The off-the-field battle between Southeastern Conference rivals Texas A&M and LSU over Dave Aranda is not quite over.
The Aggies have made another run at the Tigers second-year defensive guru, offering a significant amount to pry him away from Baton Rouge, and LSU officials have been in discussion with the coordinator for much of Wednesday, multiple sources told The Advocate.
The Houston Chronicle first reported the news Wednesday of A&M's latest pursuit of the 41-year-old California native, reporting that the hire could be imminent.
LSU officials are using "every available resource" to keep Aranda, one source said, and athletic director Joe Alleva and coach Ed Orgeron have been in discussion with the coach.
Aranda already is the highest paid assistant in college football, set to make $1.85 million this year under a contract that runs through the 2019 season. A stipulation in his contract calls for him to pay a buyout of 40 percent of his remaining salary if he were to leave for a non-head coaching position less than 500 miles from LSU's campus. That amount would be about $1.5 million and would likely be paid by the Aggies, as is normal protocol.
Aranda spurned an initial pursuit from Texas A&M over this past weekend, choosing to remain with the Tigers ahead of Monday's 21-17 Citrus Bowl loss to Notre Dame, multiple sources told The Advocate. Aranda would not be the first coordinator departing the Tigers for A&M. The Aggies plucked John Chavis away from the program in December 2014, and the Tigers lost a second defensive coordinator to an SEC West rival in 2015, when Kevin Steele left for Auburn.
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A&M is building a staff around new coach Jimbo Fisher, the former LSU offensive coordinator who left Florida State for a 10-year, $75 million guaranteed contract in College Station, Texas. Fisher's former defensive coordinator at FSU, Charles Kelly, is reportedly heading to Tennessee as a position coach on new coach Jeremy Pruitt's staff.
Last year at LSU, Aranda was elevated to associate head coach and was given a new three-year deal that included a $600,000 raise from his initial contract when he arrived in January 2016 from Wisconsin.
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In his time at LSU, Aranda has never expressed an interest in another college job or, even, a college head coaching job. Many believe he aspires to be an NFL defensive coordinator. Aranda has a link to the Green Bay Packers, who just fired longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
He spent three seasons coordinating the defense at Wisconsin in Madison, just 130 miles from Green Bay. While in Madison, Aranda took trips to study defense with Packers coaches and even interviewed for a job with the franchise after the 2014 season.
Aranda is paramount because of the plan in hiring Orgeron, a former defensive line coach who's never been a coordinator. He was hired full time under the belief that he'd serve as a recruiter and motivator, leaving many of the Xs and Os to two top coordinators. He even took a smaller salary than many Southeastern Conference head coaches to allow for LSU to spend on its top two assistants. No program in the nation paid more for its coordinators ($3.3 million) than the Tigers last year.
Aranda is the most heralded member of that staff, and he was priority No. 1 when Orgeron landed the job in November 2016, giving Aranda that new deal to ward away any other suitors. Orgeron lauds his coordinator at every turn, gloating about his work ethic and schematic knowledge.
Just about a week ago, Orgeron spoke of Aranda's loyalty.
"Dave Aranda can’t work harder. He can’t work harder. And he can’t be more loyal," Orgeron said. "He can’t be more prepared. The guy’s done a tremendous job. Obviously, there’s some things on defense we’d like to get better, but we’re prepared to be better in the spring. I think he’s done a great job with a young group. Dave knows how to game plan against anybody."
His numbers speak for themselves.
As a Power Five coordinator at LSU and Wisconsin, his five defenses have ranked near the top 10 nationally. LSU led the FBS in fewest touchdowns allowed in 2016 with a 1.3 average per game. Dating to Aranda's season as a defensive coordinator at Utah State in 2012, his units have held the opposition to one touchdown or fewer in 41 of 77 games.
Meanwhile, the school remains mum on the future of offensive coordinator Matt Canada who is not expected to return next season.
Matt Canada remains LSU’s offensive coordinator, it appears, for at least one more day.