It would appear most of the nation joined LSU in the afterglow of finally seeing Alabama go down.
Sunday afternoon on a popular New York sports radio show, a caller floated the trial balloon of why the NFL Giants didn’t make a run at hiring Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron.
Just wrap your head around that one. Interesting concept. The Crazy Cajun let loose amidst the concrete canyons and high society of Manhattan. Try not to break any of the fine china, coach.
Reality TV at its best, must-see.
Anyway, LSU doesn’t seem too worried about it.
But it does bring up a point. At what stage of LSU’s remarkable season does the bill come to due to the athletic department?
Before we go any further here, you need to go ahead and suspend your traditional views of finances and salary.
They don’t apply. Take the fantasy leap into big-time athletics where Monopoly money rules.
It’s a strange world in which, at $4 million per year, Orgeron is the biggest bargain (translation: underpaid) coach in college football.
But right now, in this world, you’d say he is.
Orgeron’s $4 million per year ranks way down at No. 30 among college head coaches. Even crazier, it ranks No. 9 amongst the 14 Southeastern Conference coaches.
Well, No. 8 now, if you’re not counting buyout money. Arkansas (ex) coach Chad Martin, who was fired Sunday after not winning an SEC game in his almost two years on the job, ranked slightly ahead of Orgeron before his comical demise.
So what is LSU’s next move? Orgeron received a $500,000 raise last spring just to get the $4 million.
What will this season be worth?
There’s a reason these astronomical dollars get thrown around so haphazardly.
Jimbo Fisher is getting $7.5 million a year at Texas A&M because that’s what it took to lure him away from Florida State. Nick Saban is up to $8.8 million at Alabama, in part at least, to keep him from getting happy feet again (as LSU can attest). Same thing with Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (No. 1 at $9.3 million).
None of that applies to Orgeron.
Aside from the fact that nobody was getting in a bidding war with LSU when the school hired Orgeron as its third choice, the Tigers also negotiated a home-state discount for a pure-blood Cajun and lifelong Tigers fanatic getting his dream job.
So he came cheap — Where do I sign? Geaux Tigahs! — even as much of college football chuckled at the absurdity of the hire and grabbed popcorn to watch it all go down in flames in gruffy, garbled Cajun-English.
Who’s laughing now? Nobody in Tuscaloosa, for sure. Or Austin, where the Texas Longhorns paid $6.75 large ones to outnegotiate LSU for Tom Herman (latest litmus test: Tigers 45, Longhorns 38).
So is it time to pay the piper and pay Orgeron market price?
Well, his agent doesn’t have much bargaining power. Any pay raise into the proper stratosphere right now would be strictly on merit, not fear of losing him.
It’s kind of a unique situation.
What’s he going to do, threaten to leave for Arkansas? Even Southern Cal? LSU would laugh at him.
Everybody, even the New York Football Giants, knows he’s not going anywhere that doesn’t have a cochon de lait or a duck blind in the area code.
Any schools suddenly realizing that Orgeron is much more than an entertaining caricature probably wouldn’t waste even a phone call.
The man is in his dream job, the toast of all those nutty LSU fans, even the ones who hoped it would work but still can’t believe it is.
Not much leverage there.
Sure, LSU should pay him, and probably will. But only because it’s the right thing to do. Not because the school has to.
But either way, it’s going to cost LSU.
The business model was always going to be that Orgeron would be the inspirational leader of the program, not to mention the perfect figurehead straight out of central casting for Louisiana’s Flagship Football Program.
LSU would counter that by using the money you save at the top to hire rock star coordinators to do magic with the X’s and O’s.
It’s why defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is the nation’s highest paid assistant at $2.5 million (which would rank just behind Oregon’s Mario Cristobal (No. 56) among head coaches).
The offensive side took some trial and error before Orgeron settled on Steve Ensminger, who’s happy as a lark to be home at LSU and, at the tail end of his career, isn’t going anywhere. So he doesn’t have much more bargaining power than Orgeron. In LSU’s master plan, Ensminger is also a bargain at $800,000.
Ah, but of course, there’s more.
Joe Brady, the wunderkind who in his first year as a bona fide assistant anywhere is getting most of the credit for installing LSU’s new offense, is a different story. He’s barely 30 years old, has no previous LSU ties, and is soon to be one of the hottest names in coaching.
LSU knows it.
It’s doubtful any head coaching jobs will be offered.
But given the Tigers eye-popping turnaround any school with a struggling offense — maybe even the NFL — will at least be thinking about how to lure him away.
LSU knows it. According to several reports, the school is already in negotiations with Brady to get big-boy coordinator money.
And if we know anything about LSU football, it’s that if it needs to scrounge up a few spare million, it’ll dig into the couch cushions and find it somewhere.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at email@example.com