Ahead of his hiring a week ago, LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s credentials implementing concepts based on the Air Coryell and molding young quarterbacks were already sterling.
After 11 seasons in the NFL coaching ranks, LSU coach Les Miles enticed his longtime friend to Baton Rouge to serve as the Tigers’ fourth offensive architect in Miles’ nine-season tenure.
So, it was only logical the second question lobbed at Miles was how long he anticipated Cameron, who was fired by the Baltimore Ravens in December, would remain with a program that shuffled its offensive staff in the wake a Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Clemson.
“We’ve tied him to his desk,” Miles joked. “He will not be allowed to leave.”
Yet the program also assembled a three-year contract with enough financial incentive to keep Cameron in the fold for the length of a $3.4 million deal, including up to $345,000 in incentives and a hefty $1 million buyout should he leave early, according to a two-page memorandum of understanding obtained by The Advocate under a sunshine law request.
Cameron’s contract, which will pay him $600,000 next season, along with recent pay adjustments for seven LSU assistants pushes the combined salaries of the Tigers coaches to at least $8.68 million in 2013, according to copies of contracts and contract amendments obtained in the request.
Under the terms of the deal, Cameron, 52, can earn up to $115,000 in performances bonuses each season, starting with a guaranteed $15,000 if the Tigers claim and Southeastern Conference West Division title.
Aside from those dollars, Cameron would also be due the highest performance bonus for the following achievements:
- Participating in a non-Bowl Championship Series game with a payout of less than $2.6 million: $10,000
- Participating in a non-BCS game with a payout of more than $2.6 million: $25,000
- Participating in a BCS bowl game: $50,000
- Participating in the BCS national championship game: $75,000
- Winning a BCS national title: $100,000.
The $700,000 bump in Cameron’s pay to $1.3 million in 2014 raises the notion that the Ravens, who dismissed Cameron on Dec. 10 and promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, might be covering a portion of his compensation for the upcoming season.
Kevin Byrne, a spokesman for the Ravens, declined this week to disclose whether the franchise had reached an agreement with Cameron, who was hired by coach John Harbaugh five seasons ago and oversaw the development quarterback and Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco.
“That’s between Cam and the Ravens and is not public knowledge,” Byrne wrote in an email to The Advocate on Thursday.
Cameron’s agreement with LSU did not spell out how much he would be owed if fired before his contract runs out, but it outlines the parameters if he chooses to leave the program for another job.
First, Cameron agreed “not to seek or apply for other positions without prior notice,” according to the memorandum. If Cameron does leave, he would be responsible for a $1 million buyout due to the school.
On Feb. 15, Miles said at a news conference introducing Cameron that he expects his friend, dating back to their days as assistant coaches under Bo Schembechler at Michigan in the late 1980s, to field interest from other NFL and collegiate programs moving forward.
“That’s a foregone conclusion that he will have, annually, opportunities again,” Miles said. “He’s made the decision to come here and live out a good piece of time with LSU.”
Interestingly, the buyout would “be waived should (Cameron) accept a head coaching position, except at a Southeastern Conference football program.”
Taken together, Cameron’s average salary, which is the highest for an offensive coordinator in the SEC, would have ranked third in the NCAA last season, behind former USC defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s $1.7 million and Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris at roughly $1.31 million.
Since the end of the season, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis saw his salary schedule rise to $1.1 million in 2013 and $1.3 million in 2014, meaning the program will pay its top assistants a combined $2.6 million next season, according to documents.
Those dollars, along with Cameron’s buyout, which is higher than the reported salaries of 50 NCAA head coaches, could serve as a sufficient buffer to ensure Cameron isn’t wooed away by another suitor — an issue Miles sounded confident wouldn’t arise with Cameron.
“He’s made a real commitment to be here,” Miles said. “Knowing the guy, he’s not a short-term thinker. He’s a guy that gives vision to a amount of time.”
Finally, Cameron’s memorandum of understanding helps complete an accounting LSU’s planned expenditures on its coaching staff over the next two seasons. In 2012, the program spent a guaranteed $7.57 million on its 10-member staff, a figure that will rise to $8.68 million in 2013 and grow another 12 percent the next season to $9.72 million, according to copies of coaches’ contracts.
Last season, LSU ranked second in the SEC in spending on its football coaching staff, behind Alabama and the Crimson Tides’s reported $9.28 million and ahead of Auburn’s reported $7.34 million outlay.