In an ongoing effort, commissioner George Kliavkoff is attempting to convince Pac-12 presidents and chancellors that investing in football can provide beneficial returns for athletic departments and the campus community.
“Historically, I don’t think we’ve made a great case for the ROI of footbalI,’’ Kliavkoff told the Hotline following the 2021 season. “I’m not going to take the opportunity to speak to my 12 bosses without talking about it.”
Kliavkoff need not worry about Utah’s Taylor Randall. The first-year president clearly believes in football’s immense ROI.
Last week, Utah revealed a massive contract extension for coach Kyle Whittingham, who will receive $41 million over the next six years, culminating in an $8 million guarantee for the 2027 season.
The revised contract, coming a few months after the school’s first appearance in the Rose Bowl, makes Whittingham the top-paid public school coach in the Pac-12.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the deal is the university’s willingness to compensate Whittingham if a series of facility projects are not completed in a timely manner.
According to USA Today, which closely tracks coaching contracts across major college football:
“The introduction of the contractual facilities commitments, backed by what amount to $400,000 in financial penalties for the school, are even more unusual.
“Two of the fix-ups are relatively cosmetic: New graphics and carpeting for the football building. The other involves a nearly $62 million indoor practice facility for the team, which currently shares an indoor facility with other Utah teams and local recreation programs …
“Construction on the new facility must begin by July 1, 2023 and the university must assume occupancy by Dec. 31, 2024. If any deadline is missed, Whittingham must be paid $100,000 within 60 days.”
In other words, the Utes put themselves on the hook for resource investment — a move seemingly more likely to occur in the Big Ten or SEC than the Pac-12.
The facilities provision “helps the organization to keep focused on certain aspects, particularly as you go through your approval processes that are needed with your overall leadership,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan told USA Today.
Harlan’s plan would not have been possible without support from Randall, who was appointed president last summer after a long tenure as dean of the business school.
Randall is a Utah alumnus and has witnessed the impact of football success on the campus writ large — first with Urban Meyer, then with Whittingham and the move into the Pac-12.
As we outline below, the revised contract vaults Whittingham’s guaranteed compensation into rarefied air within the conference.
(Salary figures from university disclosures or published reports. USC and Stanford are not required to make contracts publicly available.)
USC’s Lincoln RileySigned through: N/AAverage annual salary: N/AComment: Riley’s deal, which will eventually appear in USC’s publicly-available tax filings, is believed to carry a $100 million value over 10 years. If the Trojans reach the playoff this season or next, he might seem like a bargain.
Stanford’s David ShawSigned through: N/AAverage annual salary: N/AComment: The three-time conference champ is believed to earn $6 million to $7 million annually in guaranteed compensation. Despite Stanford’s recent downturn, Shaw will leave only when he’s good and ready.
Utah’s Kyle WhittinghamSigned through: 2027 seasonAverage annual salary: $6.83 millionComment: If he averages 6.5 conference wins per year and coaches through the end of the new contract, Whittingham would retire with 92 victories in Pac-12 play — third all-time behind UCLA’s Terry Donahue (98) and Washington’s Don James (97).
Oregon’s Dan LanningSigned through: 2027 seasonAverage annual salary: $4.85 millionComment: We long ago stopped wondering about Oregon’s commitment to football success. The school wants a national title for Phil Knight, and Phil Knight wants a national title for Phil Knight.
Cal’s Justin WilcoxSigned through: 2027 seasonAverage annual salary: $4.75Comment: Wilcox might be overpaid based on his record in Berkeley (26-28), but he’s assuredly underpaid given all the administrative and bureaucratic hurdles he confronts, especially in the past two years.
UCLA’s Chip KellySigned through: 2025 seasonAverage annual salary: $4.75 millionComment: Kelly’s recently-signed extension limits UCLA’s financial liability if momentum fades over the next two seasons — an entirely plausible scenario considering the developments across town.
Oregon State’s Jonathan SmithSigned through: 2027 seasonAverage annual salary: $3.77 millionComment: The Hotline’s supercomputer ran the numbers on coaching salaries, victories, recruiting rankings and university resources and determined that Smith, even with his new contract, is one of the Pac-12’s best bargains.
Arizona State’s Herm EdwardsSigned through: 2024 seasonAverage annual salary: $3.7 millionComment: The Hotline’s supercomputer ran the numbers on coaching salaries, victories, recruiting rankings and NCAA investigations and determined that Edwards has officially entered the stealing-money phase of his tenure.
Colorado’s Karl DorrellSigned through: 2024 seasonAverage annual salary: $3.6 millionComment: Based on performance alone, the hottest seat in the Pac-12 resides in Boulder, where the downturn was swift and the outlook is somewhat gloomy. Then again, CU stands as one of the toughest jobs in the conference.
Washington’s Kalen DeBoerSigned through: 2026 seasonAverage annual salary: $3.3 millionComment: The Huskies committed $16.5 million (total) to DeBoer, an established head coach. Meanwhile, Oregon is shelling out $29.1 million for Lanning, a rookie boss. Is Washington cheap? Is Oregon reckless? Or is it about a widening disparity in institutional approaches? Discuss amongest yourselves.
Arizona’s Jedd FischSigned through: 2025 seasonAverage annual salary: $2.82 millionComment: Not difficult to imagine the university offering Fisch a lengthy extension and significant salary bump next winter if the victory total climbs and the Wildcats take back the Territorial Cup. In fact, we would expect it.
Washington State’s Jake DickertSigned through: 2026 seasonAverage annual salary: $2.7 millionComment: Everything about Dickert’s contract is entirely reasonable for a 38-year-old, first-time head coach — and for a program that makes better use of its resources than any in the conference on an annual basis.
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