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Penn State's James Franklin heads 25 top earners at Pennsylvania's major universities

(Greensburg) Tribune-Review (TNS)
  • Penn State head football coach James Franklin makes more than $5 million per year.
  • That makes him the top earner among employees at PSU, Pitt and Temple.
  • Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi is second on the list at nearly $3 million per year.

You might find some reassurance in knowing that of the 25 highest-paid employees at Penn State, Pitt and Temple during the 2016-17 academic year, 17 share one distinction: They’re all doctors or work in the field of medicine.

Penn State head coach James Franklin is the top earner at Pennsylvania's three major universities, which also includes Pitt and Temple. Franklin makes more than $5 million annually. AP FILE PHOTO

Yet, reality strikes when you dig deeper: Four of the top five are coaches, and two of them don’t even work at their schools anymore.

Penn State’s James Franklin heads the list with total compensation of $5,293,258, followed by Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi at $2,978,258. Narduzzi’s number most likely increased, however, when he received a seven-year contract extension in December that carries him through the 2024 season.

Former Temple football coach Matt Rhule , who is now at Baylor, is No. 3 ($2,455,105) and former Pitt basketball coach Kevin Stallings is No. 5 ($1,839,050). Stallings was fired in March after compiling a 24-41 record, and Pitt bought out the remaining four years of his contract.

Wedged in at No. 4 is Dr. Larry Kaiser, who didn’t win any bowl games, but is president and CEO of the Temple University Health System, dean and professor of thoracic medicine and surgery at Temple’s medical school, and the university’s senior executive vice president for health affairs.

The data was collected and reported by Jan Murphy of PennLive.com and the Harrisburg Patriot-News on Thursday. Salaries at the three state-related universities would be difficult to gather, if not for Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law that requires schools release the information annually to include their 25 top earners.

The listed compensation includes base salary, bonuses and other compensation.

Franklin is entering his fifth season at Penn State with a 36-17 overall record, a Big Ten championship in 2016 and crowds of 100,000 or more sitting elbow-to-elbow in Beaver Stadium for seven Saturdays each fall. Penn State won 22 of 27 games in 2016 and 2017, the first time since 2008-2009 the Nittany Lions recorded back-to-back 11-victory seasons.

Narduzzi’s salary — like Franklin’s — is a sign of the times and indicative of the faith placed in him by former Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes and current AD Heather Lyke, both of whom have awarded their football coach with contract extensions since 2015. Pitt is 21-17 under Narduzzi and coming off a 5-7 record last year.

The only other coach on the list is Temple basketball coach Fran Dunphy, who is No. 10 at $1,267,760. Dunphy has won four conference titles since 2006.

The list also includes former Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg (No. 23, $814,255), Penn State President Eric Barron (No. 14, $1,071,901) and ex-Temple President Neil Theobald (No. 8, $1,361,221). Nordenberg, who served as Pitt’s chancellor for 19 years, is now director of the university’s Institute of Politics.

Notable names outside Top 25: The names outside the Top 25 are nearly as interesting as their better-paid colleagues. Here are a few:

►The highest-paid assistant football coach is Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry, who was hired in 2016 and earned $603,643.

►Former Pitt basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio’s name surfaced at $617,857. She was fired this year with three years left on her contract.

►Barnes earned $724,730, just a smidge ahead of Penn State AD Sandy Barbour at $720,996. Barbour heads 31 sports at Penn State; Pitt has 19.

►Former Penn State President Graham Spanier earned $629,314, and you might ask why. When Spanier resigned in 2011, his termination agreement with Penn State called for him to remain on staff as a tenured faculty member. Penn State has been trying to get its money back, based on Spanier allegedly knowing more about the Jerry Sandusky crimes than he revealed to the board of trustees.

►Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher earned less than his top coaches, his former AD and a disgraced former president from a rival school . Gallagher checked in at $539,937.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.