a successful Power 5 school pays their head coaches. Utah’s accomplishments should earn him what Kirby Smart, Nick Saban, and Dabo Swinney collect.
He’s instead stuck earning less or in line with what coaches like Ryan Day (first year at Ohio State), Will Muschamp (mediocre coaching resume), and Scott Frost (a rough start at Nebraska) make. Due to this, it’s clear Whittingham has the most undervalued contract in College Football. Utah needs to be careful, or another school might try to swoop him away with a fantastic offer.