College basketball’s most overpaid coaches

The University of Kentucky generated headlines Monday when it signed coach John Calipari to a new eight-year contract worth $36.5 million plus incentives. Some analysts may deem the salary excessive, but if anyone deserves that kind of money, it’s Calipari.

John Calipari's new deal is worth at least $36.5 million over eight years.
(J. Meric/Getty Images)

Kentucky has gone 64-12 in Calipari’s two seasons and has had nine players taken in the NBA draft. In April the Wildcats advanced to the Final Four – and the 2011-12 squad will likely be even better.

Still, while Calipari has done enough to earn his contract, plenty of coaches have landed lucrative deals despite minimal on-court success. Here is a sampling of coaches whose salaries aren’t justified by their resumes.

Oliver Purnell, DePaul – Purnell has been to the NCAA tournament six times in 20 years with schools such as Clemson and Dayton, but he’s lost in the first round each time. In other words, the 58-year-old Purnell has never won a game in the Big Dance. That didn’t seem to bother DePaul, who hired Purnell last spring for $1.8 million per year. DePaul finished 7-24 and last in the Big East in Purnell’s first season.

Mike Anderson, Arkansas – No one can deny that Anderson is a solid coach. Nolan Richardson’s former assistant led Alabama-Birmingham to the Sweet 16 and Missouri to the Elite Eight. Still, has Anderson really done enough to be earning $2.2 million per year? Missouri finished fifth or worse in the Big 12 in four of Anderson’s five seasons and often struggled to fill the arena. Anderson is known as a decent recruiter, but certainly not a great one. For this kind of money Arkansas could’ve likely landed a more highly-medaled coach.

Travis Ford, Oklahoma State – The former Kentucky guard is making $1.8 million per year in Stillwater, where he recently concluded his third season with a second-round loss in the NIT. Oklahoma State made the NCAA tournament the previous two seasons under Ford but failed to advance past the first weekend. From 2005-08 Ford was the coach at UMass, where he failed to lead one of his teams to the Big Dance. So tell me: Does two NCAA tournament trips in six seasons justify $1.8 million? I don’t think so either.

Frank Haith, Missouri – Haith spent seven seasons at the University of Miami but appeared in just one NCAA tournament. He would’ve entered the 2011-12 campaign on the hot seat but, thanks to Missouri athletic director Mike Alden, Haith won’t have to worry about that. Alden lured Haith to Missouri with a $1.5 million-per-year contract that also includes $825,000 in potential incentives. Even if Haith proves to be a good hire, nothing about his past justifies this kind of paycheck.

Tony Bennett, Virginia – The NCAA’s all-time leader in career 3-point percentage (49.7) led Washington State to two NCAA tournament appearances in three years before the Cavaliers called with a $1.7 million-per-year offer. Virginia went a combined 31-31 in Bennett’s first two seasons, but recruiting is picking up, so it shouldn’t be long before we see if Bennett is worthy of the money. In the meantime, getting paid $1.7 million to finish in the bottom half of the ACC isn’t a bad gig.

Anthony Grant, Alabama – Grant needed just three seasons at Virginia Commonwealth to convince Alabama he was worth $1.8 million per year. Even with a 76-25 record at VCU, Grant’s salary at Alabama seemed a bit excessive for a 43-year-old head coach who had never won at the major conference level. The hire, though, appears to be working out. Last season Alabama bounced back from a slow start to finish 12-4 in SEC play and advanced to the championship game of the NIT, where it lost to Wichita State.

Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Monday, Jun 27, 2011