NCAA president Mark Emmert said Thursday that the rapid rise in compensation for top-tier college football coaches is "clearly not sustainable."

Emmert, speaking in Manhattan at a Q&A with Associated Press Sports Editors, also said he's concerned the increase in salaries could lead to universities dropping non-revenue sports programs.

"I worry about on the expenditure side the decisions that universities will make in order to support the high profile sports," Emmert said.

The stark rise in salaries for the 128 coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision - college football's top tier - also comes at a time when many schools across the nation are dealing with declining attendance and the cost of a college degree has never been higher.

"Of course it's problematic," Emmert said.

Newsday reported last October that the top 25 highest paid FBS coaches at public universities last season made an average of $3.85 million, more than some NFL coaches.

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In addition to their salaries, Newsday's review of 108 of the 128 FBS coaches' contracts - obtained through public records requests - also showed that they can earn hundreds of thousands more in bonuses and have benefits such as private jet use, cars and country club memberships.

This is not news to Emmert, who before he joined the NCAA served as the president at the University of Washington and Louisiana State University -- two schools with FBS programs.

"When I hired Nick Saban at LSU [in 2000], I just got beat up on campus because I hired him for the outrageous sum of 1.2 million dollars. There are now assistants - not coordinators - assistants making that," Emmert said. "So when you look at that, people just go, 'Wow.'"

Saban, now the coach at Alabama, recently completed the first year of an eight-year, $55.2-million contract that pays him $6.9 million per year.

"Yeah, of course it's a problem," Emmert said. "But it's the marketplace, and campuses, the A.D.s and the presidents will have to make a decision - is there a return on the investment? ... At some point some president, some athletic director is going to say, 'No, we're not paying that coach more.'"