Until 2012, Stanford University never had to disclose the compensation of an athletic coach.
As a private school, it isn’t required to reveal its employment contracts — and it hadn’t paid a coach enough money to require that those figures be listed on its federal income tax returns.
On Friday evening, Stanford’s new tax records showed that during the 2014 calendar year, football coach David Shaw was credited with nearly $4.1 million in total compensation — the highest for any Stanford employee not only in 2014, but also in any one of the seven years under the IRS’ current reporting system.
The previous high single-year total for a Stanford employee was the nearly $3.6 million reported as the 2012 calendar-year compensation for John Powers, then president of the Stanford Management Co., which invests and manages the university’s endowment and other financial assets. And of the amount listed for Powers, more than $500,000 was compensation that had been reported as deferred pay in a prior year.
Shaw’s total for the 2014 calendar year — $4,067,219 — is close to double the amount reported for him for 2013 (just over $2.2 million). It’s almost four times the amount listed as Jim Harbaugh’s total for 2010, the figure included on the return Stanford filed in 2012.
According to the new return, which the university provided in response to a request from USA TODAY Sports, Shaw’s total for 2014 included just over $2.65 million in base salary. That represents an increase of more than $1 million over Shaw’s base amount for 2013.
In addition, Shaw got $590,000 in bonuses in 2014 and he was credited with just over $700,000 in deferred compensation.
It is difficult to compare the compensation of private-school coaches to that of public-school coaches because the amounts reported on school tax returns take into account bonuses paid and the taxable value of various perks and benefits, but the sum of Shaw’s base and deferred pay for 2014 indicates that he is currently one of the Pac-12 Conference’s highest-paid coaches, if not the highest-paid. For the 2015 season, Washington’s Chris Petersen was the conference’s highest-paid public school coach at just over $3.4 million, not including bonuses, according to USA TODAY Sports’ annual compensation survey.
Among private-school football coaches whose schools have made their tax returns public so far this year, Shaw’s total for 2014 vaults him into a range occupied that year by only TCU’s Gary Patterson (just over $4 million, including nearly $3.5 million in base pay) and former Baylor coach Art Briles (nearly $6 million, including more than $5.3 million in base pay).
Beginning with 2011, Shaw’s first season as Harbaugh’s successor, Stanford has had records of 11-2, 12-2, 11-3, 8-5 and 12-2. The Cardinal have won the Pac-12 championship in three of the past four seasons and played in either the Rose or Fiesta bowl in four of the past five seasons.
It is likely that Shaw’s bonus total for 2014 — which was $490,000 greater than his bonus total for 2013 — reflects amounts tied to the team’s achievements during the 2013-14 school year. That was the year in which Stanford went 11-3, lost to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl and was No. 10 in the final USA TODAY Coaches Poll. According to notes included on Stanford’s new tax return, Shaw’s bonuses were based on the team’s academic performance, its athletic performance, Shaw’s attendance at athletic department events “and/or leadership.”
The notes also state that Shaw was one of five Stanford employees listed on the return to receive taxable housing benefits in 2014. The other four were either university vice presidents or deans of a school within the university.
Like other private colleges, Stanford is set up as a non-profit organization. That means it must annually file a federal tax return that includes information about the pay of its officers, directors and other key university-wide leaders. It also must disclose pay information for its five most highly compensated employees who do not fall into one of those three categories.
Although most of the information on a non-profit’s tax return covers a fiscal year that usually involves parts of two calendar years, the IRS requires that the compensation reporting cover the most recently completed calendar year. Due to the complexity of their returns, large colleges and universities routinely take filing extensions that result in a significant time lag between the period covered by their most recent return and the date they file.
In Stanford’s case, the return it filed Friday covers a fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, 2015. That makes 2014 the most recently completed calendar year and, thus, the one used for reporting Shaw’s compensation.