By Steve Berkowitz, Jodi Upton and Erik Brady USA TODAY Sports
The conference with the highest average compensation for its head football coaches this season is not the one you might think.
It's the Big 12, whose 10 coaches are pulling down slightly less than $3 million per man, according to USA TODAY Sports' annual analysis of major-college football coaches' pay.
The Southeastern Conference, which led the field by far last season, saw a nearly quarter-million-dollar decrease in its average and now has the second-highest: more than $2.7 million per coach.
Next is the Big Ten, but it's a long way back at $2.3 million.
The SEC does have four of the eight highest-paid coaches, including defending national champion Alabama's Nick Saban who received a contract restructuring after last season that moved him past Texas' Mack Brown and into the No. 1 position.
But Brown and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops give the Big 12 two of the three coaches making more than $4.5 million, and their conference has two more coaches among the survey's top 11.The Big 12's average increased by a little more than $466,000 compared to last season's, or 19%.
However, Pacific-12 Conference schools, which began sharing the revenue from a new and greatly enhanced TV rights package this year, had the greatest increase over last season by dollars and by percentage.
The Pac-12's average increased by more than $556,000, or 35%.
Making the Pac-12's increase even more significant is that the conference comprises the same schools it did last season, and Colorado's Jon Embree saw no change to his $725,000 pay, which is the lowest at a public school in a conference whose champion automatically qualifies for the Bowl Championship Series. Oregon's contract with Chip Kelly called for a $700,000 pay boost this season, and Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State and UCLA made coaching changes that resulted in increased compensation.
The swings involving the Big 12's and SEC's averages are a product of coaching changes, realignment and the difference in how public-school and private-school compensation is recorded.
The coaches at the schools that joined the Big 12 this season - West Virginia and TCU - have combined pay that is greater than the combined pay of the coaches at Missouri and Texas A&M, which departed the Big 12 for the SEC. TCU's Gary Patterson made nearly $3.5 million during the period covered by private schools' most recent federal tax returns - the 2010 calendar year.
Meanwhile, Arkansas went from having Bobby Petrino at more than $3.6 million last season to John L. Smith at $850,000 this season and Mississippi went from Houston Nutt at nearly $2.8 million to Hugh Freeze at $1.5 million.