...Probably Nick Saban, coach of the University of Alabama football team at around $7 million a year. But Jim Harbaugh, recently hired by the University of Michigan for a $5 million base salary, apparently has incentives that can take that up to $9 million a year.
Apologists will argue that this is all OK and shouldn't worry taxpayers at all because these guys are paid out of the college athletic budget which is generated from sports revenue rather than taxes. Hmm. Any state parks agency probably generates millions or tens of millions each year in user fees. Should we be OK with the state employee who runs those agencies making $5 million because it comes out of user fees rather than taxes? Money is fungible. $5 million more spent on a football coach is $5 million less that can fund other University services.
(PS - in the US Today ranking of college football coach salaries, 19 of 20 are at public institutions).