Dabo Swinney and John Calipari Top List of Highly-Paid State Employees

Where state budgets and college athletics converge

Dabo Swinney
Clemson's Dabo Swinney is among the nation's highest-paid public employees.
LambeauLeap80/Creative Commons

When you think of a state employee, your mind might go in one of many obvious directions: a clerk at the local DMV, an administrator working in the state capital or someone tasked with running an expansive park. But when it comes to the state employees drawing the highest salaries, something unites a large percentage of the country: the highest-paid state employees are athletic coaches, either for football or basketball teams.

ESPN has a rundown of this year’s highest-paid coaches at state schools. Atop it are Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Kentucky’s John Calipari, each with salaries of $9.3 million. Just below them? Alabama’s Nick Saban, whose salary is a cozy $8.9 million.

The report also brings out some interesting information. Saban’s salary eclipses the combined salaries of the 14 other head coaches at Alabama by an impressive margin, for one thing. And when it comes to significant salaries, seven figures doesn’t necessarily guarantee impressive results. Missouri’s Cuonzo Martin and UConn’s Dan Hurley both have win percentages of under 50% — despite both making well over $2.5 million.

ESPN’s report notes that the highest-paid public employee in 10 states isn’t a coach — though for the majority of them, there’s still a university presence there. Maine’s highest-paid state employee is the University of Maine’s president; that’s also the case for the likes of Delaware and Alaska.

Looking at this data can be eye-opening, both for what it reveals about our priorities as a culture and for where it suggests that some conceived decisions may have been made.

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