Skip to main content

West Virginia researchers believe they've found the key to landing bigger coaching salaries

Let me open this article by saying this is not taken from The Onion. What you're about to read is real research, done by very real experts.

Now that we've got that out of the way, try and wrap your head around this...

West Virginia researchers believe that they've found that, using unbiased computer facial recognition software, that head coaches with a "more aggressive appearance" earned a premium salary, while "more attractive" coaches didn't make as much.

Here's what economics professor Brad Humphrey's had to share about the research and findings.

“One explanation for the attractiveness discount and aggressiveness premium may stem from that fact that American football is a very aggressive sport, and an unattractive face might signal mental and physical toughness, viewed as a desirable characteristic in this market."

The data used salary information for college football coaches from 2014-16, photos of college head coaches during that time, and information in the MIT Adult Faces Database which includes over 10,000 photos of America's adult population.

The researchers and an advanced computer algorithm then measured attractiveness and aggressiveness based on certain facial features associated with those traits, focusing on 68 landmarks on the face including the eyebrows, eyes and lips.

As an example on the scale of aggressive-looking faces, former Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego ranked among the lowest, while Michigan's Jim Harbaugh ranked toward the top.

“I’ve been interested in this ‘beauty premium’ literature for some time. You know, 'it’s not whether you’re really good at your job. It’s just what you look like.’ That actually converts to higher earnings in some labor markets," Humphries shared.

“With college football coaching, it’s a high-profile occupation. In most states, the head football coach is the highest paid public employee. And they go into the houses of 18-year-olds trying to convince them to come play football. You’d think being physically attractive would be helpful in those situations, but it’s not.”

The whole study is a really interesting academic and science based look how human behavior, subconscious decisions, and college coaching salaries all intersect.

Head here to read the full wrap up from WVUToday. And see the research paper in full here.