Brian Kelly's contract with LSU tops list of 10 biggest deals in college football history

Upon his arrival at Texas A&M, Jimbo Fisher signed what was, at the time, the largest coaching contract in college football history: A 10-year deal worth $75 million.

In the four years since, however, five other coaches have eclipsed that mark.

And three have come in the past week alone.

The recently-announced 10-year deals for Brian Kelly, Mel Tucker and James Franklin all rank among the five richest contracts in the history of the sport in terms of total value, according to salary data compiled and analyzed by USA TODAY Sports.

Kelly is due to make $100 million over the length of his deal with LSU, becoming the first public-school football coach to sign a nine-figure deal. Tucker and Franklin signed extensions for $95 million and $85 million with Michigan State and Penn State, respectively.

Lincoln Riley's contract at USC is likely comparable, but the terms of his deal are not publicly available because the private school is not subject to public records laws.

Here's a look at the 10 largest public-school contracts in college football history in terms of total value, including both new deals and contract extensions.

1. Brian Kelly, LSU

Contract: New deal announced Nov. 30, 2021

Total value: $100 million over 10 years

Kelly, who spent the past 12 years at Notre Dame, is due to speak at his introductory news conference in Baton Rouge Wednesday afternoon. He'll do so after signing a mammoth contract that is worth $100 million in basic compensation, including the retention bonus that he is due to receive each year on July 1.

Kelly's contract also includes a $500,000 bonus for every bowl appearance – which, at LSU, is near-guaranteed. The Tigers have played in a bowl in 20 of the past 21 seasons.

2. Mel Tucker, Michigan State

Contract: Extension announced Nov. 24, 2021

Total value: $95 million over 10 years

Tucker received the largest contract extension in college football history after less than a full season in East Lansing. The $95-million deal is fully guaranteed and incudes annual payments of $5.9 million in base salary, $3.2 million for media and personal appearances and a $400,000 bonus.

3. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Contract: Extension announced Sept. 1, 2021

Total value: $94.95 million over 10 years

A few days before the start of the season, Texas A&M added more money and four more fully-guaranteed years to the already massive contract that Fisher had signed in 2017. (More on that deal later.) The new terms pushed the overall value of his contract with the Aggies to just under $95 million and made him the owner of college football's richest deal for about two months.

4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Contract: Extension announced April 26, 2019

Total value: $93 million over 10 years

Swinney's extension ranks fourth on this list now, but it was No. 1 by a significant margin when he signed it in 2019 – a few months after he led the Tigers to a national championship. It also marked his second big-money extension in three years; Swinney agreed to an eight-year, $54 million deal with Clemson in 2017.

5. James Franklin, Penn State

Contract: Extension announced Nov. 23, 2021

Total value: $85 million over 10 years

Franklin's new contract will kick in Jan. 1 and features $80 million in guaranteed money – a significant investment for the Nittany Lions after what's been a mediocre season. He figures to have one of the sport's largest buyouts for at least the next several years.

6. Nick Saban, Alabama

Contract: Extension announced June 7, 2021

Total value: $84.8 million over eight years

Alabama has repeatedly extended Saban's contract, adding a few years (and increasing his annual pay) each time. So it makes sense that his most recent extension, signed over the summer, is also the largest that Saban has ever received, in terms of total value – an eight-year deal that averages out to more than $10 million per year.

7. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Contract: New deal announced Dec. 4, 2017

Total value: $75 million over 10 years

It took some serious money to pry Fisher away from Florida State, where he had been the head coach for eight years and led the Seminoles to a national title. While his annual salary trailed Saban's, the length of this deal made it the largest in the history of the sport at the time.

8. Nick Saban, Alabama

Contract: Extension announced Aug. 24, 2018

Total value: $74.4 million over eight years

Saban's 2018 extension bumped up his annual basic pay to $7.5 million, while also notably increasing the amount he could pocket in bonuses based on performance – including an $800,000 bonus for winning the national title.

9. Nick Saban, Alabama

Contract: Extension announced May 2, 2017

Total value: $65 million over eight years

This extension, which Saban signed in the summer of 2017, came with a whopping $4 million signing bonus and ensured that he would remain the highest-paid coach in college football. 

10. Nick Saban, Alabama

Contract: Extension announced June 3, 2014

Total value: $55.2 million over eight years

Yes, believe it or not, it's another Saban extension. This one put his annual basic compensation at $6.9 million – a figure that likely won't even crack the top 10 in next year's coaches compensation database.

Contact Tom Schad at or on Twitter @Tom_Schad. Follow Steve Berkowitz on Twitter @ByBerkowitz