5 Differences between Coaching in College and the NFL

As the football buzz kicks off with the Super Bowl approaching, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the differences between coaching in college and the NFL. Knowing coaches’ strategies in both legs could help you get a leg up when you’re betting on games. You might be able to beat the Super Bowl odds or predict a shocking upset in your favorite bowl game.

So, what makes coaching in college and the NFL so different? Let’s explore.

Recruiting Strategies

Recruiting strategies for coaching in college and the NFL can vary greatly since the circumstances that each type of program will face tend to be unique. For example, college teams often focus on recruiting a greater variety of athletes than those in the NFL due to college teams often having more vacancies and not being able to focus solely on skill sets required at certain positions. NFL teams usually have far more prospect information, such as testing data, team visits, and interviews.

Additionally, by NCAA rules, college programs are not allowed to contact potential recruits until their senior year of high school, while NFL recruiters can actively go after players who may find themselves in their entry draft two or three years later. As a result of these varying restrictions regarding recruiting strategies, coaches in college and the NFL must employ strategic planning that considers both existing environmental factors and future objectives.

Adapting to Different Rules and Regulations

One of the biggest differences between coaching in college football and coaching in the NFL is adapting to different rules and regulations. College football follows NCAA guidelines, while NFL coaches must abide by league regulations.

College football coaches must keep their players’ eligibility in mind and make sure they comply with NCAA rules. On the other hand, NFL coaches are subject to different regulations, such as those related to collective bargaining agreements between the league and the players’ union.

Comparing Salary Expectations

Despite initial assumptions to the contrary, salary and compensation between college coaching and NFL coaching aren’t all that dissimilar. Biggest Division 1 programs function like a business, paying top dollar for their employees – a head coach in one of these programs can expect comparable salary expectations to an NFL coach.

On the other hand, smaller college programs may have to suffer with a tighter budget and lower salary cap for coaches, regardless of their caliber or experience. These few discrepancies are relatively small when it comes to comparing salary expectations between coaching for college and NFL teams.

Managing Player Egos

As any sports fan likely knows, the difference between coaching college football and the NFL is vast. One big challenge for NFL coaches is managing the ego of their players, especially considering the pressure that every team starts with every season. In addition, many teams have a star player or two who command significant influence in the locker room—something college-level coaches likely don’t have to deal with quite often.

Moreover, Super Bowl expectations can quickly raise tensions and create divisiveness within a team if not properly managed. Successful NFL coaches must be able to handle these high-profile athletes while simultaneously pushing them to perform at their best and bring Super Bowl glory to their homes.

Balancing Workload Between Coaching and Administrative Duties

The workload between coaching in college and the NFL is vastly different. College coaches often have to juggle both on-field and administrative duties, such as overseeing recruiting, developing game plans and playbooks, practicing scheduling, and budgeting.

In comparison, NFL coaches are more insulated and can focus all their energy on Xs and Os. In addition, because they don’t have the additional overhead of administrative work, an NFL coach should ideally be able to produce better results on the field with their team’s personnel. On the other hand, at the college level, teams are typically limited in talent due to a strict budget and have to balance the workload accordingly.

For that reason, ensuring that college coaches properly divide their time between coaching and administrative duties can make or break a program’s success.


The differences between college and NFL coaching are vast, from salary expectations to managing player egos to balancing workload. College coaches must have a high degree of organizational skills to manage their teams successfully while at the same time understanding the nuances of recruiting and budgeting.

NFL coaches, meanwhile, have more freedom to focus exclusively on Xs and Os and are, on average, much better compensated for their efforts. Ultimately, the differences between coaching in college football and the NFL make it clear that each profession has unique challenges and rewards.