Clark Lea Salary, Contract, Net Worth, and More

After bringing some success on and off the field in his first two seasons, Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea received a contract extension through 2029.

Less than 10 years removed from being a nationally ranked program, the Vanderbilt Commodores are back on the rise after several years of being the whipping boys of SEC football. The reason for their bounce back? Head coach Clark Lea, who earned a contract extension and a presumable salary ahead of the 2023 college football season.

Clark Lea’s Salary and Contract in 2023

As the SEC gathered for their media days ahead of the 2023 college football season, Vanderbilt athletic director Candice Lee announced that the program had extended Lea’s contract as the Commodores’ head coach. ESPN’s Pete Thamel reports that the contract extension carries him through the 2029 college football season.

As a private school, Vanderbilt doesn’t have to reveal contract details, but upon his hire in 2020, it was apparent that Lea was seen as the man to lead the team back to competitiveness in the SEC. His recent contract extension seems to have fulfilled the prophecy of Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, who said of Lea in 2020:

“I think we’ll look back and see this decision as a key moment in the evolution of our athletics program, and our efforts to create an environment where our student-athletes can compete and succeed at the highest levels.”

There has certainly been an evolution in Vanderbilt football under Lea. The former Commodores fullback and Nashville native inherited a team that won zero games in the difficult 2020 season—the final game of the Derek Mason era—and had only won three games and one in the SEC during the 2019 campaign.

In his first season at the helm, Clark delivered two wins, although none of them came in the conference. Yet, last year, Vanderbilt put five wins on the board and were within touching distance of bowl eligibility. Furthermore, they put two SEC wins on the board with victory on the road at Kentucky and a famous win over Florida. That’s genuine progress for the Commodores.

Just two and a half years after Diermeier’s prophetic statement, athletic director Lee praised the trajectory of the program under their head coach.

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“I’m thrilled with our football program’s development on and off of the field under Clark Lea’s leadership. He is relentless in his commitment to build a foundation that yields sustainable success. Coach Lea shares our desire to be great at everything we do. I’m excited to see what comes next for this program and gratified Coach Lea will continue leading the way.”

While the results are a testament to the on-field development under Lea, the off-field progress is an important aspect of evaluating the success of a head coach. During an interview with College Football Network, now-Auburn linebacker Elijah McAllister spoke passionately about the impact that the Vanderbilt head coach had on him as a person during his time with the ‘Dores.

“My last two years at Vanderbilt with Coach Lea have been super impactful with who I am as a person,” McAllister told CFN. “In some ways, we’re alike, we might have butted heads because we’re so alike. But his passion for learning, his knowledge, his understanding of people is just unique, and it’s helped me learn about myself and continue to look internally and better myself.”

Due to the private nature of the university, Vanderbilt is under no obligation to announce what salary Lea will command under the terms of his contract extension. However, The Tennessean was able to uncover tax records for the 2021 season that expose how much Lea earned during his first season in Nashville.

Lea’s total salary for the 2021 season was $3,051,881. That makes him one of the lowest-paid coaches in the SEC. New Mississippi State head coach Zach Arnett receives just $3 million in his first year, but the next highest-paid coach is Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz with a $6 million annual salary.

It is reasonable to assume that Lea’s salary under his contract extension will fall somewhere between those two amounts but be more than his 2021 salary. It’s a small price to pay as the program strives to return to the glory days of the early 2010s.

Clark Lea’s Net Worth

Without any contract and salary information available for Lea, calculating his net worth for the purposes of this article is impossible. It will be updated when/if that information becomes available. However, it’s clear that his true worth to Vanderbilt may be far greater than any fiscal amount the Commodores pay.