Is Rick Barnes Underpaid?

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    Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

    College athletics have some outrageous salaries. Football is dominated by the likes of Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, and Jim Harbaugh who are making over a combined $26.6 million annually. College basketball is no different, as the top three coaches in pay dominate the college basketball landscape.

    USA Today Sports released their updated database of college basketball head coaching salaries, and Rick Barnes comes in surprisingly low on the list. The top three are probably not surprising to you, as Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari, and Ohio State’s Chris Holtmann are making over a combined $24.1 million annually.

    But where does Tennessee’s Rick Barnes come in on that list? Much further down, actually.

    Barnes is making $2,250,000 annually, which is good for just 36th among the 76 coaches that USA Today has salary data on. Barnes is tied with Wisconsin’s Greg Gard and Florida State’s Leonard Hamiton with an yearly identical salary. He’s just ahead of Iowa’s Fran McCaffery at $2,228,942 annually.

    Nine SEC coaches make more than Barnes does on a yearly basis. The only SEC coaches making less are Georgia’s Mark Fox ($2.15 million), Ole Miss’s Andy Kennedy ($2.1 million), and Vanderbilt’s Bryce Drew (salary not reported since Vanderbilt is a private school). And Kennedy has stepped down from his position, and Fox is on the hot seat.

    It’s highly likely that Barnes gets some sort of pay raise once the 2017-18 season concludes. He’s taken the Vols from a 16-16 finish last year to a 22-7 mark this season. Tennessee is one more win away from at least a share of the SEC regular season title, and they’re set to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014.

    Right now, the Vols’ six-win improvement from last season is their greatest improvement from one season to the next since the 2009-10 team improved by seven wins from the previous season. And the Vols still have games remaining this year.

    It should come as no surprise that Kentucky’s John Calipari is the highest-paid SEC head coach. He makes $7,994,147 annually. The second-highest paid SEC head coach makes considerably less, and that’s Alabama’s Avery Johnson who makes $2,899,497 a year.

    Barnes deserves a raise, and he’ll get one after the season the Vols have had this year.



    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.