How Lance Leipold’s new contract at Kansas stacks up with his current and future Big 12 peers
It feels like it was just yesterday that former Kansas Athletic Director Lew Perkins forced the hiring of Turner Gill and then paid him way more than he was worth — or needed to come to KU — simply because he wanted to create the perception that the Kansas football job was a $2 million a year kind of gig.
Remember, this was back in 2009, when Alabama coach Nick Saban was making $4.7 million per year.
There’ve been a lot of wasted dollars and mind-numbing hires and contracts between then and now, but all of these years later, the Kansas football job is actually what Perkins so badly wanted to make it.
The fact that the coach’s office is occupied by a man who is regarded by many to be one of the best in the game today is merely icing on the cake. And after the recent news that Lance Leipold had agreed to a new contract that will keep him in Lawrence through the 2029 season — details of which were released on Tuesday — the future for KU football suddenly became as bright as it has been in a long, long time.
Leipold’s new contract, which included a raise from an average of $2.86 million per year to roughly $5 million per year, more than doubled his total compensation.
It also was the latest sign by the Kansas Athletics administration that the commitment to football is finally real and not some abstract vision or hope that can be created and cultivated by throwing money in the wrong places.
One of the most interesting elements of Leipold’s new contract was the clause that said KU essentially would guarantee that his salary would remain in the top half of the Big 12 Conference. If at any point after April of 2025 it’s not there, they’ll increase the salaries for Leipold and his assistants to ensure that it is.
That’s big time commitment and would possibly be deemed foolish if not for KU finally having the right guy in the job.
With Oklahoma and Texas soon to be leaving the Big 12 for the SEC and BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF coming it to replace them, the clause left me curious about where Leipold’s $5 million per year number moving forward would land in the current landscape.
Turns out it’s pretty high up there.
Oklahoma’s Brent Venables ($7 million per year) and Texas’ Steve Sarkisian ($5.4 million) were two of the three Big 12 coaches slated to make more than $5 million during the 2022 season.
The other was Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, who recently became the highest-paid coach in the Big 12 at $7.5 million per year.
Other than that, Leipold’s new $5 million annual salary is already higher than the four other Big 12 coaches whose salaries and contracts are made public. As private institutions, Baylor and TCU are not required to make public their head coaching contracts, so we don’t know for sure what Dave Aranda, in his third year at Baylor, and Sonny Dykes, in his first year at TCU, made this year or are scheduled to make in the future. I did some asking around, though, and both are believed to be at or slightly above the same range as Leipold’s new contract.
Matt Campbell made $4 million this year at Iowa State. Neal Brown made just under that ($3.975 million) at West Virginia and K-State paid Chris Klieman $3.5 million while Texas Tech paid first-year head coach Joey McGuire $3 million.
Klieman is scheduled to jump to $4 million in 2023, but even that is 20% less than what Leipold will soon be making.
What about the four new coaches coming into the league in 2023? Leipold’s already ahead of them, too.
Dana Holgorsen made $4.2 million at Houston this season and Gus Malzahn made $2.3 million at Central Florida.
Like Baylor and TCU, BYU is not required to make public its coaching contracts, but there has been speculation that BYU coach Kalani Sitake makes around $2 million per year.
And then there’s Cincinnati, which paid Luke Fickell $5 million for the 2022 season but just watched him leave for Wisconsin and $2.9 million annual raise. So it remains to be seen if Fickell’s replacement will make as much as he did in Year 1 and there’s plenty of reason to believe he won’t.
If he doesn’t, that likely will make Leipold the fourth or fifth highest paid coach in the Big 12 in 2023 and put him on the fast track to land in the top three or four in the conference when OU and Texas bolt.
When you add in the new salary pool for Leipold’s assistants, now you’re starting to see real progress.
In 2022, KU ranked dead last in the league in total compensation for the head football coach and staff at $5.5 million. That was roughly half of TCU’s total at $10 million — fifth in the conference — and nearly a third as much as Oklahoma at the top at $14.2 million.
By committing the $5 million salary to Leipold and an additional $7.5 million to assistant coaches and staff, KU just vaulted its football compensation to fourth in the conference. When Oklahoma and Texas leave, that could move KU up to as high as second.
It sure doesn’t seem like anyone will be able to question KU’s commitment to football any longer.
It’s not hard to see Leipold and his staff staying there either, given the salaries and situations at the 10 other schools. Based on what was outlined in a contract that was very favorable for Leipold and his family, we know that he’ll always at least be sixth.
If he continues to win at the rate he has won so far and builds Kansas into the consistent winner that he believes it can become, even that seems low.
Don’t worry about the buyout numbers or the fact that the contract gives Leipold several outs if he doesn’t like what he sees with regard to stadium renovations, facility upgrades, NIL opportunities and even who’s sitting in the AD chair.
He’s earned all of that and then some. And getting him to sign this second contract wasn’t the case of university leaders trying to tie up a coach on their terms. Instead, it was a clear effort by KU’s administration to try to give Leipold and company all of the resources, support and commitment they need to build Kansas into what they all believe it can become.
That makes this deal a win-win for both parties, regardless of what any of the specific wording of the contract says.
• Here’s a look at the 2022 salaries for the other football coaches currently in the Big 12 Conference and those at the four schools that will be joining the conference next season:
• Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State — $7.5 million
• Brent Venables, Oklahoma — $7 million
• Dave Aranda, Baylor — Undisclosed but believed to be $6 million
• Sonny Dykes, TCU — Undisclosed but believed to be $5.5 million
• Steve Sarkisian, Texas — $5.4 million
• Luke Fickell, Cincinnati — $5 million (recently left for Wisconsin at $7.9 million per year)
• Dana Holgorsen, Houston — $4.2 million
• Matt Campbell, Iowa State — $4 million
• Neal Brown, West Virginia — $3.975 million
• Chris Klieman, Kansas State – $3.5 million (will increase to $4 million in 2023)
• Joey McGuire, Texas Tech — $3 million
• Gus Malzahn, UCF — $2.3 million
• Kalani Sitake, BYU – Undisclosed but believed to be $2 million