Side Hustles: How NCAA Coaches Like Harbaugh, Saban Pad Their Pay

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Daniel Libit
·10 min read
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In 2019, Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh donned his hallmark chino pants and asked an actor pretending to be an earnest equipment apprentice, “Do you think you can keep these khakis wrinkle-free all season?” For his brief, monotone performance, Harbaugh later disclosed to UM, the Downy Wrinkle Guard people paid him $250,000.

In recent years, as the debate has culminated over whether college athletes should be allowed to earn extra money, athletic department employees have cumulatively racked up millions of dollars doing various side gigs.

This includes not only rank-and-file staffers moonlighting to make rent, but some of the highest-paid college coaches, like Harbaugh, who despite earning well into the seven figures from their public university employers, still found time to squeeze out a few (hundred thousand) bucks from the private sector.

Harbaugh was able to negotiate his quarter-million-dollar side job even though his contract with Michigan specifically paid him $4.5 million in “additional compensation” that year for the rights to his promotional activities. The agreement contained an “exclusivity of services” clause, which required Harbaugh to first seek permission of the school’s athletic director, who evidently gave approval.

Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart banked $130,000 in 2019 without muttering a word in a television spot for the Ford F150. Scandalized ex-LSU and ex-Kansas coach Les Miles received $25,000 for pretending to water a football field with beer in a Dos Equis ad in 2018. Miles’ successor in Baton Rouge, Ed Orgeron, made $226,000 from the Louisiana-based restaurant chain, Raisin’ Canes Chicken Fingers, between 2018 and 2020.

“Growing up in my family, I grew up a rich man—rich in heritage, rich in awareness,” Orgeron said in a 2018 testimonial for St. Joseph Hospice, which augmented the coach’s richness by another $100,000.

These tidy sums represent a small tranche of what the NCAA deems “athletically related income or benefits,” which college athletic employees are required to report to their schools annually. As the term implies, the disclosures are only supposed to constitute monies or in-kind remuneration provided by sources outside their institutions. The NCAA sets a $600 reporting threshold for those disclosures, which typically don’t include third-party compensation that is contractually guaranteed in their contracts.

Through public records requests, Sportico obtained the disclosure forms since 2018 from more than two dozen Division I schools, which provide a window into this adjacent market of the college sports industry. (In several instances, schools denied records requests, asserting that their states’ sunshine laws exempted accountings of employees’ non-public monies.)

Alabama’s Nick Saban—the highest-paid college football coach—nabbed $350,000 in corporate speaking engagements from 2018 to 2019. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney reported making $75,000 to $150,000 in speaking and appearance fees at churches, “various locations in (the) southeast,” and as part of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge. (North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren took in $5,000 for his participation in that annual charity golf tournament.)

Swinney, who once publicly avowed to get out of college coaching if players were allowed to be paid, also received a few thousand dollars in discounted lodging from the luxurious Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado—courtesy of Clemson grad Harry Frampton—and a free home alarm system in exchange for endorsing the peace of mind offered by Priority One Security.

In point of fact, it wasn’t just richly compensated college football coaches who have found ways to supplement their multi-million-dollar annual employment agreements: Richly compensated men’s basketball coaches got in the game, too.

In 2019, Louisville’s head men’s basketball coach Chris Mack nabbed $80,000 for a Planet Fitness endorsement, $20,000 to speak at a local bank, and $2,000 for appearing in Cameo personalized videos (for which his current going rate is $100 a pop). Michigan State’s Tom Izzo made $23,000 for speaking at Wells Fargo; Memphis’ Penny Hardaway—who reported $3 million in outside endorsements—took in $91,000 for commercials; former Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall earned $50,000 in endorsements and consulting; and Kansas’s Bill Self disclosed $35,000 in speaking engagements.

After long requiring outside-income disclosures, the NCAA decided in 2016 to end the practice, rationalizing that it duplicated individual universities’ disclosure policies for faculty and staff. But following the FBI’s 2017 arrests of 10 individuals accused of bribing college basketball recruits to attend certain Adidas-sponsored schools, the NCAA chartered a commission, chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which made a series of recommendations meant to shore up the integrity of the system. The commission advocated reinstituting outside-income disclosures, contending that they would “increase institutional control of athletics department personnel and promote increased transparency and accountability between NCAA institutions and outside entities.”

However, if this was meant to safeguard amateurism, it may have had the unintended effect of delivering a rhetorical arsenal to pay-the-player advocates—numerous documented examples of how coaches and administrators capitalize on their college sports connections in ways forbidden to athletes. With state-based name, image and likeness laws for college athletes on the horizon, the athletics staffers’ outside-income disclosures provide insight into possible markets for players once they can profit from their publicity rights.

Consider paid speaking, a financial side dish that has fed many different kinds of mouths in the college sports food chain. For 2019-20, Sasho Cirovski, the longtime head men’s soccer coach at perennial power Maryland, disclosed $15,000 in speaking engagement income. The year prior, Theresa Beeckman, Western Michigan’s director of volleyball operations, reported $12,000 in speaking fees; the school’s head football coach, Tim Lester, checked in with $7,200. Currently, none of the six proposed federal NIL laws explicitly say whether athletes would be able to earn money for paid speeches, although the activity could fall within the statutes’ general allowances. In October, the NCAA Division I Council specifically proposed allowing college athletes to earn money from personal appearances as part of its NIL reform recommendations.

In terms of frequency, most of the outside earning, the disclosure forms show, came from running or participating in sports camps and clinics. Those who made the most in outside camp income were not necessarily practitioners in the “revenue” sports of football and men’s basketball. In 2019, one of the biggest camp earners among the schools Sportico reviewed was Gerald Guerrieri, Texas A&M’s women’s soccer coach, who netted $146,975. Conversely, Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner reported revenue of $142,233.69 from his camp, but claimed to take home only $10,526.51 after expenses. Florida Gulf Coast head men’s basketball coach Michael Fly told his school that he ended up losing $10,000 on camps that year after paying his staff.

In 2019, at least 85 employees in Louisville’s athletic department reported earning some camp-related money on the side, while 14 disclosed income from club sports work or other outside coaching.

The NCAA permits college athletes to earn money from working camps “at a rate commensurate with the going rate in that locality for similar services,” but prohibits them from conducting their own camp or clinic. NCAA’s bylaws currently stipulate that a player’s compensation for working at a camp cannot be based on “the publicity, reputation, fame or personal following obtained because of athletics ability.”

“We don’t dictate the ‘going rate’ in an area,” Michelle Hosick, the NCAA’s associate communications director, told Sportico in a statement. “Generally, we provide the advice that all employees be paid similarly based on the skills and experience they bring to the job.”

A federal bill introduced in February by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., would establish athletic reputation rights for college athletes, in addition to NIL.

How outside income is dealt with by athletic departments can vary widely based on the institution or the specific employee. Particularly when it comes to higher-paid staffers, some schools try to make any potential earned revenue part of the contract.

For example, in his previous deal with Texas Tech, Texas’ newly hired men’s basketball coach Chris Beard was paid an annual, escalating fee, which amounted to $4 million this season, in exchange for the rights to almost all of Beard’s athletically related outside income. The carve-outs, according to the agreement, were national speaking engagements, endorsements or commercials, and book contracts, if negotiated by Beard’s agent, so long as they did “not result from or otherwise arise out of” his position as the Red Raiders men’s basketball coach. Other schools, however, have taken a more laissez-faire approach.

Juwan Howard’s employment agreement with Michigan, which paid him $2.1 million plus incentive bonuses this season, states that he is free to earn money “outside of his duties for the universities,” so long as he receives written approval from the school’s athletic director. The contract also provides that Howard can operate a summer basketball camp at the university as long as he reimburses the school for expenses. On his 2019-20 disclosure form, Howard reported camp income of $44,551.98. Here are some other disclosures of note:

  • In 2019, Marie Tuite, the under-fire athletic director at San Jose State University, reported earning a $14,000 annual stipend from the University of Washington for her work as an adjunct professor. (She did not report any similar income this last year.) SJSU’s longtime director of sports medicine, who resigned in September amid allegations of sexually abusing athletes, reported earning $9,500 from the NFL for working as an ATC spotter. Michigan’s senior associate athletic director/health Darryl Conway ($2,800) and Northern Illinois head athletic trainer Phil Voorhis ($2,500) also disclosed income from the NFL.

  • Head trainers at Power 5 schools didn’t do quite as well as head football coaches, but still proved capable of flexing their commercial muscles. In March 2018, LSU trainer Tommy Moffitt told his Twitter followers that Fairlife Milk’s “Core Power” protein shakes were “good for the soul!” He later disclosed $10,000 of outside income from the beverage company. Last year, Washington’s Tim Socha reported receiving $6,000 worth of supplements for his work as a paid endorser for Advocare, a nutritional product company. Although not quite as juicy, Clemson’s head football strength coach, Joey Batson, reported being gifted peaches and watermelons from a farm in South Carolina.

  • A few athletics officials disclosed income from foreign sources: Last year, Oregon’s head strength and conditioning coach, Jim Radcliffe, reported $12,000 from the Chinese National Track Association, while Houston track and field coach Leroy Burrell disclosed $20,000 from the Chinese Athletic Association the previous academic year.

  • Several coaches disclosed income from Championship Productions, a major producer of instructional sports videos. In their 2019-20 outside income reports, Louisville’s Mack ($2,000), Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats ($2,001), Bowling Green women’s basketball coach Robyn Fralick ($2,324.43), Kansas State men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber ($518.13) and Michigan’s Harbaugh ($900) each earned some money from their tutorials. However, they were all topped by South Carolina assistant track and field coach Karim Abdel Wahab, who made $4,542.48 for an instructional video through X-Pollination Productions.

  • James Speed, the long-time cheerleading coach at Louisville, reported earning $180,000 in 2019 outside income between his participation in cheerleading skill camps and competitions, and speaking at cheerleading conferences around the world. That’s almost 10 times what UL pays Speed for his part-time position with the university.

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