The first full day of the 2023 college football season is Saturday, marking game time for the top-paid employees in the University of California system. While the UC players now have the opportunity to profit off their celebrity status, it’s their coaches who haul in the seven-figure salaries.
The three top-paid UC employees in 2022 were sports coaches, according to university data obtained by The Standard. UCLA football coach Chip Kelly led the pack, making more than $5.8 million in 2022. He was followed by Cal Football Coach Justin Wilcox and UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach Michael Cronin. There are more than 331,000 people on the entire UC system’s payroll.
In total, UC coaching staff earned about $70.1 million last year, distributed among 739 coaches, the data shows. That represented about $1 out of every $1,000 the school system spent on staff pay.
Kelly’s recent contract extension means his salary will grow to $6.1 million during the 2023 season, the Athletic reported.
Wilcox also got a new deal, promising an annual take-home of nearly $5 million by 2027, according to Sports Illustrated. His contract extension also increased the pool of funds for Wilcox’s 10 assistants from $3.9 million to $4.6 million per year. The team’s offensive and defensive coordinators each earned nearly $900,000 in 2022, taking home more than the head coaches of almost every other team in the university athletic system.
Cal’s football team has logged two winning seasons during Wilcox’s six-year tenure; the team went 4-8 in 2022.
Meanwhile, Cal's 2022 Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Fox was paid $2 million to lead the team to its worst-ever season. He was fired in March.
Football was the most lucrative sport for UC coaches, representing 12 of the top 25 highest-paid coaches in the system. That was followed by basketball, whose coaches took nine of the top slots. Three baseball coaches and a lone swimming and diving coach eked into the top 25.
The vast majority of the highest-paid coaches led men’s teams. Just two coaches of women’s teams made it into the top 25 highest-paid coaches. The top-paid women’s team coach was Cori Close, head coach of the UCLA women’s basketball team. She ranked No. 8 in the top-paid coaches in the system. Charmin Smith, the Cal women’s basketball team head coach, ranked No. 11.
Despite the lucrative contracts held by top UC coaches, others elsewhere earn more. Alabama’s Nick Saban was the highest-paid football coach in the country in 2022, earning $11 million, according to USA Today. The national data places Kelly at No. 20 nationwide and Wilcox at No. 38.
In basketball, Cronin ranked No. 10 across the country for earnings, trailing behind top-earner John Calipari, who was paid $8.5 million to lead the University of Kentucky squad, according to USA Today.
Type in the name of any University of California coach in the search bar below to see what they were paid in 2022.
Noah Baustin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org