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Highest Paid Public Employee in Every State

Nick Saban, the head coach of the University of Alabama football team, earns close to $7 million per year — more than any other public employee in the country. While the case can be made that Saban and other college coaches and university employees who earn many times the national median salary are not fully government funded, many still argue that taxpayer money should not fund even a portion of the millions of dollars these coaches make.

In the vast majority of states, college football and basketball coaches are the highest-paid public employee. When a millionaire coach is not the leading earner, high-ranking medical officials at state-run hospitals and college presidents are usually the next in line. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the highest-paid public employees in each state.

Click here to see the highest paid public employee in each state.

While many coaches earn several millions of dollars per year, there are caveats to these paychecks. For one, a typical major school’s athletic program can bring a public university tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Saban has led the Alabama Crimson Tide to three national championships, and the program’s success has resulted in several tangible and intangible revenue streams. According to The Wall Street Journal, University of Alabama’s athletic program brought in $68 million before Saban became head coach. In 2013-2014, revenue had increased to $153 million.

Another important factor to note is that unlike most government positions, while these public schools are partially funded by taxes, usually the college coaches’ salaries are not primarily funded by the states’ tax revenues. All but $200,000 of Saban’s salary comes from a foundation sustained by ticket sales and advertising deals generated by the Crimson Tide program.

Still, these highly-paid college coaches are employed and being paid by a publicly-funded institution. Newly-hired University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh receives a $500,000 base salary from the school. Critics argue that while such coaches are part of programs that bring in tens of millions of dollars in revenue to the school, the actual value of their contribution to this revenue is debatable. They argue that they talent of the actual players is far more intrinsic to victories, prestige, and ticket sales. The players, of course, receive no salary for their efforts apart from a partially-funded or free education and small stipends.

Outside of the college sports world, the highest-paid employees are also in programs where the public and private worlds intersect. Many of the university programs where these employees work are often fully or partially self-sustained with other sources of income and receive some to no tax dollar. In many states, the executives at public utility trusts and funds earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Chief medical examiners, medical school deans, and university surgery chairmen can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year at state school-run hospitals.

While coaches can earn such high salaries, most state employees — including the state governor — earn much smaller salaries. In Idaho the Boise State football and basketball coaches are each compensated over half a million dollars annually — a stark contrast to the more than one-third of Idaho state employees who earn less than $40,000 a year.

Because the salaries of even the highest state officials are funded entirely by tax dollars, they also make significantly less than public university coaches. While many coaches’ salaries are in the millions of dollars, not a single state governor makes more than $200,000 a year. In California for example, UCLA football coach James Mora’s salary is nearly 20 times that of California Governor Jerry Brown.

To determine the highest-paid public employee in each state, 24/7 Wall St. considered reports of public salaries based on state government payrolls and public documents. All college football and basketball coach salaries are based on USA Today’s consolidated list of NCAA coach salaries, which includes school pay for 2014 in the case of football, and 2015 in the case of basketball. In the case where a coach received a raise or was newly hired, the more recent available information was used. All data are based on the most recent available information.

These are the highest paid public employees in every state.


1. Alabama
> Highest paid employee:
Nick Saban
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $6.95 million

Nick Saban, who took over as head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2007, is the highest-paid government employee in the state of Alabama. Saban’s salary is higher than any public employee in the country. Last year, Saban made nearly $7 million.

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2. Alaska
> Highest paid employee:
James Johnsen
> Position: College president
> Salary: $325,000

With an annual salary of $325,000, University of Alaska President James Johnsen makes more than double what Governor Bill Walker makes. Taking to the top job at the university on September 1, 2015, Johnsen’s salary is $5,000 higher than than former university president, Pat Gamble.

3. Arizona
> Highest paid employee:
Sean Miller
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $3.07 million

University of Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller is the highest-paid public employee in Arizona. Since he was hired in 2011, Miller has lead the Wildcats to more road wins during conference play than any other team in the conference. Miller earned over $3 million in 2014.

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4. Arkansas
> Highest paid employee:
Bret Bielema
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $4 million

Head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks Bret Bielema received a wage bump in February, which raised his salary from $3.2 million in 2014 to $4 million for the 2015 season. With either Salary, Bielema is the highest-paid public employee in the state. In contrast, the highest-paid government official, Commissioner of Education Johnny Key, earns $231,177 a year.

5. California
> Highest paid employee:
James Mora
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $3.35 million

Under the terms of a contract reached in December 2013, James Mora will earn $3.35 million in 2015 coaching the UCLA Bruins, the university’s football team. Mora’s salary is nearly 20 times that of Governor Jerry Brown.

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6. Colorado
> Highest paid employee:
Mike MacIntyre
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.01 million

Colorado’s highest-paid state employee, Mike MacIntyre, is the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes. MacIntyre earned more than $2 million last year. In comparison, Governor John Hickenlooper earns $90,000 per year, or less than one-twentieth of MacIntyre’s paycheck.

7. Connecticut
> Highest paid employee:
Kevin Ollie
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $3 million

With a salary of $3 million, Kevin Ollie, coach of the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team, is the highest-paid public employee in Connecticut. Coach Geno Auriemma, who lead the UConn women’s basketball team to three consecutive championships from 2013-2015, will make $2.06 million this year.

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8. Delaware
> Highest paid employee:
Ekeoma C. Wogu
> Position: Nursing supervisor
> Salary: $236,156

Ekeoma Wogu, a nursing supervisor at the Delaware Psychiatric Center whose base annual salary is $60,000, earns an estimated $176,000 in overtime and bonus pay each year to be Delaware’s highest-paid state employee. Other top-earners in Delaware also hold municipal services jobs, including a youth psychiatrist, criminal investigator, and a prison medical director.

9. Florida
> Highest paid employee:
Jimbo Fisher
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $5 million

The head coach of the Florida State University Seminoles football team Jimbo Fisher is the highest-paid state employee in Florida. One of the highest-paid public Florida employees outside of university athletics departments is Dr. William Friedman, a University of Florida neurosurgeon who makes $961,281 annually.

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10. Georgia
> Highest paid employee:
Mark Richt
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $4 million

Mark Richt, head coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs football team, is the highest-paid public employee in the state. He is tied with the University of Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel as the longest-tenured head coach in the Southeastern Conference — which brings in $270 million in revenue annually — the fourth most valuable college sports conference.


11. Hawaii
> Highest paid employee:
Norm Chow
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $550,000

Making $550,000 annually, head coach of the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football team, Norm Chow, is the highest-paid state employee. His salary is at least $250,000 higher than that of any other public employee in the state.

12. Idaho
> Highest paid employee:
Bryan Harsin
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $800,000

With an annual salary of $800,000, Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin is the highest-paid public employee in Idaho. The second-highest-paid state employee makes slightly less than $600,000 a year and is also a coach at Boise State. More than one-third of Idaho state employees earn less than $40,000 a year.

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13. Illinois
> Highest paid employee:
John Groce
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $1.7 million

Following the firing of University of Illinois’s head football coach Tim Beckman in August, basketball head coach of the Fighting Illini John Groce became the highest-paid public employee in the state. After Groce, the next highest-paid employee is Dr. Dimitri Azar, dean at the University of Illinois’s College of Medicine who makes $750,000 a year. In Illinois, one in every 10 state employees earns more than $100,000 every year.

14. Indiana
> Highest paid employee:
Tom Crean
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $3.05 million

Tom Crean, coach of the Indiana University basketball team, the Hoosiers, is one of the highest-paid head coaches in college basketball. He is also the highest-paid public employee in the state. Outside of collegiate sports, the state’s next highest-paid employees are either doctors or executives at Citizens Energy Group, the state’s public utilities trust.

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15. Iowa
> Highest paid employee:
Kirk Ferentz
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $4.08 million

Kirk Ferentz, head coach of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes since 1998, is Iowa’s highest-paid public employee. He is the longest-tenured football coach in the Big Ten Conference — which grosses $310 million in revenue annually — making him the most senior coach in the most valuable college sports conference.


16. Kansas
> Highest paid employee:
Bill Self
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $4.75 million

University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has an impressive record. In six of the last 14 seasons, Self’s team placed in the top six. With an annual salary of nearly $5 million, Self is the highest paid state employee. In contrast, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback earned less than $100,000 in 2014.

17. Kentucky
> Highest paid employee:
John Calipari
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $6.01 million

With a salary in excess of $6 million a year, John Calipari is not only the highest-paid public employee in Kentucky, but also one of the highest paid basketball coaches in the NCAA. Coaching for Kentucky since 2009, Calipari lead the Wildcats to a title win in 2012 and an undefeated regular season in 2015.

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18. Louisiana
> Highest paid employee:
Les Miles
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $4.30 million

Les Miles, head coach of the Louisiana State University Tigers football team, is the highest-paid state employee. Miles’s salary is nearly $3.7 million more than the next highest-paid state employee. Other well compensated employees include university presidents, university system administrators, and assistant head football coaches.

19. Maine
> Highest paid employee:
Susan Hunter
> Position: College president
> Salary: $250,000

While college coaches are often the highest-paid employee in each state, the Northeast tends not to follow this trend, and Maine is no exception. Susan Hunter, the first female president of the University of Maine, earns $250,000 annually. She assumed former president Paul Ferguson’s title — as well as his salary — in 2014.

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20. Maryland
> Highest paid employee:
Mark Turgeon
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $2,248,000

Mark Turgeon, head coach of the Maryland Terrapins basketball team, is the highest-paid state employee, beating out Terps’ football coach Randy Edsall. The 2015-2016 season will mark Turgeon’s fourth as the team’s head coach. Last season, Maryland had a perfect 9-0 record in the Big Ten Conference.


21. Massachusetts
> Highest paid employee:
Derek Kellogg
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $994,500

Derek Kellogg is currently in his eighth year coaching basketball at the University of Massachusetts. A Massachusetts native himself, Kellogg is the state’s highest-paid employee. Though a majority of the University’s money comes from other sources, in fiscal 2015, the University received $519 million in budgetary funding from the state.

22. Michigan
> Highest paid employee:
Jim Harbaugh
> Position: College Football Coach
> Salary: $7,000,000

As is the case in 28 other states, the highest-paid public employee in Michigan is a college football coach. Jim Harbaugh, coach and former quarterback of the University of Michigan Wolverines, is paid about $7 million annually. Harbaugh was hired at the beginning of 2015 after coaching the San Francisco 49ers.

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23. Minnesota
> Highest paid employee:
Jerry Kill
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.50 million

Jerry Kill, head coach of the University of Minnesota Gophers football team, is Minnesota’s highest-paid employee. Starting this year, he will receive a $300,000 raise every season until 2019, when his salary will reach $2.9 million. The next highest-paid state employee outside an athletics department is the dean of the Medical School at the University of Minnesota, who makes $717,000 annually.

24. Mississippi
> Highest paid employee:
Hugh Freeze
> Position: College Football Coach
> Salary: $4,300,000

Hugh Freeze has been the head coach of the Ole Miss football program since 2012. Already prior to a raise he received in December 2014 for leading the team to a winning record and a spot at the Peach Bowl, Freeze was the highest-paid state employee, earning $3.15 million a year. With the raise, Freeze will earn $4.3 million this season.

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25. Missouri
> Highest paid employee:
Gary Pinkel
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $4.02 million

University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel makes more money than any other public employee in the state. Pinkel, who has recently received a nearly $1 million raise, has lead the Missouri Tigers to more wins than any other coach in the team’s history.


26. Montana
> Highest paid employee:
Clay Christian
> Position: Commissioner of Higher Education
> Salary: $351,000

Clay Christian is not a football coach, but as the Commissioner of Higher Education, he is still employed by the university system. According to the Office of the Commissioner, Clay Christian and his staff are responsible for providing information and services to the Board of Regents as well as legislative and executive branches of the state government.

27. Nebraska
> Highest paid employee:
Mike Riley
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.70 million

As head coach of the University of Nebraska football team, the Cornhuskers, Mark Riley is the highest-paid public employee in the state. While Riley’s predecessor Bo Pelini earned $3.1 million a year — more than Riley — Riley’s current salary is by no means a pay cut for him. At his previous coaching job at Oregon State he earned $1.2 million less.

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28. Nevada
> Highest paid employee:
Kayvan Khiabani
> Position: Associate professor
> Salary: $981,475

Plastic surgeon Kayvan Khiabani’s status as an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, makes him a state employee — and his salary of nearly $1 million is higher than anyone else’s on the state’s payroll. At $184,195 a year, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval makes less than a fifth of Khiabani’s salary.

29. New Hampshire
> Highest paid employee:
Mark Huddleston
> Position: College president
> Salary: $333,658

In most states, the highest-paid employee is a college sports coach. New Hampshire, however, is one of only four states where the highest-paid employee is a college president. University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston is the only UNH employee earning more than $300,000.

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30. New Jersey
> Highest paid employee:
Kyle Flood
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $1.25 million

Rutgers football coach Kyle Flood earns about $1.25 million annually, more than any other public employee in the state. He was appointed head coach of the Scarlet Knights in January 2012. The university is currently investigating Flood for possible unpermitted contact with a faculty member regarding the status of one of his players. The ruling could result in a pay cut and suspension.


31. New Mexico
> Highest paid employee:
Bob Davie
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $772,690

Head coach of the University of New Mexico Lobos football team since 2012, Bob Davie makes more money than any other state employee. The difference between Davie’s salary and the next highest-paid employees in the state is not as large as it is in other states where college sports coaches are the highest-paid employees. UNM’s dean of health services had a salary of $650,000 in 2014.

32. New York
> Highest paid employee:
Shashikant Lele
> Position: Medical school dept. chair
> Salary: $551,000

Dr. Shashikant Lele is clinical chief of gynecologic oncology and clinical chair of the division of surgical subspecialties at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. He has been recognized for his expertise in ovarian cancer, reconstructive surgery, and other complex operations. His annual salary of $550,902 is higher than that of any other public employee in New York.

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33. North Carolina
> Highest paid employee:
Mark Gottfried
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $2.06 million

With a salary in excess of $2 million annually, North Carolina State University basketball coach is the highest-paid public employee in the state. In stark contrast, Governor Pat McCrory unveiled a budget plan earlier this year that would raise starting teachers’ salaries to $35,000 a year. The governor himself earned slightly more than $142,000 in 2014.

34. North Dakota
> Highest paid employee:
Dr. Robert Sticca
> Position: University surgery chairman
> Salary: $758,000

In only 10 states the highest-paid employee is not a college football or basketball coach. In these 10 states, most of the highest-paid state employees are doctors or university presidents, Dr. Robert Sticca makes the most money in North Dakota.

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35. Ohio
> Highest paid employee:
Urban Meyer
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $5,800,000

Urban Meyer earns nearly $6 million a year as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. According to the team’s website, Meyer has the 10th best win rate of any coach in college football history. In last year’s season, Meyer lead to Buckeyes to win the national championship over the Oregon Ducks.


36. Oklahoma
> Highest paid employee:
Bob Stoops
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $5.25 million

Oklahoma’s head coach Bob Stoops received a raise last summer after his team beat the Alabama Crimson Tide — coached by Nick Saban, the highest-paid state employee — in an upset victory in the Sugar Bowl. Stoops is set to earn $5.25 million this season, up from the $5 million in his previous contract.

37. Oregon
> Highest paid employee:
Mark Helfrich
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $3.15 million

Mark Helfrich coached the Oregon Ducks all the way to the national championship last season. Shortly after the season ended, the University of Oregon announced signing Helfrich to a new five-year, $17.5 million contract. With this new contract, Helfrich will earn $3.15 million in 2015, more than any other state employee.

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38. Pennsylvania
> Highest paid employee:
James Franklin
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $4.10 million

Though Franklin has only lead the Pennsylvania State football team since January 2014, his annual pay exceeds $4 million, making him Pennsylvania’s highest-paid state employee. Though his salary of $187,256 is dwarfed by Franklin, Governor Tom Wolf announced last year that he would contribute 100% of his taxpayer funded salary to charity.

39. Rhode Island
> Highest paid employee:
Dan Hurley
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $627,500

University of Rhode Island head basketball coach Dan Hurley earns $627,500 annually, more than any Rhode Island state employee. At the moment, he is one of the four lowest paid coaches in his conference. However, this is slated to change in 2017, when he will be making $1 million per season as guaranteed by his new contract.

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40. South Carolina
> Highest paid employee:
Steve Spurrier
> Position: College Football Coach
> Salary: $4.00 million

The University of South Carolina’s football program’s head coach, Steve Spurrier, is the Palmetto State’s highest-paid public employee, earning $4 million a year. The coach, who has won 72.5% of the games he has coached, is entering his 11th season as head coach at USC. In contrast to Spurrier’s salary, the highest-paid South Carolina employee who is not collegiate sports personnel is Martin Morad, a professor at USC’s School of Medicine.


41. South Dakota
> Highest paid employee:
Dr. Mary Nettleman
> Position: Medical School Dean
> Salary: $500,000

Dr. Mary Nettleman, South Dakota’s highest paid state employee, is the first woman to serve as dean of the University of South Dakota’s Sanford School of Medicine, and one of only three female highest-paid state employees in the nation. While the highest-paid public employee in most states earn at least seven figures, Nettleman earns an estimated $500,000 annually.

42. Tennessee
> Highest paid employee:
Butch Jones
> Position: College Football Coach
> Salary: $2,960,000

Butch Jones was hired as head coach of the University of Tennessee Volunteers in 2012. He is currently paid nearly $3 million annually, more than any other state employee in Tennessee. While many highly-paid college football coaches work for highly successful sports teams, the Tennessee Vols hired Jones in the hopes he can revitalize the team’s reputation.

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43. Texas
> Highest paid employee:
Charlie Strong
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $5.10 million

Charlie Strong is the highest-paid public employee in Texas and the fourth-highest paid college football coach in the nation. Strong, the head coach of the University of Texas Longhorns, is in close competition with Kevin Sumlin, who makes $5 million as the coach of the Texas A&M Aggies, for both the title of the best football team in Texas and the state’s biggest salary.

44. Utah
> Highest paid employee:
Kyle Whittingham
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.60 million

Kyle Whittingham, who earns $2.6 million annually as the head football coach of the University of Utah Utes, is the state’s highest-paid employee. He earns almost 25 times the salary of Utah’s governor, who makes $109,470 a year. However, a bill has been proposed in the Utah state government which would raise the governor’s annual salary to $150,000. Whittingham recently signed a contract that would give him a $100,000 automatic raise each year for the next four years.

45. Vermont
> Highest paid employee:
Tom Sullivan
> Position: College president
> Salary: $429,093

Vermont is one of two New England states where the highest paid public employee is a college president. As University of Vermont’s top administrator, Tom Sullivan earns slightly more than $429,000 per year. In 2014, the University agreed to a 2% raise for all non-unionized staffers. At his own request, Sullivan did not receive a raise.


46. Virginia
> Highest paid employee:
Frank Beamer
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.42 million

With an annual salary of nearly $2.5 million, Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer is the highest-paid employee in the state. While coaches come and go at many institutions with prominent athletic departments, Beamer has led the Hokies since 1987.

47. Washington
> Highest paid employee:
Mike Leach
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $2.75 million

Washington State University football coach Mike Leach earned $2.75 million last year, making him the highest paid state employee in the state. Though his salary far exceeded the governor’s annual pay of $171,898, Leach’s salary comes exclusively from ticket sales and television revenue, not from taxes.

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48. West Virginia
> Highest paid employee:
Bob Huggins
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $3.25 million

West Virginia University’s football coach, Dan Holgorsen, would be the highest-paid public employee in most states, earning roughly $3 million last year. However, the school’s basketball coach, Bob Huggins, earns approximately $250,000 more than Holgorsen per year. In comparison, West Virginia’s state legislators earn $20,000 per year.

49. Wisconsin
> Highest paid employee:
Bo Ryan
> Position: College basketball coach
> Salary: $2.75 million

Bo Ryan, who has been the head coach of the University of Wisconsin Badgers basketball team since 2001, is Wisconsin’s highest-paid government employee. He is among the top 10 highest paid college basketball coaches in the country. He is currently considering retirement, which would shift the title of highest-paid employee to Wisconsin’s head football coach, Paul Chryst, who made $1.57 million in 2014.

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50. Wyoming
> Highest paid employee:
Craig Bohl
> Position: College football coach
> Salary: $832,000

Craig Bohl, Wyoming’s highest-paid government employee, has been the coach of the University of Wyoming Cowboys since 2013. The recently hired coach has a base annual salary of $832,000. Previous head coach Dave Christensen left the position making $1.2 million annually. With a maximum allowable bonus set at $330,000, Bohl has the potential to earn almost as much as his predecessor.

By Michael B. Sauter, Sam Stebbins, Thomas C. Frohlich and Evan Comen


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