The LSU Board of Supervisors athletics committee approved new contracts for head football coach Ed Orgeron, defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and women's soccer head coach Sian Hudson Friday, while also approving changes to season ticket prices next year for men's basketball and gymnastics.
Orgeron's six-year contract extension is worth about $41 million, and Pelini has received a three-year, $2.3 million per year contract.
The contracts for passing game coordinator Scott Linehan, defensive backs coach Corey Raymond, running backs coach Kevin Faulk and Bill Johnson will go before the board at its next meeting on April 23.
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LSU athletic director Scott Woodward attended the meeting and presented the contracts for approval.
"Where would you like me to start?" Woodward asked.
"After this season, you can start anywhere you want," said board member Glenn Armentor, an nod to LSU's national championship in football.
The comment stirred laughter, a comfortable environment for Woodward to introduce substantial raises for his top football employees.
News broke of Orgeron's contract extension just over a week after LSU's title win over Clemson in January, and now, presenting his contract nearly two months later, Woodward quipped that it was "I guess the worst-kept secret in the history of LSU."
Orgeron's nearly $7 million per year deal places him within the top five highest-paid coaches in the NCAA, according to USA Today.
"I think it's a very fair contract," Woodward said. "It's fair to market. It's not crazy. But it's competitive and it's rewarding a guy who's Louisiana's own in a very fair and proper way."
Orgeron's new contract began on Jan. 14 and expires Dec. 31, 2025.
It has an annual salary of $6 million and includes a $5 million split-dollar life insurance policy in the first two years of the deal. In total, the contract is worth $41 million before bonuses.
It also includes $187,500 per year for personal air travel.
Orgeron's buyout equals out to 70% of the salary remaining on the entire contract. If LSU were to terminate Orgeron's contract in the first year, his buyout would be about $27 million; in the second year, about $21 million; in the third, $16.8 million; in the fourth, $12.6 million; in the fifth, $8.4 million; and in the final year, $4.2 million.
The payments would be made in equal monthly installments over the course of the remaining time in the contract.
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Orgeron will owe LSU $6 million if he leaves for any other coaching position in the Southeastern Conference within the first four years of the contract.
If Orgeron terminates the contract for other jobs, in its first year, he must pay LSU $6 million. It decreases to a $4.5 million payment to LSU in Year 2, $3 million in Year 3, $1.5 million in Year 4, $600,000 in Year 5 and no payment in Year 6 of the contract.
All incentive compensation remains the same, except that Orgeron will receive a $200,000 bonus if the team achieves a single-year academic progress rate score of 960 or higher.
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Pelini's contract with LSU began on Jan. 23, and it expires on March 31, 2023.
It includes a base salary of $500,000 and has a supplemental compensation of $1.8 million per year. In total, Pelini's contract is a three-year, $2.3 million deal before bonuses.
Such a payment puts Pelini near the top of the highest-paid assistant in the nation, just below Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who recently signed a new $2.5 million-per-year deal.
Woodward admitted Pelini's deal was "on the high end of the market," but said Pelini's coaching resume, which includes nine years in the NFL and a BCS national championship at LSU in 2007, qualified the price.
"I back Coach Orgeron a thousand percent on this," Woodward said. "I know Bo and I think he's going to lead us to have great defenses and continue to have great defenses at LSU."
Woodward said Pelini was Orgeron's "first choice" and they "were lucky to get (the contract) done in a hurry."
Pelini's incentives are "consistent with current LSU coordinators," according to his term sheet.
Comparing to offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger's contract, that would mean Pelini will receive a $25,000 bonus if he wins either the Broyles Award for nation's top assistant or the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year award.
Pelini also would receive up to $125,000 in postseason incentive bonuses if LSU wins a national championship.
Pelini's buyout equals the total amount of base salary and compensation left in his contract. If he's fired without cause in his first year, LSU would owe him about $6.9 million; if he's fired without cause in his second year, about $4.6 million; and his buyout would be about $2.3 million in his final year.
If Pelini leaves LSU for any Division I head coaching position or any coaching position in the NFL, he will not owe any payments to LSU.
Pelini will owe LSU 100% of the remaining contract if he leaves for any SEC coaching position other than head coach, and if Pelini leaves for any Division I non-head coaching position, he'll owe LSU $1.15 million.
The remaining four assistant football coaches have signed term sheets with the university. Term sheets are legally binding employment agreements, which include good-faith sections that say the athletic department will draw up a formal long-form agreement within 30 or 60 days that includes the agreements in the term sheet.
Woodward said the athletic department is in the process of preparing the long-form agreements for the remaining assistant coaches.
Continuing our projection of the LSU Tigers' two-deep for the 2020 season, we move to defense.
In women's soccer, a five-year contract for Hudson, who was hired late last fall to coach the women’s soccer team, was approved by the athletics committee.
The deal will pay Hudson a base salary of $160,000 in 2020 with $5,000 increases each year to a maximum of $180,000 in the final year of the contract in 2024.
LSU's athletic department sought approval to amend Schedule B to the current LSU Athletics Ticket, Parking, and Tradition Fund Policy to include changes to “reflect the market value of tickets in various parts of the arena.”
Athletic department officials Verge Ausberry and Robert Munson said Thursday an analysis of ticket prices and price points showed the increases for the two sports are appropriate to the seat and the product’s value.
“Some ticket prices will go up, some will go down, others will stay the same,” Ausberry said.
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Men’s basketball season ticket prices changes included a 30% reduction for nearly 600 upper bowl season tickets, while the remaining upper bowl ticket prices remain unchanged. Season tickets prices in the 200 level will increase from $100 to $150. Lower bowl season ticket prices will increase by $150 to $350 in various locations. Student ticket prices went unchanged.
Sections nearest to the middle of the floor during gymnastics will rise to $80 per seat for adults, $45 for youth, and the upper deck sections on the north and south side of the arena will rise to $36 for adults, $18 for youth.
Ausberry said a study of men’s basketball tickets in the Southeastern Conference showed that LSU is near the bottom of the league in average price.
Among the schools surveyed were Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M, Georgia and Ole Miss, Munson said.
Ausberry said the board approved a five-time increase for basketball back in 2010, but tickets went up just three times — the last increase coming in 2014.
“We didn’t act on it because (coach) Trent Johnson left and then we had Johnny (Jones),” Ausberry said. “We had permission to do it two more times, but the timing wasn’t right.”
He added LSU has had three winning seasons in a row under coach Will Wade, whose team won the SEC regular-season title last year and has had back-to-back 20-win seasons.
“Finally, we think the program is where it needs to be,” Ausberry said. “We’re hoping it’s back to where it’s in order to do what we wanted to do back in 2010. Some tickets will go up and others will go down, so it’ll kind of balance out.”
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Correction (March 7): This story has been updated to include more accurate information about the season ticket pricing changes.