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Louisiana Purchase – Brian Kelly Can Buy A Lot of Crawfish As Top Paid Coach At A Public University

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BATON ROUGE – A new car!

A new house!

A free plane!

And all the crawfish he could possibly want. But new LSU coach Brian Kelly, a native of Everett, Massachusetts, near Boston, likely prefers clam chowder and lobster.

Kelly was already driving a sort-of Notre Dame blue Mercedes-Benz SUV as he left the meeting with his now former players in South Bend, Indiana Tuesday morning after he’d accepted the LSU job on Monday for $95 million over 10 years along with two courtesy cars.

His salary at Notre Dame has never been made public, as it is a private university. New USC football coach Lincoln Riley, who was not interested in leaving Oklahoma for the LSU job after being targeted by LSU athletic director Scott Woodward, likely makes more at USC. But that is also a private institution and does not release salary details.

Therefore, at the moment, Kelly is the highest paid coach of any sport at a public university in the country.

Kelly landed in Baton Rouge Tuesday afternoon with his wife Paqui and daughter Grace. He will be introduced at a press conference at noon Wednesday in the Lawton Room next to Tiger Stadium.

Among the accoutrements with the above base salary in his contract released Tuesday by LSU are those two courtesy vehicles. Perhaps one for recruiting public high schools and one for the private high schools? He is about to have more four- and five-star prospects within driving distance of his office than ever before in his coaching career throughout the Midwest, which included stops at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan, Central Michigan and Cincinnati before Notre Dame.

Or he can choose two vehicle allowances at $1,000 per month each. He will likely not have to take out the trash or cut any lawns for the allowance.

LSU, which has a decrepit library at the center of campus that would be a great Halloween haunted house, is also providing a loan of up to $1.2 million without interest for the purchase of a new home within 30 miles of LSU. In other words, the Catholic coach can’t use that loan for a house in New Orleans and commute.

Kelly also gets free use of LSU’s fleet of private jets for 50 hours of travel a year, which can be used for recruiting or family travel or recruiting that could lead to family travel or family travel that could lead to recruiting. And there are punters in Australia. And maybe there will be a kicker near the Vatican in Rome.

LSU is also giving Kelly relocation funds for his move from South Bend to Baton Rouge. Does that include coffee? Oh, and LSU will pick up the tab on any buyout Kelly may owe Notre Dame.

Interestingly, former LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri, who left Notre Dame for LSU in the summer of 2006 before retiring after this past season, had to pay Notre Dame his buyout out of his own pocket. He said he had three years left on a five-year contract that paid him $148,666 a year under former athletic director Kevin White with a dual-binding agreement at the time. So Notre Dame and White made him pay that $445,998. And he had to do it within 30 days.

“I met with my accountant, and he told me that basically I would have to work at LSU for five years to be at the same position financially I was at Notre Dame at the time,” Mainieri said in 2016 before taking his team to Notre Dame for a series. “That’s assuming I’d be successful at LSU. It was a risk.”

LSU did generously give Mainieri a $150,000 signing bonus — $90,000 after taxes — to help offset the buyout along with his new salary of $450,000.

“So I took out a loan for the $446,000 and wrote Notre Dame the check,” Mainieri said. “It was in the contract, but I thought they could have waived it or waived some of it based on the fact that I had been there 12 years, was underpaid for most of those and wasn’t looking for a job. I turned down five of them — three in the Big 12 and two in the SEC.”

Mainieri also took Notre Dame to the College World Series in 2002 for its first trip there since 1957. In the end, Notre Dame made money on Mainieri’s departure as they paid new coach Dave Schrage far less than what Mainieri was making.

“So, I basically paid the new coach’s salary for a few years,” Mainieri said. “I didn’t think that was right, but I didn’t want to burn any bridges. I was disappointed they held me to the buyout. But time heals all wounds.”

And Mainieri beat the risk as he won the 2009 national championship and reached the College World Series in Omaha five times in all. Within five years of the move, Mainieri got that buyout loan paid off and moved up to $750,000 in salary and then to over $1 million by the time he retired.

Kelly apparently has no financial wounds. His starting base salary of $9 million a year will escalate to $9.2 million in 2023 and by $200,000 every two years before reaching $10 million in 2031 when he will be 70 — Alabama coach Nick Saban’s age now. Saban makes $9.7 million a year now.

But Kelly’s contract also includes a $500,000 longevity bonus every year that he just stays on the job as far as July 1 and another $500,000 every year his Tigers win a mere six games to be bowl eligible. The last time LSU was not bowl eligible was 1999.

So with that easily attainable bonus money, Kelly will make $10 million in 2022, $10.2 million in 2023 and ’24, $10.4 million in 2025 and ’26, $10.6 million in 2027 and ’28, $10.8 million in 2029 and ’30 and $11 million in 2031, excluding any money he may win playing the Louisiana Lottery.

Kelly can make another $250,000 every year after he wins his first SEC title. If he wins the national championship, Kelly will get $500,000 tacked on annually. There are also one-time bonuses of another $500,000 if Kelly wins the national title, $150,000 if LSU wins the SEC title and $75,000 if LSU makes the SEC Championship Game.

If LSU should fire Kelly without cause (not enough wins), it will owe him 90 percent of what the contract owes him at the time. If he is fired without cause after winning a national title, LSU owes him all of the contract money.

Kelly also doesn’t have to worry much about working for an athletic director who didn’t hire him — something coaches generally do not like. If Woodward leaves LSU, Kelly can leave LSU and not owe LSU a buyout. If Kelly leaves LSU — say for the NFL or Alabama — while Woodward is athletic director, he will owe LSU $4 million in 2022, $3 million in 2023 and $2 million every other year through the duration of the deal.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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