Oh, it’s comin’.
By “it,” I’m actually referring to two things.
Ed Orgeron is about to get paid. That seems like a much better bet than the under on LSU’s pedestrian 2018 over-under regular season win total (7.5). The $3.5 million that Orgeron made in 2018 ranked No. 36 among college coaches nationally. In case you missed it, there were certainly not 35 coaches who were better than Orgeron in 2018.
The second-year LSU coach led the program to its first New Year’s 6 Bowl of the Playoff era, which he won to clinch a 10-win season. Every other coach who won a New Year’s 6 Bowl in 2018 was among the top 8 nationally in terms of salary (Dan Mullen actually made the least of that group at $6.07 million).
So yes, Orgeron is all but guaranteed a steep pay increase for 2019.
And the 5-year deal he signed, which runs through 2021, is likely going to see a few more years added to it. That’s par for the course in today’s age of college football because not extending a coach prompts the easiest piece of negative recruiting possible against LSU.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva rolled the dice on Orgeron, realizing that his future was going to be tied to him when he made the bold move to shed Orgeron’s interim tag after the 2016 season. Still, these things are never that easy. That’s why when Alleva was asked about extending the LSU coach after the regular season, he played coy.
“Not yet,” Alleva told Nola.com back in early December. “But I think we’ll probably … I said probably, but we haven’t had any yet. The season’s still not over yet.”
Well, it is now. And yeah, that discussion is comin’.
Let’s not forget that this past offseason, Orgeron’s top assistant became the highest-paid coordinator in college football history. Dave Aranda signed a new deal that paid him a hefty $2.5 million annually for the next 4 seasons. For all you math majors, that meant Orgeron’s base salary as the head coach was only $1 million more than his highest-paid assistant.
That doesn’t happen. Even with assistant salaries skyrocketing because of deals like Aranda’s the gap between a head coach’s pay and his top assistant is still significant. Look at that number across the SEC in 2018 (via USA Today database of annual coaches salaries):
That’s an average salary difference of exactly $3,483,665.85. In other words, the average gap is more than 3 times as much as Orgeron’s gap with Aranda.
Don’t get me wrong. Aranda is an extremely valuable assistant. Alleva and Orgeron went to great lengths to keep him because of his ability and the continuity he adds to the staff. And with a deal like that in place, it basically says “you’re our backup plan if this thing doesn’t work out, so sit tight.”
This thing is working out.
Orgeron is now 19-7 as head coach and 11-5 against the SEC. Sure, he lost the 2 games to Alabama, but against other ranked foes, he’s 7-2. Against non-Alabama teams ranked in the top 10, he’s 5-0. LSU just finished with its best final Associated Press Top 25 ranking since the 2011 runner-up season. That was after all the preseason discussion was about how LSU’s daunting schedule was going to possibly lead to the team’s first sub-8 win season in the 21st century.
Alleva knows all of this. And while it might cost him some more money — not just the $100,000 bonus Orgeron earned for getting that 10th win — by waiting until after the Fiesta Bowl to begin the extension talks, that made sense. Responding the way LSU did in a game in which it was without 9 of 11 defensive starters by day’s end was a testament its head coach, who has developed a knack for finding a way since he got his second life in Baton Rouge.
Now, it’s time that he gets his second deal. The only question is what that might look like, and how long Orgeron could be under contract.
Keep in mind that the Tigers are now off the books with Les Miles, who settled on a lump sum of $1.5 million so that he could take the Kansas job. That’s a win for LSU because it saved roughly $5 million by not having to pay the entire buyout.
Something tells me some of that chunk of change will make its way to Orgeron’s bank account. At the very least, Orgeron will make at least double what Aranda makes. A $5 million starting point seems more than reasonable considering 13 coaches (including Lovie Smith) made at least that in 2018. That’s a 43 percent raise. Anybody would welcome that.
The absolute highest I could see that number getting to is about $6 million annually, and even that seems a bit ambitious considering how big of a jump that would be after Year 2 (Smart got the massive bump after Year 2 because nearly won a national title). Orgeron’s deal will likely fall somewhere in the $5-6 million range annually, and it’ll probably be closer to $5 million.
As for the length of the deal, my guess is that it’ll run through 2024. While that might sound like a long time for a fan base that was on the fence about Orgeron heading into the season — or predicting his demise — it would match the length of Smart’s deal at Georgia. It would prevent Alleva from having to negotiate a new deal for the next couple years, and as long as the buyout doesn’t suddenly skyrocket (it’s $6 million for 2019 on his current deal), it would make sense for both parties.
What many people always wonder about with these things is the “why.” As in, why does LSU need to give its head coach a raise and an extension when Orgeron been vocal about this being his destination job?
Besides the aforementioned recruiting benefits of showing faith in your head coach, there’s also a message that Alleva should send to Orgeron. What Orgeron did in 2018 will benefit Alleva. By not agreeing to terms on a new deal — something Orgeron’s agent would be foolish not to ask for — it opens the door for things to happen. You never know if USC, which could replace Clay Helton next year, would make a serious push to give Orgeron another shot. Who knows what can happen in the next year?
At this time last year, Orgeron was the guy on the early hot-seat lists. A year later, no SEC coach is more worthy of a raise than he is.
The new deal is indeed comin’, and as Orgeron loves to say, so is LSU.