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States’ Highest Paid State Employees are Coaches–Except in Dakotas

Bo Pelini
University of Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

(NPN) — Call it having your priorities straight. Or call it not having great Division I football and basketball teams. But the Dakotas are among the few states in the nation where the highest paid state employee is not a football or basketball coach.

According to a recent Deadspin online magazine study and map, the highest paid state officials in North and South Dakota are the deans of their respective state medical schools. In Montana, it’s one of the Big Sky Country’s university presidents.

However, in the Big Ten-mad sister Northern Plains states of Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota, the highest paid state employees are football coaches. And in the case of Minnesota, both the University of Minnesota’s football AND basketball coaches.

Even the University of Wyoming, playing in the second tier Mountain West Conference, pays its football coach more than any other employee.

South Dakota’s highest paid state employee is a medical doctor–Mary D. Nettleman, M.D., M.S., MACP. Meanwhile, across the state line, Nebraska’s highest state employee is a football coach–Bo Polini, B.S.B.A. (business marketing).

In 39 of the 50 states, a coach was the highest paid state employee. No elected officials—including governors—cracked the list.

But before the Dakotas get too self-righteous, a commenter on Deadspin had this caution:

“All this map shows is that the sports teams in the Dakotas simply don’t draw enough fans to pay a coach that much. But they’re working on it. UND cares A LOT about hockey, and NDSU, for example, upgraded from DII football to DIAA and won a title. I’m sure they would gladly pay a football coach $5 million if they could get into a BCS bowl, etc.”

The other states where the highest paid state employee is not a coach are: Alaska (college president), Nevada (medical school plastic surgeon), New York (medical school department chair), Delaware (college president), Maine (law school dean), Vermont (college president), New Hampshire (college president) and Massachusetts (medical school chancellor).

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