Some schools are seeing huge returns on contracts handed out to some of the most successful coaches in the country. That's especially true at two Pac-12 programs, Colorado and Washington, which have been rewarded handsomely for investments in Deion Sanders and Kalen DeBoer, respectively.
But in terms of bang for their buck, the biggest returns can be found in the Group of Five conferences. That's where you'll find three of the best deals in USA TODAY Sports' list of the most underpaid coaches in college football.
Deion Sanders, Colorado
Even before getting to the on-field product, Sanders has been worth every penny of the $5.5 million he'll earn this season just for the eyeballs he's brought back to Colorado more than a generation after the program's last brush with national attention. Added to that is the Buffaloes' obvious improvement amid his unprecedented offseason overhaul of one of the weakest rosters in the Power Five. Despite losses to Oregon and Southern California, Colorado is on track for a bowl berth after reaching the postseason just twice since 2008.
Kalen DeBoer, Washington
Colorado and Sanders have sucked up all the oxygen in the Pac-12 to leave DeBoer and Washington flying well under the radar. But all the Huskies have done since the start of last season is decimate teams with one of the nation's top offenses piloted by Michael Penix Jr., the most productive passer in the FBS. DeBoer is now 16-2 at Washington and has this year's team looking almost unstoppable, making him an absolute bargain at $4.2 million in basic annual pay, seventh among Pac-12 coaches working at public universities.
Jeff Tedford, Fresno State
Tedford has won at least 10 games in three of his four seasons at Fresno State across two separate tenures and has the Bulldogs headed that direction again in 2023 after going 4-0 in non-conference play (5-0 overall) with road wins against Purdue and Arizona State. At 41-18 overall in four-plus years after going 82-57 at California from 2002-12, Tedford is the most successful coach in the Mountain West. But at $1.55 million in total pay this season, Tedford is making less than five other coaches in the conference.
Charles Huff, Marshall
Huff is 20-10 in two-plus seasons at Marshall and has steered the Thundering Herd through a switch from Conference USA to the Sun Belt without missing a beat. This year's team was picked to finish fourth in the East division but has already stacked up wins against East Carolina and Virginia Tech, making Huff an even more logical contender for Power Five positions set to open this winter. One of the most well-regarded recruiters in the business, Huff is making just $755,500 this season, 10th among 14 coaches in the Sun Belt.
Jerry Kill, New Mexico State
Kill has won at every stop: Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, Minnesota and now New Mexico State. One of the toughest places to win in all of college football, NMSU made a bowl game in Kill's debut and has a chance to get back there in 2023, though a 20-17 loss to Hawaii on Sept. 24 dropped the Aggies to 2-3. Kill is making $600,000 this season, tied for the lowest among Conference USA coaches at public universities, as part of a deal that runs through 2027.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deion Sanders, underpaid? See who joins him in best deals for coaches.