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NCAA Basketball Coaches: Figuring Out Who Is Earning Their Money

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Ever wonder which coaches among the top ten highest paid are earning their money?  It's hard to compare, and any comparison is largely subjective, but just for fun I took the top 10 highest paid coaches as indicated by USA Today and tried to quantify their worth.

For this exercise, there are several important caveats.  First of all, I replaced Sean Miller of Arizona with the next guy down the list (which happened to be Ben Howland) I did this because Miller has only been at Arizona for 1 year, and my analysis required 2 years of data  [this was an error I have corrected, Miller has been there two years]. I picked the two-year window so I could include John Calipari in the analysis for the obvious reason that this is a Kentucky blog, and this started out as an exercise to see if Calipari was earning his money compared to his peers.

I took each coach's salaries (the "Total Pay" column) according to USA Today and rounded them off a bit, then doubled them to represent two years (Note: I am aware that this is not accurate.  It is an approximation). Rick Pitino's salary on the USA Today website had a note that it included a $3.6 million one-time longevity bonus, so I backed that out to make it fair.

I then took a look at the NCAA revenue distribution plan, which is supposed to award a certain amount of money to each institution per NCAA Tournament game won.  The total number of "units" for all the conference participants is then "block-granted" to the conferences with the recommendation that they share that money equally among members.  For more about how the NCAA distributes money, see the NCAA website.

To make it easy on me, I averaged the "unit" value of 2009-10 and 2010-11 and came up with an approximate number of $231,000, just to make it easy so I wouldn't have to create a bigger spreadsheet and break out when the NCAA victories occurred.  I also ignored the fact that the NCAA doesn't count the championship game, and counted it as just another NCAA Tournament victory. Multiplying the number of NCAA Tournament games won by the "unit" value gave us an approximation of the "revenue" each coach brought in. Then, I subtracted their NCAA Tournament "revenue" from their salary, divided by the number of games, and voila!  A value that represented some kind of approximation of the actual cost per victory in terms of each coach's salary.

Finally, I made the assumption that an NCAA tournament championship automatically moved you ahead of anyone without a championship, since I believe the intrinsic value of an NCAA Tournament championship dwarfs any NCAA revenue, even though I had no way to accurately calculate it.

Here's what I came up with:

Rank Coach Approx. Salary Wins NCAAT Wins Unit value Salary-Revenue $/Win Notes
1 Calhoun $4,600,000 50 6 $231,000 $3,214,000 $64,280 1 NC
2 Krzyzewski $8,400,000 67 8 $231,000 $6,552,000 $97,791 1 NC
3 Matta $5,300,000 63 4 $231,000 $4,376,000 $69,460
4 Barnes $4,400,000 52 1 $231,000 $4,169,000 $80,173
5 Miller $4,600,000 46 3 $231,000 $3,907,000 $84,935
6 Self $7,200,000 68 4 $231,000 $6,276,000 $92,294
7 Calipari $7,800,000 64 7 $231,000 $6,183,000 $96,609
8 Donovan $7,160,000 50 3 $231,000 $6,467,000 $129,340
9 Izzo $7,140,000 47 2 $231,000 $6,678,000 $142,085
10 Pitino $7,800,000 45 0 $231,000 $7,800,000 $173,333

Jim Calhoun and Mike Krzyzewski both have NCAA Tournament titles in the last two years, and despite the fact that  Krzyzewski has 17 more wins in that time period, he makes almost twice as much as Calhoun, so he has to settle for second place.

Thad Matta of OSU is a very respectable third, and despite having fewer NCAA tournament wins than Calipari, he is much cheaper to the school, and has almost as many victories overall.  Rick Barnes has fewer victories both overall and in the NCAA tournament, but he has the lowest salary of any of the top ten, and manages 4th.

Bill Self and John Calipari had a close battle for 6th, but Self's 4 more victories overall and lower salary edged Calipari's greater number of NCAA Tournament wins.

Coming up dead last is Rick Pitino.  Reducing his 2010-11 salary by $3.6 million did not help him much among this group.

Finally, the big disclaimer:  Every one of these men are outstanding coaches, and they have long, successful careers to prove it.  I am not trying to knock anyone with this commentary.

Besides, we have to talk about something.  Basketball season is still a ways off.