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Steve Sarkisian contract: Texas coach to earn more than $10 million annually, nearly doubling current salary

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian’s salary will nearly double once the university’s Board of Regents approves the terms of his contract extension. Sarkisian, who made $5.6 million last year, will see his guaranteed compensation increase to $10.3 million this year under the terms of the deal, which were published in advance of the board’s Feb. 21-22 meeting in Austin, Texas.

By the final year of Sarkisian’s deal in 2030, his pay will increase to $10.9 million. Also included in the contract are performance incentives that could total as much as $1.85 million per year. Most notably, Sarkisian receives $1.25 million if Texas wins the College Football Playoff National Championship. 

Sarkisian ranked No. 30 nationally among FBS coaches in total pay in 2023, according to USA Today’s salary database. The raise will put him comfortably into the top 10 and not far behind national title winners Kirby Smart of Georgia and Dabo Swinney of Clemson.

Texas announced last month that Sarkisian had agreed to a four-year contract extension, but the terms were not made public then. Among the deal’s other perks revealed ahead of the Board of Regents meeting are that Sarkisian will receive 20 hours per year of private aircraft use, two vehicles and a “special one-time payment” of $300,000 prior to April 1.

Extending Sarkisian’s contract became a priority once his name became connected with the Alabama job following legendary coach Nick Saban’s retirement. Sarkisian served as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator in 2019 and 2020 under Saban before landing the Texas job. Alabama turned to former Washington coach Kalen DeBoer as Saban’s successor. 

Sarkisian coached the Longhorns to a Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff appearance during his third season leading the program. 

“As we head into the SEC next year, we’re doing that with a great deal of momentum, a program we’re extremely proud of and with a great head coach and leader,” Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a press release. “We knew that Coach Sarkisian was the man for the job when we hired him, and he’s proven that each step of the way. We couldn’t be more excited about where we are and where we’re headed, and we’re thrilled that Coach Sark will be our coach for a long time.”

Though just 13-12 in his first two seasons, in 2023 Sarkisian delivered the program’s best season since 2009. Texas won at Alabama on Sept. 9, catapulting the Longhorns to No. 4 in the AP poll and establishing the season’s trajectory.

Despite a loss against rival Oklahoma on Oct. 7, Texas cruised to its first conference title since 2009 with a 49-21 drubbing of Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game to secure its place in the College Football Playoff. Once there, Texas fell 37-31 to Washington in a dramatic Sugar Bowl.

Sarkisian, 49, brings a wealth of experience to the job, having previously served as head coach at Washington and USC, in addition to his Alabama experience and a stint as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. His offensive pedigree paid dividends in 2023 as the Longhorns ranked No. 9 nationally in total offense with a balanced attack that produced over 660 yards on two occasions.

Foundation for the future

Texas is entering a new chapter in its storied history this year as the Longhorns prepare to join the SEC. In addition to the uptick in competition Texas will face in the 16-team super conference, the Longhorns also have a Sept. 7 game against reigning national champion Michigan on the schedule.

And with a home game vs. Georgia on Oct. 19, in addition to its customary rivalry with Oklahoma, the Longhorns have their work cut out for them. But the trajectory Sarkisian established in 2023 suggests Texas has some staying power on the national stage.

The Longhorns landed the nation’s No. 6 recruiting class for the 2024 cycle, which followed a No. 3 ranked class in 2023. Collectively, the influx of young talent will help the program deal with the departures of underclassmen such as running back Jonathon Brooks, receiver Adonai Mitchell, receiver Xavier Worthy and defensive lineman Byron Murphy for the NFL Draft.

Set at quarterback

Star quarterback Quinn Ewers announced that he is returning for another season after enjoying a breakout 2023 in which he threw for 3,479 yards. While Ewers will be throwing largely to a new crop of pass-catchers, his return helps ensure a high floor for Texas.

While Ewers’ decision delays the timeline for heralded prospect Arch Manning to become the program’s starting quarterback, it gives the Longhorns an experienced and proven leader amid the transition to life in the SEC.

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