With his new contract, LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will be making more money than most college football head coaches. The Tigers inked Aranda, whom Texas A&M had relentlessly pursued for the same position on Jimbo Fisher’s staff, to a four-year, $10 million extension, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, shattering the record salary for a defensive coordinator already owned by Aranda. That $2.5 million annually is also a record salary for any assistant.
LSU’s defense has been terrific in Aranda’s two years in Baton Rouge. However, it’s still shocking to see someone other than a head coach receive such a large sum of money, especially for a program that has owned an elite defense in college football for years through several defensive coordinators.
On the surface, it seems even more ridiculous for a public university located in a state that’s struggling financially and cutting education funding to hand out such a contract. But, as LSU athletic director Joe Alleva has repeatedly noted, his athletic department operates without state funds or student fees. They also have been giving significant money back to the university, even more than they’d initially agreed to .
While funds have been tight throughout the state and the university, LSU football has continued reeling in tons of revenue for the athletic department thanks to TV money and unwavering interest in the program, allowing it to operate in ways unlike most athletic departments.
Sure, out of the goodness of their hearts, the athletic department could have parted ways with Aranda and given a portion of the contract money back to the school. But as Alleva told TigerRag.com, they need to keep pumping money back into their football program or else they could find themselves at a significant competitive disadvantage:
“The more money you give back to the university, it’s great for the university, but if other schools we’re competing against are not doing that, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage, because that’s money they’re plowing back into their programs. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to keep doing that down the road as much.”
Such competitive disadvantages could include, you know, losing your in-demand defensive coordinator to a conference foe. And LSU has definitely decided to spend big money on assistants. (Offensive coordinator Matt Canada made $1.5 million this year, fourth-most in college football.) But it’s notable that the school isn’t paying that much to head coach Ed Orgeron, who makes $3.5 million annually according to USA Today‘s database, 28th-most in the country (and less than half of the $7.5 million new Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher is set to collect annually). Aranda is getting a lot of money here, and that’s going to inflate the market for assistants, but A&M offered him a whole lot of money too, and LSU’s overall coaching salaries aren’t as high as what the Aggies are paying. (Interestingly enough, the defensive coordinator Texas A&M appears set to replace is John Chavis, who they also brought in from LSU and paid $1.6 million a year, third-highest nationally.)
While LSU certainly could have done other things with the money, it’s also understandable why they chose to pay big bucks to keep Aranda. Especially with the alternative being him leaving for a conference rival, and one that had so recently poached the Tigers’ DC. But is Aranda going to be worth the massive amounts he’s getting? We’ll find out.