Malzahn's pay ranks near bottom of 14 SEC coaches

AUBURN, Ala. -- It's rare it can be said someone making more than $2.4 million per year is underpaid.

But in a way, that case could be made for Auburn's Gus Malzahn. The first-year head coach makes $2.44 per year, a salary that places him 11th in the SEC, according to the annual database done by USA Today.

Two rookie head coaches in the SEC are in the top-five nationally: Bret Bielema of Arkansas ($5.15 million per season) and Tennessee's Butch Jones ($4.86 million per season). While Bielema and Jones are making more than Malzahn financially, the Tigers' coach is having far better success on the field, as Auburn is 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the SEC. On the other hand, the combined record of Bielema's and Jones' squad is 7-12, with only one conference victory among them.

The only coaches in the SEC who make less than Malzahn are Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze ($2 million), Kentucky's Mark Stoops ($2 million) and Vanderbilt's James Franklin ($1.8 million).

At the top of the heap is Alabama's Nick Saban, who commands a $5.5 million salary annually, just ahead of Texas' Mack Brown at $5.4 million.

Aside from Saban, Bielema and Jones, the SEC had three others among the top 13 most well-compensated coaches. LSU's Les Miles comes in seventh ($4.4 million), South Carolina's Steve Spurrier at 12th ($3.32 million) and Georgia's Mark Richt at 13th ($3.31 million).

As for Malzahn, though his compensation might seem small in comparison to the rest of the league, it has continued to grow since 2009, when he first arrived in Auburn. At that time, Malzahn commanded a $350,000 salary, which eventually grew to $1.3 million in 2011.

He did take a slight pay cut to become Arkansas State's head coach in 2012, as he made just under $860,000 in his only season with the Red Wolves before returning to take Auburn's job last December.