Winning is expensive.
The four teams in the College Football Playoff combined to spend $35,981,491 on coach and staff base salaries this season, according to figures compiled by USA TODAY Sports.
The University of Alabama accounted for the bulk of that total, spending $12.3 million this season on coach Nick Saban and his nine assistants. That is approximately $2 million more than the combined salaries of all 99 assistants in the Sun Belt Conference.
Saban’s salary was $7.1 million – the highest among the 106 programs included in the compilation and approximately $500,000 less than the total amount Clemson paid to its coach, Dabo Swinney, and his nine assistants. Alabama paid $5.2 million to Saban’s staff, the third-highest total in the compilation.
Swinney is the only one of the four playoff coaches whose base salary is less than his staff’s total pay. Swinney earned $3.3 million before bonuses, the 26th-highest salary. He paid his assistants $4.3 million, the sixth-highest staff pay total.
Clemson’s opponent in the Orange Bowl, Oklahoma, paid $9.2 million to its football coaches, including head coach Bob Stoops’ $5.4 million base salary. His assistants earned $3.8 million, which ranks 14th.
Alabama’s total nearly doubles the figure recorded for its opponent in the Cotton Bowl, Michigan State. Coach Mark Dantonio earned $3.7 million before bonuses, ranking him 21st. Michigan State paid $3.1 million to his assistants, the 24th-highest total.
With a salary of $423,499, Dave Warner, Michigan State’s highest-paid assistant, ranks 113th among the 959 assistants included in the USA TODAY Sports database. Six Alabama coaches are ranked within the Top 100. That includes former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who is now the head coach at Georgia.
Smart’s salary of $1.5 million is the third-highest among assistant coaches, behind new South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, who earned $1.6 million as Auburn’s defensive coordinator, and Louisiana State offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who earned $1.52 million.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables also is one of nine assistant coaches who made at least $1 million this season. Venables’ $1.41 million salary was higher than the total staff pay at 42 of the included programs.
Venables ranks fifth among assistants. Clemson’s next highest paid assistant, co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, ranks 116th at $419,823.
Comparing these figures, Michigan State purchased its ticket to the Playoff at the greatest value. Michigan State essentially paid $577,223 per victory this season. Alabama spent $1.03 million. Clemson also enjoyed a bargain at $587,292 per win. Oklahoma’s rate was $833,500.