The deal is done: LSU and former offensive coordinator Matt Canada have mutually separated.
The school and Canada reached a financial settlement Friday regarding the multi-million dollar buyout he’s owed, ending a strained relationship between the assistant and his head coach.
Both of LSU football’s coordinators cashed some enormous checks this week.
The school announced the move minutes after The Advocate broke the story Friday night.
Canada agreed to part ways with the program for about half of the $3.3 million he was owed. He’ll receive roughly $1.7 million in buyout money, multiple sources confirmed, a resolution reached by the two sides Friday night after day-long negotiations Thursday. That settlement figure is not final and could fluctuate when the deal is fully executed.
Canada’s willingness to settle is evidence of a bitter situation on both sides and a sign the school was reluctant to pay the full buyout. Each party wished for a quick divorce after just a year together.
The settlement brings a clean separation that's somewhat unique. In a dismissal, the university would have been responsible for paying the difference between Canada's LSU salary and the salary at his potential new employer, an unknown at this time. The settlement guarantees the coach $1.7 million in addition to any future salary.
Canada is already pursuing other jobs with hopes of bringing his unique offense, built around pre-snap movement and the jet sweep, to another spot.
"I want to thank Matt for his contribution here at LSU and wish him and his family the best,” Orgeron said in a statement released by the school. “We have mutually agreed to part ways and go in a different direction offensively but are always grateful for the time and effort Matt made here at LSU.
"As the head coach, you have to make tough decisions. I chose to go in a different direction in order to get where I believe we need to be as a program."
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Throughout the season, Orgeron, at times, expressed disappointment and frustration in his offense, publicly lamenting Canada’s play calls and such. Privately, the two had an icy relationship and seldom speak to one another, those close to the men say.
Orgeron’s next pick might come from in house, as has been long thought.
Longtime assistant coach and former LSU quarterback Steve Ensminger appears to be the favorite to elevate to the offensive coordinator role. Orgeron revealed that he would "highly consider" Ensminger for the potential opening after the regular season game against Texas A&M.
Ensminger's interest in the permanent job is not clear. After last season, he revealed that Orgeron had to convince him to take the interim coordinator role.
Jerry Sullivan, the 73-year-old longtime NFL receivers coach who served as a consultant last season, could have a more significant role in the offense, too. Sullivan is widely known as a guru in the passing game and has spent much of this past season assisting receivers coach Mickey Joseph.
Orgeron said in the statement that he'd immediately begin the process of finding a new coordinator.
"We will identify a coach with a wealth of experience who is totally committed to the vision of the program and has the drive to do whatever it takes to see it through,” Oregon said in the statement.
He will "look to bring in a coach who will develop an offensive philosophy that builds on the team’s identity in the run game and is adaptable to the talent on the field in the passing game," the statement said.
“We have a lot of talent coming up on offense,” Orgeron said. “We want to put our players in the best possible position to succeed, which means improving our vertical passing game and developing our quarterbacks and wide receivers to be at their absolute best.”
A new coach might not receive a contract akin to that of Canada.
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The highest paid offensive coordinator in college football last year, Canada signed a three-year deal in December of 2016 paying him $1.5 million per year.
The program's settlement with Canada is coupled with a host of other football-related buyouts to produce a rather large number. The school began paying fired coach Les Miles a $9 million buyout spread over six years upon his firing in September of 2016. The school paid a combined $1 million to buyout contracts of fired assistants Jabbar Juluke and Dameyune Craig, deals that ran through May of this year.
Canada, a 45-year-old Indiana native, arrived in Baton Rouge as Orgeron’s first significant staff hire upon receiving the permanent job last year, bringing in a Midwesterner with a quirky but successful scheme.
Canada’s offense had posted impressive statistics at Wisconsin (2012), N.C.State (2013-15) and most recently Pitt (2016). He shaped the Panthers into the highest-scoring offense in school history. They averaged 42.3 points a game, ranking 10th nationally, and they capped the year scoring 56 and 76 points on Duke and Syracuse, respectively.
During his introductory news conference, Orgeron described Canada’s system as “creative” and his play-calling as “great.” After his top target (Lane Kiffin) took a head coaching job, Orgeron picked Canada from a list of about a dozen candidates. He was the only one brought in for an interview, Orgeron said.
“We plan on being here for a long, long time,” Canada said then.
Canada has a track record of short stays and similar riffs. LSU was his fifth school in the past seven seasons. At Wisconsin, he and then-head coach Bret Bielema were engrossed in a power struggle over control of the offense, according to a story published in the Wisconsin State Journal in 2012. Bielema did not take Canada with him when leaving for Arkansas after that season.
After his second season at N.C. State in 2014, Canada signed a new three-year contract, only to be fired a year later despite an impressive statistical performance.
At LSU, a disconnect between Canada and Orgeron appeared to develop about a month into the season, about the time the head coach acknowledged removing the pre-snap movements in the first half of the Troy game.
During his first interview with reporters since August, Canada last week hinted at the internal fight between himself and Orgeron and suggested he has not had full control of his offense all season.
Canada’s 2017 offense produced its share of highs and lows.
The Tigers scored at least 27 points in eight of 13 games, but red zone problems bit them, especially in the loss to the Irish in Orlando. LSU ran 14 plays in the Notre Dame red zone, including six from at or inside the 3-yard line, and scored just two touchdowns. They were 68th nationally scoring touchdowns in the red zone and 103rd in overall scoring percentage inside the 20 — much of that because of 11 missed field-goal attempts.
The Tigers finished 54th in total offense, 28th in rushing, 84th in passing and 76th in scoring in a season in which they consistently played two true freshmen on the offensive line. Along with that, a knee injury suffered in camp hampered star running back Derrius Guice for the first half of the season.
Guice spoke out regarding his coordinator Thursday, posting a message on Twitter.
“You’ve been real from the start with me. Couldn’t have asked for a better big brother,” he wrote, tagging Canada’s Twitter name. “No matter where life takes us I’m one phone call away.”
LSU's next offensive coordinator will be its eighth since the Nick Saban era ended.