LSU vs. Mississippi State

Coach Ed Orgeron walks towards the locker room Saturday, Sep. 26, 2020 before LSU's 44-34 loss against Mississippi State in Tiger Stadium.

Private air travel, a social club membership and a $5 million life insurance premium. These are a few of the perks of being Louisiana’s highest-paid state employee, LSU Head Football Coach Ed Orgeron.

Orgeron's latest contract, effective since January, pays him a salary of $6 million per year consisting of base salary and supplemental compensation. It’s a $2.5 million increase from his previous contract.

One of the most notable changes to his contract featured a $5 million dollar split life insurance policy paid out over the course of two years. 

The contract will expire in 2025, which is on the longer side of the average length of college football coaching contracts, according to HKM Employment Attorney Jason Rittereiser.

HKM represents employees and workers. Rittereiser described the practice area of sports as a “passion project” turned high scale. The company advises college and professional coaches on employment contracts.

“We out-of-hobby collected all publically available head coaching football contracts, categorized them and made them available to the public,” Rittereiser said.

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HKM ranked Orgeron’s contract fourth in terms of salary, duration, payout and bonuses in its ranking of NCAA Division One Coaches.

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh topped the list.

While Swinney is compensated a base pay of only $245,000 per year, the Clemson coach remains eligible for an annual supplemental compensation of over $5.5 million per year. This supplemental compensation increases annually up until the year 2028 at a peak of $7.255 million. 

Head football coaches in the SEC received roughly $5 million in total payouts in the 2019 season, according to one breakdown by USA Today.

Base pay and additional compensation are the two main components of college football coaching contracts, Rittereiser said.

Additional compensation for Orgeron includes $2.5 million annually for media appearances, $500,000 annually for social media, a $400,000 annual payment from the Tiger Athletic Foundation and $100,000 for apparel and equipment contracts, according to HKM.

The contract also features a bonus for off-field performance such as players meeting academic requirements and “behaving in-line” with University standards, Rittereiser said.

“They build in a lot of these additional compensation terms in a college coach’s contract to incentivize supervision of the players off field as well,” Rittereiser said.

The head coach also receives $187,000 per year for personal air travel and compensation for legal fees.

“It’s not unusual for those terms at this level of coaching, but they’re significant,” Rittereiser said. “I mean, they’re state employees, and they’re entitled to travel on private aircraft."

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The average Louisiana state employee made $49,743 in 2018, according to Open Payrolls.

“I think it’s a little crazy,” graduate student Sarah Bourgeois said. “I know how much money the football program makes, but when you look at the state of our library and classrooms I can’t help but think six million dollars is a little excessive.”

Mass communication senior Chandler Hegwood said he believes the salary is well-earned.

“Our football program brings in a ton of revenue to the University and this state every year,” Hegwood said. “Our coach should be paid accordingly to that. I don’t believe any politician should come close to making that amount of money."

Employment Law Attorney Dan Kalish analyzed Orgeron's contract. One thing he found interesting, he said, is the lack of compensation for players. 

"I find it fascinating from a policy standpoint," Kalish said. "All these kids are still not making any money, but the coaches' salaries continue to go up and up."

HKM noticed an increase of money in college football programs over the past 10 years, according to Rittereiser.

“[The public is] starting to recognize that coaches play a large factor in the revenue and the success, and they’re starting to compensate these coaches much more like professional coaches rather than college coaches,” Rittereiser said.

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