GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Urban Meyer has agreed to a six-year contract that will make him the highest-paid coach in the SEC.
He will earn $24 million over the life of the contract, $4 million annually, up from the $3.25 million he previously earned, without bonuses.
Meyer, who turned 45 last month, moves up in an elite group of highly paid SEC coaches. Alabama's Nick Saban will earn $3.9 million this season, and LSU coach Les Miles earns about $3.75 million. All three have won BCS titles. Meyer becomes the third highest-paid coach in the country behind USC's Pete Carroll ($4.4 million) and Notre Dame's Charlie Weis ($4.2 million).
"Coach Meyer has certainly proven to be one of the top college football coaches in the country and should be compensated as such," athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. "We are proud he is our coach and we appreciate all that he has done for the Gators."
Meyer has committed to give back $1 million to the Florida Opportunity Scholars program, a UF campaign he co-chairs whose goal is to raise $50 million for economically-disadvantaged undergraduates who are the first in their family to attend college.
"I continue to be very thankful and appreciative for everything the University of Florida and the athletic program has done for me and my family," Meyer said in a statement. "Dr. (Bernie) Machen (UF president), Jeremy Foley and the community make this a special place and I'm honored to be a part of it."
In four seasons at Florida, Meyer has won two BCS titles and compiled a 44-9 record. Meyer's salary increase will be funded through the University Athletic Association and will not use any state money. Florida has faced criticism on whether to give Meyer a raise after it was forced to cut $42.2 million from its budget.
But Machen said Meyer has earned it based on his success on the field and his contribution beyond football.
Florida's football success has benefited the school, Machen said. The UAA gave UF $6 million this year to help with its budget deficit. And since 2005, the UAA has given $17.3 million to the university.
"I believe that Urban Meyer is the best at what he does," Machen said. "He demands excellence of his players on the field and in the classroom. Not only did the University of Florida win a national championship in January, but all 13 seniors earned degrees and the 2008 football team tied an SEC league record with 37 players named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
"We're proud he's a Gator."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org