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Opinion: LSU May Be Paying Ed Orgeron $17 Million For His Silence

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Over his last 17 games, LSU football coach Ed Orgeron is 9-8, and he will get $17 million to walk away quietly at the end of the season.

He was fired last week before the win over Florida because he fell to 8-8 over his last two seasons after going 15-0 to win the national championship in 2019.

Key phrase: “Walk away quietly.”

Prominent businessmen with strong interests and financial ties with LSU have been saying for weeks LSU would be able to finesse that $17 million buyout in Orgeron’s contract to something closer to $10 million because of Orgeron’s off-field issues.

Had Orgeron been fired with cause, LSU would not owe him the buyout. It is difficult to fire someone for cause, but LSU attorneys could have threatened that for legitimate reasons and made it part of negotiations to get the buyout down. Orgeron has not exactly been a model coach off the field and may have violated some of the moral language in his contract, so it would’ve been worth a try.

Remember, Orgeron clearly looked the other way and was slow to discipline former LSU players Drake Davis and Derrius Guice, whose sexual assault cases and other deviant behavior were investigated by USA TODAY over the last year. That led to ongoing investigations by the U.S. Department of Education and a state Senate select committee. LSU also hired an independent firm to conduct its own investigation of LSU’s own handling of the accusations against Davis and Guice that led to the suspension of two athletic department employees, who covered up information, and some other changes in LSU’s approach to accusations by female students.

Orgeron has also been the subject of several rumors since divorcing his wife Kelly of 23 years after the 2019 national title, and there have been questionable pictures of him with women on social media. Some other LSU people could tell you some other stories as well.

The LSU football program also remains under NCAA investigation for various recruiting practices and other items, mostly related to former coach Les Miles’ tenure, but Orgeron was Miles’ recruiting coordinator and has been close to recruiting since 2015 when he was hired as an assistant.

But most important is the fact that Orgeron is potentially involved in the $50 million sexual harassment lawsuit filed against LSU in federal court last April by LSU associate athletic director for football recruiting Sharon Lewis. The suit concerns Miles’ behavior toward Lewis after she tried to report Miles’ advances toward young female football office employees.

A previous report by the investigative firm LSU hired revealed in March that Miles “tried to sexualize the staff of student workers (overseen by Lewis) in the football office by allegedly demanding that he wanted blondes with big breasts, and more pretty girls.”

Orgeron was Miles’ defensive line coach in 2015 and recruiting coordinator in 2016 before replacing him as interim head coach when Miles was fired in 2016 after a slide over several years.

Lewis’ lawsuit does not name Orgeron among the defendants, but it lists 10 unnamed men among the defendants. And the lawsuit says that current members of LSU’s football staff and athletic administration conspired to retaliate against Lewis when she attempted to report Miles’ behavior with the female workers under him in violation of federal Title IX laws that ban gender discrimination and harassment.

And who knows what else LSU knows about Orgeron off the field?

Yet, LSU is allowing this ridiculous buyout to a coach who obviously does not deserve it, considering how his team has played over most of 2020 and ’21? The man called his own team’s performance at Kentucky “embarrassing,” but he can still take it to the bank?

LSU’s problem, though, is that if it fired Orgeron with cause and therefore negated the buyout, then those reasons for cause could be brought up in the $50 million lawsuit against LSU and render LSU culpable. So, LSU may be cutting its losses by doling out $17 million to Orgeron.

LSU and Woodward may be paying Orgeron that much without much discussion because they may be a little afraid of Orgeron and what he knows and might say.

“You better come hang out by the bayou with me,” Woodward told Orgeron Sunday night during a press conference about the firing with the two sitting right next to one another in a team meeting room. Orgeron had been asked about his future plans without a job come January.

I doubt that bayou invite would work as well if Orgeron, who likes to joke about inviting someone he doesn’t like to a particular fishing spot on the bayou, wasn’t getting his money.

“I can’t tell you what Coco said, but she wanted to make sure I got my money,” Orgeron said at the same press conference when asked whether he discussed his job change with his family. Coco is his mother, Cornelia Orgeron, who lives in the Larose area down on the bayou where Orgeron grew up.

Considering how honest and candid Orgeron is and that he can be a loose cannon, Woodward would likely prefer he not make the school more vulnerable by what he might say to NCAA investigators, Lewis’ attorneys, or the attorneys for the alleged victims of Davis and Guice during, say, depositions.

Particularly if the NCAA interview or deposition happened after, say, Orgeron was fired and he did not get all or most of the $17 million.

One particularly influential financial figure close to LSU said this week that the reason Orgeron is getting all his money is because LSU wants to make damn sure Orgeron is very happy with his firing and not a bitter former employee. Orgeron seemed very happy Sunday to be getting $17 million over the next four years without working.

In the end, LSU may have a thing or two to get that buyout down, but Orgeron may have a thing or two more on LSU.

This is the stuff deals are made of in Louisiana.

In the end, LSU is out $17 million for a buyout that didn’t need to be in Orgeron’s updated contract after he won the national title. He didn’t need that incentive to stay at LSU – his dream job, And no one was trying to hire him, even after he went 15-0. Everyone knew he was at his destination job. And he is not an NFL coach.

Orgeron’s raise from $4 million a year to an average of $7 million a year through 2025 was enough of a reward for the national title. His buyout could have been a few million. But Woodward let it start at $27 million with it now down to $17 million.

That is even worse than former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who was able to fire Miles for $9 million and ended up paying only $4 million when Miles took the Kansas job.

Orgeron has said he doesn’t plan on coaching again. But he may become a spokesman for McDonald’s.

“I think I’m going to have enough money to buy me a hamburger every once in a while,” Orgeron said. “Maybe a double-meat cheeseburger.”

Thanks, Scott Woodward. Great move.

You have created the new Hamburglar.

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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