BATON ROUGE – If $6 million a year will not get Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, then LSU and its money powers that be amid the Tiger Athletic Foundation fund raising arm and other major donors around the state need to make it $7 million.
It’s simple math.
Rare is the college football program that can hire a veteran, but still young coach like Fisher, 51, who is just few years removed from a national championship. Fisher won it at Florida State in the 2013 season just three years ago, then returned the next year to the College Football Playoff final four.
Alabama got coach Nick Saban after the 2006 season, just three years removed from winning it all at LSU. His first salary was $4 million a year. And he won it all again in the 2009 season, and in 2011, ’12 and ’15. Ohio State hired Urban Meyer four years after winning the national championship at Florida in 2008, which followed one in 2006. He earned $5.7 million a year in his first contract at Ohio State and won it all in 2014. Saban, Meyer and Fisher will likely win more soon.
Saban makes just under $7 million a year now for second in college football behind Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh at $9.4 million. Meyer is third at just under $6.1 million.
Fisher is fifth at the moment at $5.2 million. A $6 million contract could work for him at LSU, but when you add in his potential bonus money at Florida State if he hits all of them next year, that would be $6.6 million. He also does not have to pay state income tax in the state of Florida and will in Louisiana, and he has to make it worth his while to in many respects make a lateral move. As LSU’s coach, he will not have as many in-state schools to recruit against for the wealth of Louisiana players as he does in Florida for the wealth of Florida players. But the Atlantic Coast Conference is usually – maybe not this year – easier to navigate than the SEC – particularly the SEC West and Saban - toward the national championship. That may require some hazardous salary. So one can see a crooked number coming.
But that is what the market is calling for, not just what super agent Jimmy Sexton is calling for. He is just doing his job, and he happens to be about the best at it.
LSU needs to meet that market demand to get Fisher. Because, if not, there is nothing but wilderness out there. Houston coach Tom Herman? Texas. LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron? Yes, maybe he could bring in super offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin from Alabama and keep boy wonder defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. But for how long?
The exorbitant amount of money Fisher’s market demands now will save LSU money in the future because it will not have to be buying the best offensive and/or defensive coordinator every so often. Fisher will be the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. He can hire an apprentice offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach on the cheap like present LSU receiver coach Dameyune Craig, who formerly coached quarterbacks for Fisher at FSU and was a co-coordinator at Auburn. Two of Saban’s defensive coordinators at LSU and Alabama were young apprentices on the cheap - Will Muschamp and Kirby Smart.
In fact, when a school hires a Saban, a Meyer or a Fisher, that school doesn’t have to spend so exorbitantly on the rest of the staff - except for defensive coordinator in Fisher’s case. When LSU had former coach Les Miles, though, it was continually having to pay top dollar to keep and attract both coordinators in addition to other high priced assistants as Miles was never an expert on either side of the ball. In his later years, he continually had the highest paid staff, yet continued to go to middle income bowls.
The money going to Fisher will be huge, but if it is looked at as an investment, it will likely save LSU money in the future as it will not have to go to more head coaching searches.
The candidates after Fisher look risky. Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente looks very impressive and, like Fisher, would be LSU’s first true offensive head coach hire, meaning offensive line coaches need not apply. Fuente is only 40 and quickly turned around Memphis before landing at Virginia Tech. He only makes $3.2 million, but he has only been there one season.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora? As someone who works at LSU said, “Who is Larry Fedora?”
Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck is young, only 35, and he is 11-0 this year with the Broncos after two 8-5 seasons, but that would still be an awful big jump.
Don’t risk it. Pay it.
Yes, LSU would also have to pay Fisher’s $5 million buyout. And, yes, Miles is still owed more than $9 million of his buyout, but that does not have to be all at once. In fact, his installment payments have already started, and they could be decreased significantly if he gets another coaching job. And he apparently wants one.
LSU’s money powers should have been stuffing this war chest since late last year or at least since this September, and there should be enough. LSU power brokers have not had to put any true money for a coach together since they hired Saban from Michigan State in 1999. They saved over a million between Saban’s last salary and Miles’ first. Find it and put it together if you haven't already.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva is yet to open up the checkbook for a major hire. The basketball coaches have been basically on football coordinator salaries. He used to spend a lot of his time and money on the windows at Tiger Stadium. I thought the place looked more daunting and dungeon-like for opponents when the windows were broken.
Alleva can use some of the millions of his SEC Network money allotment that his department has received since 2015. Before the SEC Network came along, each school’s cut of the SEC pie was $20.9 million in the spring of 2014. After the first year of the SEC Network in 2014-15, SEC schools raked in $31.2 million apiece the next spring - mostly because of the new network. The announcement of the next round of earnings for the 2015-16 year is due in January, and it should be higher. Funny, Alleva raised football ticket prices right before the SEC Network started because – in his words – he had to meet payroll and retirements. He also downplayed how much money the SEC Network would make for LSU and others and complained of its costs.
Bottom line - LSU athletics has the money. And those who care for LSU athletics dearly on the inside and the outside have the money. They just do not always want you to know how much. They have enough for Fisher.
In the meantime, ease up on all this new facilities construction. Did LSU really need that new tennis facility? OK, D-D Breaux deserved the new gymnastics facility. But that’s enough. Facilities are largely overrated anyway. Saban was winning big at LSU before a lot of the new facilities he wanted were done. LSU Baseball won five national championships while playing home games in the old Alex Box. It has won one since moving to the new one.
Pay Jimbo Fisher whatever it takes. He’s your football facility now. And in the long run, he’ll make enough money for everyone’s facilities on campus.
Coverage of LSU and commentary by Glenn Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at http://hebertstandc.com/.