By Rachel O'Brien
Deputy Policy Editor, OpenTheBooks.com
March Madness has come to Las Vegas, and with it a chance to look at what basketball coaches are making at the elite level —
The Sweet 16, the regional semifinal round of the March Madness NCAA tournament, is split among four regions, with teams in the West Region — No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Gonzaga University, No. 4 UConn and No. 8 University of Arkansas — playing in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The four NCAA men’s basketball teams play in the March Madness regional semifinals in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 23, then the victors move to the Elite Eight on Saturday, March 25.
UCLA head coach Mick Cronin makes $4.1 million annually, according to a six-year contract signed in 2022, making him the highest-paid public school basketball coach in the Pac-12 Conference. This salary, while high, makes sense considering UCLA has 11 national titles, the record for the most NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championships
Cronin’s contract also makes him eligible for $345,000 per season in cumulative performance bonuses — including Pac-12 coach of the year as selected by the coaches ($10,000); Pac-12 regular-season championship outright ($25,000); Pac-12 tournament championship ($15,000); making the NCAA tournament round of 64 ($35,000); second round ($25,000), Sweet 16 ($25,000), Elite Eight ($25,000), Final Four ($50,000), championship game ($25,000) and national championship ($50,000). Cronin also can make as much as $60,000 per year based on his players’ academic performance, The Los Angeles Times reported.
He also can get another $2 million retention bonus if he’s still with the team on April 15, 2025, and another $2 million if he remains the coach on March 31, 2028. He can also make up to $250,000 per year for camps and clinics.
Eric Musselman, University of Arkansas head coach, follows closely behind, making $4 million annually. His five-year contract coaching the Razorbacks through the 2028 season also provides for more pay based on longevity and “success in the SEC and NCAA tournament.”
Dan Hurley, UConn head coach, is making $2.9 million each year, up from $2.75 million annually in his previous contract and appears to be the highest paid UConn employee.
Mark Few, head coach of Gonzaga University, the only private university playing in Las Vegas this weekend, earns the least compared to his public school colleagues — $2.1 million in 2022.
The top 10 highest paid coaches in men’s college basketball all make over $4 million.
Kentucky didn’t make it to the Sweet 16, but their coach, John Calipari, signed a lifetime contract at Kentucky worth $86 million – that’s $8 million a year. Other teams that did make the Sweet 16 also pay their coaches a handsome salary — Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes makes $5.5 million, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo makes $5.7 million, Kansas State Coach Jerome Tang makes over $2 million.
On the low end of the pay spectrum, University of Maine has never made the Sweet 16, and its coach, Chris Markwood makes $165,000.