Ohio State football's assistant coach salary pool reaches eight figures for first time

The salary pool for the Ohio State football assistant coaches has hit another high.

According to contracts obtained by The Dispatch through a public records request, the Buckeyes' 10 on-field assistant coaches are set to receive nearly $11.43 million in combined basic compensation for this year.

The total marks a significant increase from last season when the assistants, not including strength and conditioning coaches, analysts or others who form the vast support staff, made about $9.32 million, a figure that had been the highest among public universities in the nation in 2023.

Mar 7, 2024; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive coordinator Chip Kelly watches players during spring football practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Mar 7, 2024; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive coordinator Chip Kelly watches players during spring football practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Since USA TODAY began compiling salary data for assistant coaches in 2009, no public school is known to have dedicated as much toward the salaries for its football assistants as Ohio State has reserved this year.

Though not all schools from the wealthiest conferences have made available assistant coach salaries for this year, only Georgia has reported even spending eight figures on its assistant coaches, setting aside $10.1 million for its on-field staff. Clemson and Alabama are allocating $9.68 million and $9.43 million, respectively.

The latest rise in the salaries of the Buckeyes’ assistants is due in no small part to the hiring of Chip Kelly as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

An innovative offensive mind who revolutionized college football with an up-tempo spread offense over a decade ago, Kelly stepped down as the head coach at UCLA in February to leave for Ohio State and received a three-year contract that includes annual basic compensation of $2 million.

Kelly replaced Corey Dennis, who made $412,000 as the quarterbacks coach last season.

Jim Knowles, the veteran defensive coordinator who has rebuilt his unit into one of the best in the nation since joining Ohio State’s staff two years ago, remains the highest-paid assistant after receiving a pay raise to bump up his salary to $2.2 million.

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The Buckeyes are only the second public school to ever pay base salaries worth $2 million or more to multiple assistants, following Clemson, which in 2021 paid $2.5 million to defensive coordinator Brent Venables and $2.13 million to offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.

Kelly’s base salary is scheduled to increase by $100,000 in the following two years of his contract.

His salary is already higher than what Bill O’Brien would have been owed had he remained in the same role before taking the head-coaching job at Boston College after three weeks in Columbus. O’Brien had been scheduled to receive $1.8 million in basic compensation this year.

Four other Ohio State assistants are making at least seven-figures, a group that includes co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline a $1.6 million, defensive line coach and secondary coach Tim Walton at $1.4 million and offensive line coach Justin Frye at $1 million.

The salaries for Johnson and Walton are higher than last season as they made $1.167 million and $1 million, respectively.

Carlos Locklyn, who was hired as the running backs coach earlier this month to replace Tony Alford, is due $650,000 in basic compensation. Alford, who departed for Michigan, made $772,500 in basic pay a year ago with the Buckeyes.

Among the rest of the staff, safeties coach Matt Guerrieri is at $425,000, tight ends coach Keenan Bailey is at $400,000 and linebackers coach James Laurinaitis is at $350,000.

Among the returning assistants, Bailey, Frye and Hartline did not see a change in their basic compensation.

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The salaries for the assistant coaches have soared in recent years.

Not adjusting for inflation, the total payroll for Day’s on-field assistants has increased by 58% percent over the span of his tenure, which began in 2019 when he succeeded Urban Meyer at the helm of the program. The total basic compensation owed to the assistants five years ago was $7.25 million.

The staff spending is not limited to base pay.

Under the terms of Kelly’s contract, Ohio State is responsible for paying $1.5 million to UCLA, the sum of his buyout for leaving the school, and related taxable income resulting from the expense.

OSU will also pay $200,000 to Locklyn to help defray his Oregon buyout. He owes the school $366,667, a figure that equated to 50% of his remaining guaranteed salary.

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch and can be reached at

USA TODAY reporter Steve Berkowitz, Athens Banner-Herald reporter Marc Weiszer, Greenville News reporter Scott Keepfer and Tuscaloosa News reporter Nick Kelly contributed to this report.

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State football: Assistant coach salary pool hits eight figures