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Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021

Campbell Offers a Different Take On the New LSU Football Coach

“Good luck, Coach Kelly. The people of Louisiana are rooting for you.”

That quote is the last line of the lead editorial in the Dec. 1 Baton Rouge Advocate. The subject is the newest and highest-paid Louisiana state employee, football coach Brian Kelly, formerly of Notre Dame.

Congratulations to Coach Kelly and his family. I wish them success. But before we open the champagne, let’s examine what this hiring says about our priorities as a state.

Kelly will receive $9 million per year starting with his first year as Tiger head coach. That figure will rise with incentives in the deal, plus two cars, an interest-free home loan worth more than $1 million, and buyout of his contract with Notre Dame.

To put those numbers in perspective, the U.S. Census says Louisiana’s per capita annual income averages $27,923.

LSU can now claim the highest-paid coach at a public university in America. Is this a record our state should be proud of? Coach Kelly owns a winning record at Notre Dame, but what if he suffers the fate of several of his LSU predecessors and loses five games in a season? The same football fans now singing his praises will be calling for another multi-million-dollar coach buyout like those enjoyed by Les Miles and Ed Orgeron. For Kelly, that could easily mean $50

million just to get him to leave. What message are we sending the nation when Louisiana raises millions of dollars for a football coach while LSU’s academic rankings continue to drop, our library walls mold and many of our best teachers leave the classroom? When our interstate highways fill with college graduates headed to jobs in Texas every spring? When we score lower in academics than every SEC school except Mississippi State?

You don’t have to look only at prestigious private schools to see universities that succeed in academics as well as athletics. Georgia and Alabama immediately come to mind.

I am no LSU or football hater. Three of my six children attended LSU, another played college football, and I have held season tickets in Tiger Stadium for four decades. I join The Advocate in welcoming Coach Kelly to Louisiana. As a lifetime Louisianan and LSU supporter, I will root for him and the Tigers next fall. But I will also look forward to the day when Louisiana citizens support academic achievement as much as they support football.

Foster Campbell, Public Service Commissioner, Elm Grove.


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