There is now a major college football strength and conditioning coach making nearly $600,000 a year: Iowa’s Chris Doyle.
Doyle will make $595,000 in base compensation from the university for a one-year period that began July 1, according to information provided by the university in response to an open-records request from USA TODAY Sports.
Doyle’s compensation reflects a raise of $80,000, or 15.5 percent, over his pay for last year, and it matches the basic amounts that Hawkeyes offensive coordinator Greg Davis and defensive coordinator Phil Parker are scheduled to make.
Doyle is being paid more than double the amounts going to many of his Big Ten Conference peers, and it’s $70,000 more than what reigning national champion Alabama’s Scott Cochran is being paid this season.
It’s also greater than what 29 FBS public-school head coaches made last season in basic pay.
Doyle, 48, has been Iowa’s strength coach for each of Kirk Ferentz’s 18 years atop the Hawkeye program.
“Most of the people who follow our program know that what’s very important to Kirk is student-athlete development -— physically, mentally, leadership,” Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Monday. “He relies heavily on Chris’ role in that.”
A strength coach at a Power Five conference school getting paid on par with his team’s offensive and defensive coordinators likely is unique nationally to Iowa, which after the 2014 season opened the $55 million Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center — with a 23,000-square-foot weight room as the centerpiece.
Alabama, which increased Cochran’s pay by 25 percent in June, is paying offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin $714,000 this year and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt $1 million.
“Kirk approaches the role of strength and conditioning coach as really another coordinator,” Barta said. “We have an offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator and then student-athlete development is the third piece of that equation.
“Bottom line, it’s important. Chris is one of the most highly respected strength coaches in the country.”
Doyle is fond of saying that while other FBS programs collect talent, Iowa builds it — usually with two- and three-star recruits. The Hawkeyes have long emphasized their developmental methods, which under Ferentz has produced Outland Trophy winners Robert Gallery (2003) and Brandon Scherff (2014) and 2007 AFC Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders.
Since 2003, Iowa has had five former walk-ons chosen in the NFL Draft.
“The fact of the matter is, it’s the best strength and conditioning job in football — college or pro,” Doyle told the Des Moines Register in May. “It’s supported from the top down. The head football coach sees it as important. And we get awesome kids that come here because they want to be part of that.
“Sometimes I’ve got to pinch myself. I’m really, really lucky to be in an area of the country where the right people and the (geography) lend itself to hard-nosed, good guys that enjoy going to work. To me, that’s what it’s about, and I just consider myself lucky.”
Doyle’s longevity in Iowa City has not been without turmoil. In January 2011, he was in national headlines after one of his workouts resulted in 13 Hawkeye players being hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis — a potentially fatal condition in which dead muscle fibers are emptied into the bloodstream. Ferentz supported his strength coach then (a university investigation found no negligence on the part of its staff), and Iowa has more than doubled Doyle's pay since that incident.
Doyle this year is scheduled to make more than double that of Maryland’s Rick Court ($292,440) and Michigan State’s Ken Mannie ($271,781), and nearly three times as much as Indiana’s Keith Caton ($200,000). Rudy Wade, the new strength coach at neighboring Iowa State, is scheduled to make $210,000 this year.
Doyle’s contract shows that in addition to being Iowa’s head strength and conditioning coach, he carries the title of “executive director of football.”
“Relatively new,” Barta said of the title. “I don’t think titles are important to Chris or Kirk or myself. You can call it coordinator, you can call it executive director; the name isn’t as important as what I’ve shared with you previously — that Kirk approaches it with three coordinators.”
According to the terms of Ferentz’s contract, Iowa’s record-setting 2015 season helped pave the way for across-the-board increases for his assistant coaches. By achieving a top-10 national ranking, a bowl appearance and meeting graduation requirements, the pool for assistant-coach salaries grew by 14 percent.
And while Doyle, Davis and Parker got $80,000 bumps over the offseason, they weren't the biggest bumps seen by Iowa's coaching staff.
Seth Wallace, who went from recruiting coordinator to linebackers coach after Jim Reid departed for Boston College, had his pay grow from $200,000 annually to $320,000 — a 60 percent increase.
Offensive line coach Brian Ferentz (Kirk’s son, who reports to Barta under the UI’s nepotism policy) and defensive line coach Reese Morgan got $66,000 raises to move their base pay to $391,000.
And tight ends coach LeVar Woods saw a 22 percent bump — from $250,000 to $305,000; wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy ($325,000, up 6.6 percent) and running backs coach Chris White ($305,000, up 3.7 percent) received modest raises as well.
The Hawkeyes' third coordinator
Looking at annual base pay plus other guaranteed forms of compensation (not including bonuses) that Iowa has awarded to its offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coach since the 2006 season, according to public records requests compiled by the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Sports:
2016-17: Greg Davis, $595,000; Phil Parker, $595,000; Chris Doyle, $595,000
2015-16: Greg Davis, $515,036; Phil Parker, $515,036; Chris Doyle, $515,000
2014-15: Greg Davis, $450,036; Phil Parker, $450,036; Chris Doyle, $351,000*
2013-14: Greg Davis, $325,000; Phil Parker, $325,000; Chris Doyle, $325,000
2012-13: Greg Davis, $325,000; Phil Parker, $325,000; Chris Doyle, $325,000
2011-12: Ken O’Keefe, $313,200; Norm Parker, $243,000; Chris Doyle, $299,160
2010-11: Ken O’Keefe, $290,000; Norm Parker, $225,000; Chris Doyle, $277,000
2009-10: Ken O’Keefe, $260,024; Norm Parker, $193,325; Chris Doyle, $246,840
2008-09: Ken O’Keefe, $236,385; Norm Parker, $236,385; Chris Doyle, $224,400
2007-08: Ken O’Keefe, $231,750; Norm Parker, $231,750; Chris Doyle, $220,000
2006-07: Ken O’Keefe, $210,600; Norm Parker, $210,600; Chris Doyle, $183,600
*Per language in his contract, Doyle’s salary was increased to $450,000 on Sept. 2, 2014, but figures in the Register salary database reflects the $351,000 figure that was in place on July 1, 2014.
Assistant coaches get big pay bumps:
Per Kirk Ferentz’s contract, his pool for assistant coach salaries grew by 14 percent based on the team's graduation rate, participation in a bowl game and top-10 finish in national polls for the 2015 season. Here’s a look at the salaries Iowa’s returning assistants will make for the 2016 season, compared with 2015 pay in parentheses, not including performance bonuses:
Greg Davis, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks, $595,000 ($515,036)
Phil Parker, defensive coordinator/defensive backs, $595,000 ($515,036)
Chris Doyle, strength and conditioning/executive director of football, $595,000 ($515,000)
Brian Ferentz, offensive line/run-game coordinator, $391,000 ($325,000)
Reese Morgan, defensive line, $391,000 ($325,000)
Bobby Kennedy, wide receivers, $325,000 ($305,000)
Seth Wallace, linebackers, $325,000 ($200,000)
Chris White, running backs/special teams, $305,000 ($294,000)
LeVar Woods, tight ends/special teams, $305,000 ($250,000)
Notes: Linebackers coach Jim Reid made $317,000 in base pay in 2015 but left for Boston College in the offseason; new recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell makes $200,000 per year, the same as Wallace did in that role in 2015.