The top programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision will shell out tens of millions of dollars for head coaches and ask for the world in return: conference championships, College Football Playoff appearances and national championships.
Very few coaches meet the standard laid out by the gargantuan deals that have become commonplace in the Power Five.
In some cases, a hefty contract signed on the back of one or two successful seasons can become the defining aspect of a coaching tenure. The best example of that might be Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher, who tops USA TODAY Sports' list of the most overpaid coaches in college football. (Buyout figures below are listed if the coach is fired on Dec. 1.)
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Fisher is one of the most accomplished active coaches in the FBS, with one national championship, a playoff berth and five top-10 finishes in 14 seasons at Florida State and A&M. He also owns one of the most onerous deals in sports, a fully guaranteed 10-year contract worth $95 million signed on the heels of his one strong year with the Aggies, a 9-1 finish during the abbreviated 2020 season. After barely sneaking into the US LBM Coaches Poll the following year, A&M finished 5-7 in 2022 and is 4-1 this season with an ugly loss to Miami.
Dana Holgorsen, Houston
Holgorsen is earning $4.3 million this season with a $14.8 million buyout as part of a reworked contract signed in 2022, on the heels of a 12-2 record and No. 17 finish in the Coaches Poll. Last year's team opened the year at No. 25 and went on to win eight games against a feeble schedule that avoided the top teams in the American Athletic Conference. While Holgorsen has pointed to the Cougars' 20 wins the past two seasons amid speculation over his job security, only seven of those victories have come in the regular season against teams that finished with a winning record, and just one was against an opponent that finished with double-digit wins. This year's team is 2-3 with losses to Rice, TCU and Texas Tech.
Tom Allen, Indiana
Allen is a terrific motivator and accomplished head coach who is responsible for one of the most successful seasons in Indiana's modern history, a 6-2 finish and No. 13 ranking during the COVID-influenced 2020 campaign. That helped earn him a restructured deal that pays $4.5 million this year and runs through 2027. But the Hoosiers have since plummeted back to the bottom of the Big Ten at 8-23 overall since the start of the 2021 season and 2-18 in league play.
Justin Wilcox, California
Wilcox has one of the toughest jobs in the Power Five. Against this backdrop, going 33-38 over six-plus years at California is a little impressive. But the Golden Bears have not been the same program since the COVID season, which came on the heels of back-to-back bowl bids. Since 2020, Cal is just 13-20 overall and 8-16 against the Pac-12, with half of those wins coming against Colorado, Stanford and opponents from the Championship Subdivision. Wilcox is earning $4.4 million this season and has a $20.7 million buyout.
Billy Napier, Florida
Napier will get the chance to turn things around at Florida, and his very successful run at Louisiana-Lafayette and flashes of top-level play in Gainesville suggest he could eventually get the Gators back toward the top of the SEC and FBS. But the results through one-plus season have come under heavy scrutiny: UF went 6-7 last year with two wins against FBS opponents with a winning record and has been hit-or-miss through the first month of this season, with a win against Tennessee sandwiched between less-than-impressive performances against Utah and Charlotte, as well as a loss to Kentucky on Saturday. Napier is the eighth-highest-paid coach in the SEC at $7.3 million this season.
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on social media @PaulMyerberg
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football's 5 most overpaid coaches: SEC leads the way