NCAA Baseball

Top college baseball coaches make major-league money; at least nine at $1 million or more


Steve Berkowitz and Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Published 11:11 a.m. ET June 15, 2019 | Updated 3:44 p.m. ET June 15, 2019

With small stadiums and sparse national TV for regular-season games, little about elite-level college baseball seems comparable to Major League Baseball.

The compensation paid to top coaches says otherwise.

At least nine college baseball coaches are making $1 million or more, while at least 11 MLB managers are making $1 million or less, USA TODAY Sports surveys have found.

Five of the big-money college skippers have guided their teams to this season’s NCAA College World Series, an eight-team event that begins Saturday in Omaha.

Among that quintet, Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin leads the list, having been credited with just over $1.3 million in total compensation for the 2017 calendar, according to the university’s most recent federal tax return. That document, released a month ago, listed Corbin’s base pay for the year at nearly $1.1 million.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin hits ground balls during practice Friday in Omaha.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin hits ground balls during practice Friday in Omaha. (Photo: Nati Harnik, AP)

Public-school coaches’ contracts can be used to determine their basic annual pay for the current season. The highest-paid coaches among that group with teams in the CWS are Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn and Louisville’s Dan McDonnell, each of whom are making $1.1 million. That excludes incentive bonuses and the value of benefits, all of which are captured on private schools’ tax records.

LSU’s Paul Mainieri, whose team lost to Florida State in an NCAA super regional, is at $1.225 million, including a $100,000 annual longevity payment that becomes due June 30 – the greatest total among public-school coaches with teams among the final 16 in this season’s NCAA tournament.

Among the MLB managers making less than $1 million this season are three who work in three of baseball largest markets: The New York Mets’ Mickey Callaway ($950,000), the Boston Red Sox’s Alex Cora and the Philadelphia Phillies’ Gabe Kapler ($900,000 each).

These salaries reflect a change in many major league teams’ power structure, with authority and control now being placed more in the hands of general managers and analytics experts rather than superstar managers who have household name recognition.

Meanwhile, the most highly paid and best-known coaches in NCAA football and men’s basketball now routinely get amounts that are comparable to those given their NFL and NBA brethren. And it far from surprising when coaches move from the colleges to the pros, or vice-versa. But the money-laden, win-now settings of major-college football and men’s basketball are much closer to the pros’ than baseball.

“When you look at the tenure of (highly paid) baseball coaches, they are considerably longer than their counterparts in college basketball and football,” said Bob Lattinville, an attorney with the law firm Spencer Fane LLP who assists USA TODAY Sports with its annual compilation and analyses of college football and basketball coaches’ compensation.

“That’s not just because there’s not as much net revenue in baseball – it’s just a little bit under the radar. … The factor that most frequently forces premature coaching changes in college football are large, powerful and vocal fan bases that get disgruntled. Baseball doesn’t motivate the fan bases of most schools to the degree that football does.”

Among the nine million-dollar baseball coaches, seven are in at least their 12th season with their current school, including four who are in at least their 16th. However, this is not because they’ve been running middling programs. Including this season, these seven coaches have combined for 33 CWS appearances.

Lattinville — whose practice areas include representation of college coaches, athletics directors and NCAA schools – said that compared to college football and men’s basketball coaches, baseball coaches more frequently have contracts that include automatic term extensions and pay raises for postseason success. Arkansas’ appearance in the 64-team tournament field, for example, gave Van Horn an additional year on his agreement and a $50,000 salary increase.

And Lattinville said these kinds of arrangements give athletics directors one less issue to worry about.

“If you’ve got a good (coach), you’re best off hanging on to him even if you have to pay top-of-the-market compensation,” Lattinville said. “With the ever-expanding responsibilities of ADs now, including some really tough issues, they will happily pay top-of-the-market for program success and stability.”

Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin: $1,318,162 (pay for 2017 calendar year, according to school’s federal tax records)

Arkansas’s Dave Van Horn: $1,100,000 (includes $175,000 paid to coach by Easton Sports)

Louisville’s Dan McDonnell: $1,100,000

Auburn’s Butch Thompson: $1,000,000

Texas Tech’s Tim Tadlock: $1,000,000

Florida State’s Mike Martin: $700,000

Mississippi State’s Chris Lemonis: $600,000

Michigan’s Erik Bakich: $425,000

Source: Documents and information obtained from the schools by USA TODAY.

Note: Does not include bonuses or the value of benefits and perks.

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