UND's Brad Berry highest-paid coach in North Dakota, but state is a rarity in U.S.

That a college coach is not the highest-paid person on the state payroll is unusual. In 40 of the 50 states, a football coach is highest-paid public employee. Alabama coach Nick Saban tops the list with a salary of $9.5 million in 2021, according to a USA Today database.

University of North Dakota head men's hockey coach Brad Berry is the highest-paid coach in the state.
Forum file photo

FARGO — North Dakota is a rarity when it comes to how it pays its top college coaches. The state is one of only 10 in which the highest-paid public employee is not a football coach.

Another rarity: The most handsomely rewarded coach doesn't lead a football team.

University of North Dakota hockey coach Brad Berry is the highest-paid coach in the state, according to records obtained and published in December by Forum News Service. His salary through the first 11 months of 2021 was $578,781.

That makes Berry the second-highest state employee behind UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences Joshua Wynne, who made more than $695,000 through the first 11 months of the year.

That a college coach is not the highest-paid person on the state payroll is unusual. In 40 of the 50 states, a football coach is the highest-paid public employee. Alabama coach Nick Saban tops the list with a salary of $9.5 million in 2021, according to a USA Today database.


Joining North Dakota on the list of states that pay somebody other than a football coach the most money: Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont.

North Dakota public entities paid out more than a billion dollars in wages, overtime and bonuses this year. Here's who took home the biggest public paychecks.

The common denominator? Other than Massachusetts the other nine states do not have a school competing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, the highest in college sports. North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire and Rhode Island have schools competing in the lower Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

Alaska and Vermont do not have Division I college football programs. The University of Massachusetts competes as a poorly funded FBS independent program. The Minutemen were ranked as the worst FBS team in the country by the computerized Sagarin rankings in 2021.

According to information compiled for USA Today in 2019, Berry is the only college hockey coach among the top-paid in their states.

Head football coach Matt Entz is the highest-paid employee at North Dakota State University. He is the fifth highest-paid state employee, making $396,619 through the first 11 months of 2021.

That Berry and Entz are the two best-compensated coaches is not a surprise. They lead the two most visible — and highest revenue generating programs — in North Dakota.

UND athletic director Bill Chaves said the goal is to have Berry's salary rank at the highest reaches of NCAA Division hockey, in which there are 60 programs.

"Our goal is to get him in the top 10 or top quartile of coaches around the country," Chaves said. "That is at the least where we want him to be."


Bison athletic director Matt Larsen believes Entz's salary is among the best in FCS, which would befit a program that's won nine national championships in the past 11 seasons. Entz won two in his first three seasons.

"I would think that in total compensation, he's up near the top," Larsen said. "And if you did it by cost of living, he's doing even better. It costs more to live in California or some other places compared to North Dakota. A dollar just goes farther here."

Berry and Entz are the only coaches who rank in the top 25 best-paid state employees. UND hockey associate head coach Dane Jackson is 28th at $269,987.

Fighting Hawks football head coach Bubba Schweigert is No. 38 on the list, earning $248,096. He is one spot ahead of NDSU men's basketball coach Dave Richman, who pulled in $247,305.

The highest-paid female coach in the state is UND women's basketball coach Mallory Bernhard, who made $146,213 through the first 11 months of 2021.

The Forum received copies of the contracts of top coaches at UND and NDSU through open records requests.

Berry signed a five-year contract in 2018, replacing the original four-year deal he received from UND after taking over for Dave Hakstol in 2015. Berry's base salary has climbed yearly from $400,000 in 2018-19 to $437,091 in 2021-22. Next year, the final on the contract, has Berry scheduled to make $450,204 in base salary.

Chaves said the difference between Berry's base salary in 2021 and the salary reported by the state — more than $140,000 — was "100% bonus related."


North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz lifts the trophy after the 38-10 win over Montana State in the FCS title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum

Berry's contract has a raft of performance bonuses, 21 in all. He receives a percentage of his base salary for each criteria he and the Fighting Hawks meet.

The bonuses range from winning a National College Hockey Conference regular season championship (8% of his base salary) to a top eight Pairwise ranking for an NCAA tournament seeding (4%) to having an American Hockey Coaches Association All-American player (2%).

Berry would receive a an 8% bonus for making the Frozen Four, a 10% bonus for making a title game appearance and a 20% bonus for winning a national championship.

Based on his 2021-22 base salary, Berry would earn a bonus of $87,418 if UND wins a national championship this year.

His contract stipulates bonuses are limited to 45% of Berry's base salary in a contract year, excluding those received for the team's academic performance. Based on this season's salary, Berry would max out at $196,690 in bonuses.

Berry's contract is different from others at UND and NDSU in that he receives bonuses by percentage of his base salary. Other coaches receive set figures for performance bonuses. Chaves said that's how the hockey coach's contract was structured when Chaves arrived at UND from Eastern Washington.

"The template of his contract occurred before I was here, so we just kind of went with it," Chaves said.

Like other coaches at UND and NDSU, Berry receives perks like the use of a car from a local dealership and complimentary tickets. Berry receives four season tickets to games at Ralph Engelstad Arena, plus 26 "pass-list" seats to every home game, to be "distributed to individuals or groups at no cost to the individuals or groups for the sole purpose of supporting the Men's Hockey Program," the contract says.


Berry can also earn income from UND hockey camps, endorsements or consultation with companies that provide the hockey program with skates, apparel or equipment and from what is called "collateral opportunities." They are defined in the contract as personal service agreements and licensing agreements.

"The University, at the discretion of the Director, shall allow the employee to enter into licensing agreements for the marketing and sale of certain licensed products that bear the name, likeness, photograph, or signature of the Employee," the contract says.

These benefits and income opportunities are common in coaching contracts. Entz's deal with NDSU allows "athletically related income and benefits from sources outside NDSU." Among other items, it specifically mentions country club memberships, endorsement or consultation contracts with athletic or apparel companies and housing benefits.

Larsen said any income from sources outside NDSU would not be included in Entz's salary reported to the state.

Entz's contract is structured slightly differently than Berry's. Signed in 2019 when he replaced Chris Klieman as the Bison's coach, Entz's base salary is $300,000 but he receives an annual "personal appearance fee" of $25,000 and a yearly "media appearance fee" for doing television and radio shows that started at $50,000 and increases $5,000 each subsequent contract year.

Entz also receives a minimum camp income of $5,000, bringing his guaranteed income in 2021 to at least $395,000. Larsen said Entz's base salary has risen from $300,000 because of approved raises given to state employees.

"Everything that Matt received from NDSU — base salary, bonuses, camp income, all of that — would be included in his state salary because it goes through the payroll system," Larsen said.

Entz's contract has six performance bonuses, including $7,500 for reaching eight wins in the regular season to $10,000 for a Missouri Valley Football Conference championship to $15,000 for winning a national championship.


The Bison met each of the bonus criteria for the 2021 season, meaning Entz received a bonus of $44,500. His contract also stipulates bonuses for assistant coaches based on team performance, so each assistant received a $9,000 bonus for 2021.

Given NDSU's success under Entz — he is 37-4 (30-1 in non-COVID seasons) with two national titles in three seasons — it's likely he'll be considered for FBS jobs in the future if the Bison keep winning at their recent rate. The buyout clause in Entz's contract calls for his new employer to pay NDSU $150,000.

The amount of Berry's buyout clause for accepting another NCAA or National Hockey League job diminished yearly since the start of his contract. If Berry was to accept any other NCAA coaching position before June 30, he'd be required to compensate UND 20% of his current base salary. If Berry took an NHL head coaching job before June 30, he'd pay UND $20,000.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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