The salaries of Louisiana State University athletic department personnel are paid with private funds, and LSU is the rare athletic department that actually subsidizes the university's academic efforts — to the tune of $50 million over the past five years. Still, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards believes coaching salaries have gotten out of hand, and he feels a nationwide salary cap is overdue.
Speaking to The Advocate of Baton Rouge, Edwards said, “I am concerned. I’m not as concerned as I would be if those were tax dollars being spent. I do think that there has to be some look nationally at some sort of salary caps for the organizations. This is an arms race, and it’s gotten out of control. Some of the salaries and buyouts are obscene, and they can create all sorts of problems."
Last year, LSU athletics staffers were paid $9.4 million. That figure doesn't include the buyouts for four former employees, including a $7 million outlay to fired football coach Les Miles. Six of the seven highest-paid state employees in Louisiana last year were current and former LSU athletics staff members.
“Everybody at this table knows that those are not taxpayer dollars, but the general public doesn’t necessarily know that,” Edwards said as he addressed The Advocate editorial board last week. “And what about those faculty members at LSU and elsewhere who haven’t had a raise of any size in many, many years and they’re seeing what’s happening in athletics?”
One previously proposed solution that Edwards offered would be to limit the total amount an entire staff can be paid. "Otherwise, you’re going to have the haves and have-nots and so forth. It’s a real problem,” he said. “I don’t blame any individual for getting what the market will bear. I just don’t think the market should bear that.”
The market has escalated greatly, with the average major college football coach's annual salary more than doubling from $1.64 million to $3.68 million over the past five years. Alabama's Nick Saban tops the list at $11.1 million. A December USA Today survey cited by The Advocate revealed that 78 football coaches and 41 basketball coaches currently make $1 million or more annually. It also found that schools are on the hook for a collective $70 million in buyout money, based on 2017 personnel moves.