LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva has about 275,000 reasons to thank the University of Tennessee. Not only does its football team have trouble counting — see last season in Tiger Stadium — but its flirtatious courtship of Alleva in July is really helping his bank account.
If Alleva’s LSU athletic department achieves as it did last season, his pay package will have increased from $550,000 to $825,000, some 50 percent.
That would put him well over the $601,000 pay package of LSU System President John Lombardi, who was Louisiana’s highest-paid state employee, not counting coaches.
Alleva, who had a $350,000 base salary and a $200,000 “annual supplemental compensation,” is set to receive a $175,000 base salary pay hike if it is approved Friday by the LSU Board of Supervisors.
The extra pay does not stop there. Last season Alleva earned no dollars in his possible incentive bonuses stipulated in his contract. In order for him to get bonus money, the athletic department needed to rank in the top 10 in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup rankings, previously called the Sears Cup, or LSU’s student-athletes had to at least match the graduation rate of the general student population.
Neither of those things occurred last year, according to LSU. So, the end result of Alleva’s contract negotiations included making those bonuses easier to achieve.
In the proposed amended contract, Alleva would get an extra $50,000 if LSU finishes in the top 20 of the Directors’ Cup rankings, which LSU did last year, and he will receive another $50,000 “for each year that all athletic teams maintain a multi-year NCAA Academic Progress Rate of 925 or higher.”
Translating that APR language may not be easy, but the end result is Alleva would have achieved the academic progress bonus last year, according to the university.
When all that is added up, Alleva, whose full title is vice chancellor and athletic director, would have received $825,000 last year through the new proposed deal.
That does not count a $12,000 vehicle allowance and country club membership that many top officials and coaches receive.
LSU Chancellor Michael Martin said the goal in negotiations was not to get into an auction with Tennessee but to offer Alleva a strong deal that put him in the top one-third pay bracket for athletic directors in the highly competitive Southeastern Conference.
Now, Alleva may be public enemy No. 1 with many LSU tailgaters who will pay new parking fees starting next month, but that does not translate to failing at his job by any means.
Some of the top goals for an athletic director include raising revenue, graduating student athletes and, of course, fielding teams that compete for national championships.
A big part of the latter is hiring coaches. The biggest hire Alleva made came right after he came to LSU. He had to hire a men’s basketball coach quickly. The end result was viewed as a coup by many when Stanford coach Trent Johnson came on board to Baton Rouge.
Johnson’s first year at LSU was a big success, but it’s hard to view the past two seasons as much better than abject failures with the Tigers serving as cellar dwellers in the standings. So this upcoming season could really tell the tale for Johnson, who is slated to receive a job extension, but no pay raise, on Friday.
Alleva’s other top hire was the high-priced, but high-potential women’s basketball coach, Nikki Caldwell, who has yet to start a season.
LSU’s other top-profile coaches, football coach Les Miles and baseball coach Paul Mainieri, have both won national championships, but both predated Alleva at LSU.
One area where Alleva has thrived is revenue. LSU continues to have one of a handful of self-sustaining athletic departments that gives money back to the university.
No student fees go to athletics. LSU fans may grimace when they sign checks for season tickets and more, but results are results.
Jordan Blum covers higher education issues for The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.