COLUMN: Spend it to win it

In the highly competitive world of major college football, LSU is more than keeping up with the Joneses in staff salary. See where the total bill sits after yesterday's announcement of Cam Cameron's three-year deal.

On Wednesday LSU released the proposed three-year deal new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is set to earn in Baton Rouge. The former Baltimore Ravens coordinator will make $600,000 in 2013, $1.3 million in 2014 and $1.5 million in 2015.

It seems fairly obvious that the lower-level wage in year one is designed not only to offset a few bloated salaries LSU will have to carry on the staff in 2013, but also to offer incentive for Cameron to stay with the program. In addition it's been suggested the Ravens may be chipping in some dough of their own to Cameron in 2013 as part of a deal reached with an employee the organization terminated on Dec. 10.

Still, Cameron's deal is only the latest in a line of moves by the university and athletic department which put LSU at or near the top of college football in total staff salary.

Here, in list form, are the expected salaries in 2013 of all 10 LSU football coaches.

Les Miles - $4.3 M ($549K raise from last year)
John Chavis - $1.1 M ($200K raise from last year)
Cam Cameron - $600K
Frank Wilson - $600K ($50K raise from last year)
Greg Studrawa - $500K
Andre "Brick" Haley - $420K ($20K raise from last year)
Adam Henry - $310K ($10K raise from last year)
Thomas McGaughey - $300K ($10K raise from last year)
Corey Raymond - $300K
Steve Ensminger - $250K ($20K raise from last year)

Of course, there's also the matter of what happens with Steve Kragthorpe, the Tigers' quarterbacks coach for the last two seasons who is now being shifted to an administrative role. That technically puts him a gray area of sorts, but he was slated to make $425,000 in 2013, a figure which is up $25,000 from 2012.

Leaving Kragthorpe aside, let's put in perspective what these numbers mean and how they compare to other comparable staffs around the nation.

A year ago Clemson had the highest staff salary (the sum of all nine assistants and coordinators, not including the head coach) in major college football at a reported $4,200,000. One of LSU's chief rivals in the SEC, Alabama, came in at a reported $3,805,000.

LSU came in between those two amounts, but the Tigers were much closer to the Tide's side than that of the ACC Tigers. After more than a million dollars in raises following the 2011 SEC championship season, the total LSU staff salary was $3,870,000 in 2012.

This season, after $510,000 more in raises (most of which were already called for by the step-ladder plans approved by the Board of Supervisors in June 2012), LSU's total staff salary is projected to be $4,380,000, a figure that would put the Tigers above last year's highest spender.

Throw in Miles' 2013 salary, which is up $549,000 after a contract renegotiation this offseason, and LSU will pay a grand total of $8,680,000 to its football coaches this year.

And, in another trend that's taken off around the landscape of NCAA football, every coach on staff is protected with additional years, from head coach to both coordinators to all of the assistants. Miles' new deal will take him through 2019, Cameron's through 2015 and the remaining staff through 2014.

Much of this is just the nature of the beast at the highest level of amateur football in the world, but some of it is also tied in to the principles of Joe Alleva, LSU's fifth-year director of athletics.

As Alleva told me in June of 2011, ironically when announcing the hire of softball coach Patrick Murphy from Alabama (a man who made it all of two days before reneging on his decision), "If you want great people you've gotta pay the price. It doesn't pay to be cheap. You get what you pay for."

Time and again the former Duke athletic boss puts his money where his mouth is.

The record shows Alleva even put that theory to the test in regards to his own salary, jockeying for monetary position in the summer of 2011 through a reported flirtation with the University of Tennessee after the Board of Supervisors had approved a pay raise to $550,000 annually just several months prior in April.

If this seems a familiar ploy to LSU fans, it should, as Miles basically utilized the same strategy with his alma mater, Michigan, in January 2011 and again this past December with Arkansas.

LSU's message, especially in terms of football, is clear: You've got to spend it to win it.

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