The Idaho State Board of Education Thursday unanimously approved a contract extension for Boise State University (BSU) football coach Chris Petersen that will continue to make him the state’s highest paid employee.
Petersen agreed to the contract before BSU’s victory in the Fiesta Bowl in January. The five-year extension is worth more than $8 million, and includes automatic one-year extensions if the football team wins more than eight games in a season. Money for Petersen’s contract comes from the BSU athletic department, not the state general fund. The BSU athletic department generates revenues from a variety of sources, including selling tickets and merchandise, as well as sponsorships, private donations, and revenues from bowl games and the Western Athletic Conference.
BSU President Bob Kustra, the third highest-paid state employee behind Petersen and new BSU basketball coach Leon Rice, praised Petersen before the board reached its decision. Kustra called Petersen a total citizen of Idaho, and said he plays a significant role in helping BSU realize its goals.
Petersen has a 49-4 record as coach of the Broncos football team, including two Fiesta Bowl victories. Gov. Butch Otter wrote in an editorial earlier this year that bowl victories by BSU and the University of Idaho football team benefit the state financially. “Millions of dollars will flow directly into our state because of these bowl appearances and victories – dollars that are even more critical in this harsh economic environment,” the governor said.
Petersen will be the only state employee to earn more than $1 million a year. The next highest is Rice, who reportedly will earn $400,000 a year. Petersen's salary is lower than other top college football coaches. For example, the head coach of the University of Alabama, Nick Saban, whose team also finished the last season undefeated, earns more than $4 million a year. More than 200 state employees earn more than the governor's $115,348 salary, according to a report from the state controller.