Note: "Underpaid” means something different for everyone on this list. Some guys are at small schools making pennies, while others are at large schools raking in money. It's relative to how they stack up to their counterpars and what they do for their school and university, it’s still not enough.
Frank Solich, Ohio ($572,715)
Solich strikes me as the friendly old cashier at your neighborhood grocery store. At this point, he’s not really working for the money, but more so to get out of the house. After all, there’s only so many re-runs of “Gunsmoke” a man can watch in one day, right?
His $572k salary is a bargain for what Ohio is getting out of him. Now in his 12th year at the school, he's had only two losing seasons and been to seven bowl games. Twice the Bobcats were bowl eligible but just not selected. Considering his salary ranks 96th out of 119 made available by USA Today, Ohio is definitely getting its money’s worth with Solich.
Kim KlementUSA TODAY Sports
Mike Riley, Nebraska ($2,800,000)
I’m still doubtful about Nebraska’s ability to compete with the big boys in the Big Ten (starting this week with Wisconsin), but what you can’t take away is that in just Year 2 in Lincoln, Riley has the Cornhuskers 7-0 and in the Top 10 nationally.
His $2.8 million price tag isn’t cheap, but considering that Darrell Hazell -- who just got fired at Purdue -- will make $2.1 million to not coach at all the next few months, that doesn’t sound so bad either.
David Cutcliffe, Duke ($2,320,773)
Cutcliffe is as reliable as an old pair of khakis (no, that’s not a Jim Harbaugh reference), a guy who will have Duke football in the 8-9 win chase every year.
Considering Duke hadn’t made a bowl game in over a decade before he arrived, and has now made four straight under Cutcliffe’s watch, it’s safe to say that he is doing one of the most quietly impressive coaching jobs in all of college football right now.
Ellen Ozier-USA TODAY SportsEllen Ozier
Matt Rhule, Temple ($1,041,739)
No, Rhule’s track record isn’t as sterling as some of the other guys on this list, but like Cutcliffe, he took a school with virtually no football history and at the very least made them relevant.
The Owls won 10 games for the first time in over 30 years last year, and at 5-3 are in line to go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. With Rhule barely clearing $1 million in salary, that’s a pretty sweet return on investment for Temple.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy ($2,000,000)
At first glance it’s kind of surprising that the coach at Navy is making $2 million a year. But then when you realize what he’s done at the school, it doesn’t feel like much money at all.
In total, Niumatalolo has had eight or more wins in seven of eight seasons at Navy and won 11 games a year ago. That’s borderline incredible when you consider its darn near impossible to recruit to Navy.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin ($2,706,200)
There might not be a single coach whose stock has risen more this year than Chryst’s after the Badgers beat LSU early and could have easily beaten both Michigan and Ohio State in recent weeks. When you factor in that he also won 10 games in his first season in Madison last year, it feels like Chryst is in line for a pretty chunky raise, and soon.
M.P. King/Wisconsin State JournaM.P. King
Bryan Harsin, Boise State ($1,300,004)
With a 28-6 record overall since arriving in Boise, and a 7-0 start to this season, you could easily make the case that Harsin could be higher on this list. He’s not even close to the highest-paid coach in the Mountain West even though Boise is unquestionably the top program. Get this: Not only does Colorado State’s Mike Bobo make more than Harsin, so too does Tim DeRuyter, who just got fired from Fresno State a week ago.
Trust us, Harsin will get a raise this off-season, whether it’s from Boise or one of the Power 5 schools that is sure to call him.
Rocky Long, San Diego State ($810,632)
Another quietly underpaid Mountain West coach, here is Long’s resume since arriving at San Diego State: a 49-24 overall record, including an 11-3 mark last year. At 6-1 in 2016, the Aztecs are easily the biggest threat to Boise State in the league.
Sure, you could say, “Well, this is the Buffaloes' first good year under MacIntyre." True, but when you get a team bowl eligible for the first time in nine years and ranked for the first time in a decade, and are barely clearing $2 million in a Power 5 conference, you’re underpaid.
That’s especially true when you consider that MacIntyre is the lowest-paid coach in the Pac-12 (of the 11 listed; USC’s Clay Helton was not), and that he is making over a million dollars less than a guy like Mark Helfrich.
P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan ($820,360)
Because Fleck has a larger than life personality -- you know, that whole “Row the Boat” thing -- it feels like people take for granted just what he’s done at Western Michigan. Western went just 1-11 three years ago, and all of a sudden they’re 8-0 this season and in the Top 20. In terms of college football miracles, that’s right up there with “Charlie Strong still having a job at Texas.”
Considering Fleck isn't close to clearing $1 million, you could make the case that he should be No. 1 on this list.
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Kyle Whittingham, Utah ($3,650,000)
I’m pretty sure a sportswriter could have put together a “most underpaid” list at any point in the last decade and Whittingham would have somehow found his way on it. He quietly built Utah into one of the most consistent programs in the sport back in the Utes’ Mountain West days (they averaged 10-plus wins in their final four years there), and then he completely rebuilt the program into a Pac-12 winner after it switched conferences.
Do you know how hard that jump is? And do you know how effortless Whittingham made it look? $3.6 million isn’t exactly chump change, but Whittingham has earned every penny at the school and more.
Bobby Petrino, Louisville ($3,910,434)
When you factor in that Petrino is the third highest-paid coach in the ACC, and he runs the third highest-profile program in the conference (behind Clemson and Florida State) coming into the season, it’s hard to figure out if Petrino is “underpaid” or just “properly paid.”
I’m going with the former, and here’s why: With a $10 million buyout, Petrino isn’t going anywhere this off-season. But if you put him on the open market in a season where LSU is available and Texas almost certainly will be too, how much would he fetch in salary? Five million? Six? By that measurement, making “only” $3.9 million makes him underpaid.
Getty ImagesTyler Smith
Larry Fedora, North Carolina ($1,986,265**)
It’s hard to know exactly where to put Fedora on this list, since according to USA Today, they have been unable to obtain updated contract details on him since he agreed to an extension last winter.
Still, even if it’s a healthy raise from last year’s salary (say it went up a million, from $1.9 last year to $2.9 this year), that’s a pretty cheap price to pay for a guy who has completely elevated a program. With 11 wins in 2016, Fedora was easily one of the most underpaid coaches in the sport. A year later he remains that way, pretty much regardless of what his raise was.
Nick Saban, Alabama ($6,939,395)
As the second-highest paid coach in all of college football (and technically, No. 1, since Jim Harbaugh has some interesting contract quirks that got him to the top spot) Saban’s place on this list should hopefully open up an interest conversation about what “value” and being “underpaid” is really about.
What would some school be willing to pay Saban on the open market if they knew they’d get him? My guess is that a Texas, USC, etc. would pony up well over $6.9 million to make it happen. I’m pretty sure Alabama would pay twice that much to keep him, if that’s what it took.
But also, what’s the value of having a coach whose presence alone puts you in the title chase every year? A coach who has either won the championship or come close every year except one since 2008? That’s something no one -- not Urban Meyer, Petrino, Harbaugh or anyone else -- can claim.
It’s also why, even at $6.9 million, he remains one of the most underpaid coaches in the sport.
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
Chris Petersen, Washington ($3,605,847)
In two-and-a-half years, Petersen has taken a tradition-rich, win-starved program and completely reinvented it, taking UW to the brink of a Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff berth this season.
Considering Petersen's salary is "only" a couple hundred thousand more than Mark Helfrich -- a coach Petersen just put up 70 on a few weeks ago -- and several million less than what Charlie Strong is making at Texas, I’d say it’s a darn steal.