Congressional probe into college football coaches’ pay takes aim at Stanford, David Shaw

Feb. 6, 2022, 10:14 p.m.

A congressional probe into the pay of top college football coaches is taking aim at Stanford and the salary of football head coach David Shaw. 

Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ-09), the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, announced in a press release Friday that Stanford would be scrutinized as part of an ongoing investigation into the salaries of college football coaches at several universities.

The press release also included a copy of the full inquiry addressed to Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, which asks if Stanford’s expenditure on Shaw’s salary aligns with the University’s tax-exempt status.

“Stanford’s head football coach reportedly received approximately $9 million in compensation in 2019, making him the university’s highest paid employee by far,” the inquiry reads. “​​It is unclear how such lucrative compensation contracts further Stanford’s overall educational mission and benefit your student body as a whole.”

Stanford doesn’t disclose the pay of its employees, but federal tax returns show head football coach David Shaw earned over $8.9 million in compensation for the 2019 calendar year, USA Today reported in August.

How much of that comprises Shaw’s base salary is unclear. A Stanford spokesperson said that over $2 million of Shaw’s $8.9 million pay for 2019 was a “retroactive salary and signing bonus” unique to that year, according to USA Today. Shaw’s 2018 salary was around $4.8 million according to tax returns from the fiscal year ending in August 2019 published by Propublica.

Shaw’s 2019 salary would be enough to make him the highest-paid coach in the Pac-12 and the third-highest-paid coach in college football if compared to the 2021 salaries of other head coaches, including those from football powerhouses, like Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Alabama’s Nick Saban. 

Shaw, Stanford football’s winningest head coach in program history, finished with a 4-8 record in the 2019 football season. In 2021, his team went 3-9 and ranked near the bottom of all FBS teams in offensive and defensive performance.

Pascrell is also investigating LSU, USC, Miami, Michigan State and Rutgers, according to his press release. His inquiries into LSU and USC, which made splash hires of high-profile head coaches Brian Kelly and Lincoln Riley following the 2021 season, claim that the universities signed their coaches to contracts worth over $100 million. 

Pascrell’s inquiry asks Stanford to respond to a broad list of questions, including how many University employees make above $1 million a year, how the University determines the compensation of football and men’s basketball head coaches, the revenue and expenses of the University’s football and men’s basketball programs and how the athletics department budget is determined.

“We’ve received the letter and look forward to responding to Congressman Pascrell,” University spokesperson Dee Mostofi wrote in a statement to The Daily on Sunday.

Mostofi did not respond to questions about Shaw’s pay and whether the University would make public any of its responses to the inquiry. 

Pascrell’s inquiry asks Stanford to respond by March 4.

Daniel Wu '21 is a Senior Staff Writer for News and Staff Writer for Sports. Contact him at dwu21 'at' stanford.edu

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