I worry about the precedent that Dave Aranda's rich new contract just set
Every person on the planet wishes they had as much leverage with their boss as LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has with his.
Few, if any, do.
That much we learned late Wednesday night when Aranda agreed to a whopping four-year, $10 million deal to stay at his same exact position in Baton Rouge. That $10 million is fully guaranteed, by the way.
By now, you’ve already seen some perspective stats on just how absurd Aranda’s new deal is. There was the one about him making more than the $2.46 million that Maryland head coach DJ Durkin made in 2017. He ranked No. 47 among FBS head coaches, which means that Aranda’s $2.5 million annually was more than these Power 5 head coaches (via USA Today):
- DJ Durkin, Maryland
- Steve Addazio, Boston College
- Barry Odom, Missouri
- Larry Fedora, UNC
- Dave Doeren, NC State
- Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
- Matt Campbell, Iowa State
- Chris Ash, Rutgers
- Tom Allen, Indiana
- Pat Narduzzi, Pitt
- Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
- David Beaty, Kansas
- Justin Wilcox, Cal
- Matt Luke, Ole Miss
I’ve got a few more perspective stats on Aranda’s deal that I came up with on my own. Aranda left Wisconsin after the 2015 season. Since then, the Badgers won two division titles and two New Year’s 6 bowls under Paul Chryst. Still, Chryst made just $700,000 more in 2017 than Aranda will make as LSU’s defensive coordinator in 2018 (Chryst’s $260,000 bonus helped him get to that $3.2 million).
There’s also the fact that Aranda’s successor at Wisconsin, Wilcox, put up even better numbers than Aranda’s defense the following season. Wilcox went to Cal to become a head coach. He made just $1.6 million in 2017 and will still not make more than Aranda in 2018.
Ah, but here’s the best one. Riley, as you’ll recall, just led Oklahoma to the Rose Bowl, and he coached the Heisman Trophy winner. That was after he took over in the middle of the offseason. And while Riley is obviously in line for a hefty raise after his first season as a head coach, his $2.17 million was still less than Aranda’s $2.5 million.
What a time to be alive. A coordinator of the nation’s No. 14 defense got that kind of love. Never mind the fact that at $1.8 million in 2017, Aranda was already the highest-paid assistant in the country. He’ll now get roughly the same money he would as a first-year head coach, but he’ll do so as LSU’s defensive coordinator.
That scares me.
Aranda got that money because LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was desperate to keep him instead of letting Texas A&M back up the Brinks truck to steal him. Given the available candidates, LSU obviously didn’t feel the pool was deep enough to dive into head first. Instead, Alleva dipped his toe in the water, thought it was too cold and ran back to wrap himself up in his beach towel.
I guess in this case, Aranda is more of a safety blanket than a beach towel. He was the insurance policy after LSU gambled on Ed Orgeron. Well, he and Matt Canada were supposed to be those insurance policies. Needless to say, the former is deemed more valuable than the latter.
But how valuable is a coordinator like Aranda really? After all, it’s not like LSU’s win total jumped after his arrival. In fact, it stayed exactly the same as it did when John Chavis and Kevin Steele were on staff in 2014 and 2015, respectively. And at Wisconsin, where Aranda left, the Badgers ranked in the top 4 in scoring defense with two different coordinators the past two years. They actually won more games after Aranda left.
That’s not to say Aranda is bad at his job or that he’s a non-factor. The guy dials up pressure in unique ways that have befuddled many offensive coordinators the past five years.
The problem is that there are several coordinators who have been just as good, if not better than Aranda. You know those guys will be going to their bosses demanding they get Aranda money to stay. Not everyone is LSU or Texas A&M, though. Very few athletic departments can afford to pay coordinators 7-figure salaries — 12 programs did that in 2017 — much less offer up $10 million guaranteed.
Aranda got a 39 percent raise after LSU had a good, but not great season. I mean, it’s not like the Tigers beat Troy at home. In what other line of work can an assistant demand a 39 percent raise to do the exact same job? It’s insanity.
It’s not like Aranda led LSU to its first national championship game in 37 years like Kirby Smart did. He didn’t inherit a new head coaching position in the middle of the offseason and lead a top-4 team like Riley did. Those guys are worthy of 39 percent raises. For the scrutiny that their 2017 success will bring, both will face a new level of expectations.
Aranda’s spotlight will be smaller. He wasn’t on the hot seat when LSU lost to Troy. Orgeron was. Don’t forget that Orgeron only made $3.5 million in 2017 (almost double what Aranda earned on his previous deal).
Is there going to be a power struggle between Orgeron and Aranda? Alleva now has two guys who are being paid as head coaches. Orgeron is a defensive guy, too. You mean to tell me that he and Aranda will make this transition a seamless one?
I question that. I question how rapidly this market ballooned. In 2014, Chavis was the highest-paid assistant in the country — by LSU, of course — at $1.16 million. In three years, that number has more than doubled. And what’s to say Aranda will be the highest-paid coordinator at this time next year? His deal is going to drive the market for assistants in ways that we haven’t seen before.
Soon, this bubble is going to burst. Don’t be surprised if it bursts all over Alleva’s face.