Buyout of Les Miles’ contract to cost $9M-plus over six years

When now-former LSU football coach Les Miles’ job was on the line last year, financial concerns over the hefty cost of buying out his contract were among the reasons that university President F. King Alexander ultimately nixed efforts to fire Miles.

Though no public university dollars go toward the coaches’ salaries or buying out their contracts, Alexander said at the time that perception would be a problem.

“After the type of budget battle we went through this past spring … we don’t need to go into the next legislative session with a black eye that we’re throwing tens of millions of dollars around on issues that aren’t associated with academic progress,” Alexander said in early December. “The public at large really doesn’t differentiate where the money comes from.”

It’s not as though LSU’s financial picture with respect to the state has changed dramatically since then. With the popular TOPS tuition program only 40% funded for the upcoming spring semester, the university still faces significant financial challenges.

Those concerns again factored into Sunday’s decision to terminate Miles’ contract, Alexander says. This time around, however, other concerns weighed more heavily in the overall equation.

“Money is always a factor for consideration and there were a number of financial considerations taken into account this time,” Alexander said this morning in a written statement. “But we have to do what’s best for LSU with our decisions, and at this time, a coaching change was what’s best for the program and our students.”

University officials declined to elaborate on the financial issues related to the buyout of Miles’ contract today at a 12:30 p.m. press conference with new interim coach Ed Orgeron. But Jason Droddy, LSU’s executive director for external affairs, confirms the cost of buying out Miles’ three-year contract alone will be $12.9 million minus some $3 million that Miles has already been paid this year. That amount—somewhere north of $9 million—will be paid out over six years, which is double the length of the contract.

It is unclear whether the buyout provision will terminate if Miles is hired again, though it likely will. Many standard contracts contain a covenant that terminates a buyout if a new contract more than the buyout amount is signed. Miles said this afternoon on a talk radio show he plans to coach again.

Droddy did not have information on the cost of buying out the contracts of two assistants also fired with Miles: offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Dean Dingman, assistant director of football operations.

Droddy also could not say whether funds for the buyout will come from the Tiger Athletic Foundation, the Athletic Department, a fund established by a group of well-heeled donors or some combination, though TAF is the most likely option. He stressed, however, as did Alexander, that no public dollars or student fees would be used.

—Stephanie Riegel

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