The Advocate divulged the contract provisions, but Scott Roussel at FootballScoop.com did a deep dive and analyzed it. He couldn’t understand the thinking behind it, and neither could we…
— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) March 10, 2017
Zack Barnett from FootballScoop.com had a good article also analyzing the contract…
While Herman had options, Orgeron had none. LSU competed against itself for his services. Serving as the head coach of his home state’s flagship program was Orgeron’s dream, and he weighed that option against….. being a defensive line coach again?
In Orgeron’s mind, the LSU head job against other options available to him at the time was a see-saw with field mouse on one end and an elephant on the other.
Here’s how deeply Orgeron considered the LSU job before taking it, as he described the 75-minute drive between his home in Mandeville and LSU’s Baton Rouge facility on the morning he would officially become the Tigers’ head coach: “I was going very fast, I was listening to some of my favorite music, I had the window down and I was hollering the whole way.”
This means that, on that same see-saw, LSU was the elephant at the negotiating table and Orgeron was the mouse. Joe Alleva and company had every available molecule of leverage.
And the end result was a contract where LSU assumes all of the risk in a scenario where, if the Orgeron Era doesn’t work out, the fault will lie entirely on the coach.
(To be abundantly clear, this isn’t about the hiring of Orgeron in the first place. A native son with his pulse on the heartbeat of football in Louisiana and a clear-eyed vision of where LSU needs to improve, we’ve gone on record liking this hire. This is merely deconstructing the contract LSU gave him.)
LSU took a risk going with a head coach whose head coaching resume consists of one unsuccessful stint at Ole Miss and two solid runs as an interim. Orgeron accepted a, perhaps, slightly below market salary to allow room to hire the best possible staff. Through incentives, should he win, Orgeron will make as much as most other SEC head coaches. Should he fail to win, though, there’s the rub. Why did LSU think it was necessary to include a $12 million buyout if year one is a disaster? If LSU fails to succeed under Orgeron, the blame will fall entirely on his shoulders, either through the assistants he hired or the culture he created.
All this to say: LSU spent a lot of time negotiating with Herman and very little doing the same with Orgeron. In fact, it appears they didn’t negotiate with Oregon at all. It looks like Alleva simply applied some white-out over Herman’s name to write Orgeron’s over it, chopped the salary down by a couple million and handed Coach O a contract to sign.
In reality, there are two factors that have pushed coaches’ contracts sky high in recent years: market-driven deals to recruit and/or retain in-demand coaches, and ADs that write bad contracts.
There can be no doubt that, per Barnett, Alleva is an AD who writes bad contracts. LSU is, after all, paying Les Miles some $125,000 per month for the next three years because after the 2012 season, in which Miles did a terrible job and wasted what was clearly a national championship caliber roster to go 10-3, his agent managed to leverage a flirtation with Arkansas into a gargantuan new contract from Alleva. Two years later Alleva was stepping in and meddling with Miles’ negotiations with John Chavis to remain as the team’s defensive coordinator in what looked for all the world like a prelude to firing Miles.
LSU’s president F. King Alexander is known to whine about the salaries the coaches on campus make, so much so that he was quoted as expressing amazement over “a million dollars for the punting coach.” And yet while he gripes about financial woes on the academic side of the university, there is “dead money” on the athletic side going to pay a buyout of a coach who was fired – not to mention assistants who were also let go in Dameyune Craig, Cam Cameron and Jabbar Juluke, but those buyouts were more or less inevitable given that a coaching change means a retooling of the coaching staff. Johnny Jones will cost LSU some $800,000 to fire.
Atop all that, Alleva puts LSU on the hook for $12 million this year and $8 million next year when Orgeron would have accepted the job with no buyout at all? What else was Orgeron going to do?
This is the kind of thing which really ought to be the last straw. At a place with better leadership and a stronger culture of excellence, Joe Alleva would be fired for sloppy work like Orgeron’s contract. Skip Bertman left this athletic department, and before him Mark Emmert left the university as a whole, with a strong culture of excellence in which glaring mistakes like this were few and far between. It’s clear those have eroded, and badly.
Next month LSU will camp out at the legislature to tell a tale of financial woe and essentially make the case that Louisiana’s taxpayers should have to dig deeper into our mostly-empty wallets to stave off the university’s budget problems. That story will come off as disingenuous when Alleva’s job security isn’t negatively affected by irresponsibly throwing around contract terms which put the university on the hook for seven and even eight figures in the event his own mistakes become manifest.
If you’re an LSU fan and you weren’t an Ed Orgeron fan before, you certainly are now. Should Orgeron fall on his face in the next two years and show himself to be the coach who failed at Ole Miss it will cost $12 million and $8 million, respectively, to dump him while Miles is still cashing checks worth seven figures a year.