These are the highest-paid University of California employees

Each circle represents a University of California employee who made over $1 million in total compensation in 2022. Select a circle for details.

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The University of California, among the most prestigious university systems in the country, is famous for its academic programs, research institutions and medical centers. But data shows that the university’s top-paid employees are not involved in any of these pursuits.

The very highest-paid employees in 2022 were not professors, chancellors or even the president of the university. Instead, the most compensated employees were UCLA football coach Chip Kelly, UC Berkeley football coach Justin Wilcox and UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin. Each head coach earned over $4 million last year.

That’s according to UC payroll data from Transparent California, a database of California public employee salaries. The Chronicle used this data to analyze the salaries of the 186,000 UC employees who made over $30,000 in total compensation last year. Total compensation includes base pay, overtime pay, other payments (like bonuses) plus health and retirement benefits.

Kelly, the Bruins football head coach and the highest-paid UC employee last year, made $5.7 million in total compensation. Though Kelly’s base salary is $300,000, nearly $5.5 million of his earnings came from various talent fees and bonuses, according to his 2022 employment contract. These payments include $4.5 million for media appearances, a $1 million retention bonus and smaller payments contingent on the team’s season record and players’ academic performance.

Wilcox and Cronin made about $4 million each in compensation, with a substantial amount coming from fee and bonus payments as well.

The highest-paid professor and the fourth most-compensated employee was Jason Roostaeian, a UCLA clinical professor in the plastic surgery department, who made $3.5 million last year. The president of the university system, Michael Drake, earned $992,000 in 2022.

The three head coaches who make over $4 million are among the highest-paid public employees across the state — a circumstance common in other states as well. Their compensation far exceeds the earnings of, for instance, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who is the highest-paid California mayor with a total compensation of $444,000 in 2022. The highest-compensated person employed by the California State University system, the state’s other large university system, was San Diego State University president Adela de la Torre, who made about $710,000 last year.

“Due to the competitive market of the conferences in which the three coaches noted participate in, the amount of compensation is in alignment with comparable peers in the industry,” wrote UC spokesperson Ryan King in an email to the Chronicle.

In fact, relative to coaching salaries at other schools in the country, the compensations of these three coaches are modest. Kelly’s nearly $6 million compensation, for instance, is ranked No. 27 among the salaries of other college football head coaches across the country. The highest pay, according to USA Today, is University of Alabama coach Nick Saban’s $11.4 million.

Kelly’s compensation is expected to grow after a contract extension signed earlier this year outlined a $6.2 million salary by 2025, with UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond citing the team’s improved record under Kelly as a reason for increasing his salary.

UCLA’s football and basketball programs are big business. Last year, the school’s football program made nearly $43 million in revenue from ticket sales, media contracts and sponsorships, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. The Bruins men’s basketball program generated close to $13 million.

Still, the UCLA athletic department reported a $28 million deficit at the end of the 2022 fiscal year and an overall four-year shortfall of $131 million, as revenue remain below pre-pandemic numbers. Coach salaries totaled $22 million across all teams last year, equivalent to roughly a fifth of all UCLA team expenses.

Despite head coaches topping the list of UC salaries, the majority of individuals in the top 1% of earners — those with compensations of over $525,000 — are professors or executive-level administrators like chancellors, deans and vice presidents.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle


  1. Sports coaches being paid that much is sick. Even $300K is out of line. And we the residents of Ca. allow this is just as sick.

  2. And so called ‘Professor”, chancellors and deans earning that much is just as ridiculous.

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