Ed Orgeron, Dabo Swinney

LSU coach Ed Orgeron (left) and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney (Advocate and AP photos).

Both teams are undefeated, both are called Tigers, both claim "Death Valley," but when it comes to the potential financial prize on the line in the College Football Playoff championship, Ed Orgeron easily outclasses his opponent.

Both the LSU coach and Clemson's Dabo Swinney -- along with their staffs -- have already accrued millions in performance bonuses due to undefeated seasons, conference titles and CFP semifinal wins.

But should LSU win the CFP crown, Orgeron will net an additional bonus of $500,000 bringing his total bonuses on the season to a whopping $1.7 million, on top of his $4 million base salary for the 2019 season.

The increased bonus structure was baked into the extension Orgeron and LSU agreed to before the season, which came with an additional $500,000 in base salary and bumped his potential bonus structure up an additional $400,000 from his previous deal.

"I'm excited about it," Orgeron said at the time. "I’ve got to thank the players. The players are the ones that win the game. I thank our coaching staff for working so hard. It’s just a wonderful thing that the board approved it."

Swinney's contract with Clemson stipulates he would earn $250,000 for a championship win, his second in a row, which would stack on top of the $150,000 for winning the ACC Championship and $250,000 for a national championship appearance, coming to a potential total of $650,000 on the season. He had a potential bonus of $50,000 for winning the national coach of the year award, an honor that went to Orgeron.

But another $500,000 wouldn't do much to close the gap in overall earning between the coaches, with Swinney's record-setting contract netting him more than $9.2 million in base pay this season, the first of the 10-year, $93 million contract extension he and Clemson agreed to in April.

He's been the full-time head coach of Clemson since the 2009 season when he was elevated from the position of assistant head coach/wide receivers coach, taking over as the interim in the season prior after the resignation of Tommy Bowden. 

Orgeron took a similar route, becoming LSU's full-time head coach in the 2016 season, also having taken over as the interim in the previous season after the firing of longtime head coach Les Miles. 

Orgeron sat tied for 27th among college coaches entering the season and tied for No. 8 among all SEC coaches with since-fired Arkansas coach Chad Morris. 

Alabama coach Nick Saban leads all SEC coaches and sits No. 2 overall behind Swinney, earning $8.7 million this season. Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher is next among SEC coaches and No. 4 overall, earning $7.5 million in the second season of the 10-year, $75 million contract he signed in 2018.

If Orgeron's potential bonuses were added to his annual salary and stacked up against the rest of college football, he'd still sit at just No. 11 and behind Florida coach Dan Mullen, who earned just over $6 million in base salary for the 2019 season.

But along with Swinney's record total comes some interesting stipulations, one that affects the buyout he'd owe should he leave the school early for another college coaching job. Should he leave before Dec. 2020, he'd owe the school $4 million. But if the school he leaves for is his alma mater Alabama, he'd owe them an additional $2 million. The totals of the buyout Swinney would owe and the Alabama enhancement decrease over the years of the deal and run through 2027, when he'd owe $1 million with a $500,000 enhancement for Alabama.

"That came from the school and their proposal and I didn’t have a problem with it,” Swinney said of the Alabama enhancement in a report from Al.com

“This contract was all about a mutual commitment to each other — you know, Clemson and myself. And so, I didn’t have any issues with it at all."

But Swinney also owns his own positive stipulation in the contact. Each year beginning in the 2022 season, and if his team qualified for the College Football Playoff the season before, the school is required to enhance his pay to be no less than No. 3 overall across the college football landscape -- assuming such an enhancement did not occur in the previous season. If not, he can leave without consequence.

On Orgeron's end, his current contract runs through the 2021 season. But his team's run of success has also been lucrative for his assistants. With LSU's Peach Bowl win, three of Orgeron's coaching assistants earned $100,000 bonuses:

  • Steve Ensminger, offensive coordinator
  • Dave Aranda, defensive coordinator
  • Tommie Robinson, assistant head coach/running backs/recruiting coordinator 

Seven other assistants earned bonuses of $75,000: 

  • Joe Brady, Passing game coordinator/wide receivers
  • Bill Busch, safeties
  • Jame Cregg, offensive line
  • Dennis Johnson, analyst/defensive line
  • Mickey Joseph, wide receivers
  • Greg McMahon, special teams
  • Corey Raymond, defensive backs

Clemson and LSU kick off on Monday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (ESPN). 


Email Jeff Nowak at jnowak@theadvocate.com

Twitter: @Jeff_Nowak