What LSU was forced to pay Dave Aranda to keep him as defensive coordinator and keep him out of Texas A&M’s clutches is just nuts. Funny money. Literally a fortune.

His salary goes from $1.85 million for 2018 to $2.5 million. That is for four years, a cool $10 million in total. That is more than 80 of 130 FBS head coaches, or 62 percent, made in 2017.

Two-and-a-half million per year is $208,333 a month. Or $48,077 a week. Think how many LSU fans who make less than $48,077 a year scrimp and save to be able to afford their football season tickets — or maybe just to make one game every year.

As one LSU official I spoke to Wednesday said, it’s not just an arms race anymore in college athletics, but a nuclear arms race. And every time you think the bar is set as high as it will go, someone blows past it.

It was really not all that long ago that LSU lured Nick Saban from Michigan State in late 1999 for $1.25 million per year. Now Aranda is set to make twice that much, with a contract that makes Saban's old deal look like a realtive pittance.

That said, there was little else LSU could do. Not with Texas A&M coming at Aranda before and after the Citrus Bowl — when Aranda’s Tigers played uncharacteristically poor defense in the final quarter of a 21-17 come-from-ahead loss to Notre Dame.

As disappointing as the ending of Monday’s game might have been, and as outlandish as Aranda’s new salary may seem, LSU simply could not let him get away. Not to Texas A&M, a next-door neighbor and SEC West rival lusting for football glory as the Aggies and LSU fight over the same fertile recruiting grounds battling in southeast Texas and south Louisiana.

Despite the high price tag of Aranda’s new contract, in a perverse sense, it is money well spent. As it turns out, Texas A&M apparently was not set to pay Aranda $3 million-plus per year or some such crazy figure well beyond what LSU is now paying him.

So if Aranda did leave for slightly more than LSU was planning to pay him ($1.85 million, if you’re swimming in dollar signs at this point), then it would have meant he was just eager to get away from LSU whatever it took.

That kind of blow to LSU’s brand and prestige would have been catastrophic, worse than letting John Chavis slip away to College Station in 2014 and Kevin Steele to Auburn the following season combined. Both have done solid work, and Chavis is reportedly now headed to Arkansas to be the coordinator there after Texas A&M fired Kevin Sumlin.

But to be perfectly frank, neither of these veteran DCs is Aranda. Yes, his defense’s inability to contain Doug Flutie-like backup Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book the second half of the Citrus Bowl was discouraging.

But Aranda is the best defensive coordinator in the college game. It’s why Texas A&M wants him so badly in the first place, trying to pair him with new coach Jimbo Fisher, who was coveted by LSU to replace Les Miles in 2015 and (probably) 2016.

Fisher pole-vaulted from Florida State to Texas A&M right over LSU, in part because LSU wasn’t willing to agree to the outrageous demands of Fisher’s agent, Jimmy Sexton. New Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward (a Baton Rouge native and LSU grad) was willing, so now Fisher is the Aggies' coach for a guaranteed $75 million, 10-year deal.

Perhaps that doesn’t sound much better than paying Aranda $10 million over four years, making him the first $2 million assistant coach in college football — but again, there was little LSU could do but jump into that bidding war.

The Tigers picked their spot and will now hope for the best as offensive coordinator Matt Canada leaves. When Canada is replaced, it will be interesting to see what the new man's salary will be compared to the $1.5 million Canada got last season.

Will LSU need to save a buck with Aranda's bigger bankroll, or will the school spend something well north of $1 million again?

If LSU is taking the latest step down an overheated path that it started nearly two decades ago when it hired Saban, Texas A&M has taken that path and added a tunnel, exotic landscaping, traffic cameras and free Wi-fi.

Arguably, the timing of Texas A&M’s mega-offer to Fisher foiled other colleges trying to keep their tax exemptions in place for their booster organizations (like the Tiger Athletic Foundation). That failed and the vote was passed, helped along no doubt because those in Congress no longer felt the schools and their boosters were worth protecting after seeing A&M’s over-the-top offer to Fisher.

LSU’s over-the-top offer to Aranda may seem like similar madness, but it was what the school felt compelled to do given the circumstances. A&M, searching for its first national title since 1939 and first conference title since 1998, surely felt the same way.


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Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​