Ed Orgeron will exit LSU football with no regrets, will receive $16.9M buyout
Ed Orgeron never needed to be reminded of standards associated with LSU football.
Orgeron, a native son of the bayou, grew up with them in Lafourche Parish, listening to the Tigers on the radio and dreaming of Saturday nights in Death Valley. He lived that dream as LSU's coach over the past six seasons.
So when LSU athletic director Scott Woodward expressed his desire to make a change following a loss at Kentucky on Oct. 9, the second in as many weeks to an SEC opponent, Orgeron accepted his fate with no regrets.
"I understand the expectations of LSU and I invite them myself and we did not meet them the past two years," Orgeron said Sunday night. "I’m honored that I got to be the head coach at LSU. This administration has treated me with class and dignity the whole time I’ve been here.
"They’ve given me everything that we needed to have success."
LSU and Orgeron have agreed to part ways following the 2021 season. Orgeron will coach the team for the rest of the year after reaching a separation agreement with LSU announced Sunday.
Orgeron met with the team earlier Sunday. LSU (4-3, 2-2 SEC) plays at No. 12 Ole Miss (5-1, 2-1) on Saturday (2:30 p.m., CBS)
"I just told them how it was," Orgeron said. "I knew after the Kentucky game we were heading down a road that wasn't positive for LSU and there was going to be a change made and I just felt that."
Woodward said LSU's search for a new coach is underway, but declined to elaborate further.
"While there will be plenty of time to discuss (the search) in the days and weeks ahead, I believe today is about Coach O and what he has meant to this program," Woodward said.
Per the agreement, LSU will pay Orgeron's $16.9 million buyout over 18 installments through December 2025. Orgeron is set to make $9 million in total compensation in 2021, second only to Alabama’s Nick Saban. He agreed to a voluntary 5% pay cut for the 2021 season as LSU faced a projected $80 million shortfall due to COVID-19.
Orgeron said he does not plan to coach in 2022.
"I want to take a little time off," Orgeron said. "I've coached for 37 yards. I think I'm going to have enough money to buy me a hamburger every once and a while, maybe a double-meat cheeseburger from Sonic.
"But I want to take a little time off to find out what direction I want to be in. That might be different a month from now, but right now I want to take some time off and spend with my kids."
Orgeron’s record was 49-17 overall in six seasons. The Tigers authored the greatest season in program history under Orgeron’s watch, becoming the first team in SEC history to finish 15-0 en route to the 2019 national championship.
LSU's record is just 9-8 in the two seasons since winning a national title.
"Our last two seasons have simply not met that standard," Woodward said. "When we evaluated our on-field results and the future of our program with (LSU) President (Williams) Tate, we determined that it is time for us to move in a new direction.
"That was LSU’s decision but it is one that Coach O understands."
Woodward signed Orgeron to a six-year, $42 million extension in Jan. 2020. The contract included a $6 million base salary and a $5 million life insurance policy split over the first two years of the deal.
LSU athletic director:After odd timing of Ed Orgeron's ouster, LSU football must make an elite hire | Toppmeyer
New coach:Four questions LSU football must answer while searching for Ed Orgeron's replacement
Orgeron entered the season looking to prove that LSU’s 5-5 finish in 2020 was an aberration. He hoped to recapture the magic of 2019 by hiring two coordinators, Jake Peetz and Daronte Jones, with connections to Joe Brady and Dave Aranda.
Brady, LSU’s passing game coordinator in 2019, recommended Peetz to Orgeron. Jones worked alongside Aranda, the defensive coordinator under Orgeron and Les Miles, at Hawaii and Wisconsin.
Neither Peetz or Jones had coordinator experience at the FBS level and the inexperience showed. LSU was humiliated at UCLA in the season opener, then lost two-out-of-three games to open the SEC schedule.
"I've been really concerned with the day-to-day process of what's been going on, and I never looked at it like what went wrong," Orgeron said. "I don't have the answer. If I had the answer, I would have fixed it."
The months following the national championship were tumultuous. LSU had 14 players selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, including eight underclassmen. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow was taken with the first overall pick.
Passing game coordinator Joe Brady, who helped construct LSU’s record-breaking offense, left Baton Rouge to become the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda accepted a head-coaching job at Baylor.
The attrition continued throughout with 10 players leaving the program, including wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin. Wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. opted out with three games left in the 2020 season.
"I live my life one day at a time and take things on as they come," Orgeron said. "I've never changed my attitude towards LSU. I've never changed my attitude towards life and all those external things don't affect the way I live. I won't let it."
A disconnect developed in the locker room in the summer of 2020. LSU players marched through campus to protest police brutality without telling Orgeron. He later joined the players for a team meeting following the march.
"That was something that was going on across the country," Orgeron said. "It wasn't just here but I think we dealt with it and made positive progress towards the things that were wrong and I know LSU is headed in the right direction."
In June, Orgeron was added as a defendant in the ongoing Title IX lawsuit against LSU. The lawsuit accuses Orgeron of not reporting the alleged rape of an LSU student by former running back Derrius Guice.
"It was wins and losses on the field and where this program was going," Woodward said.
Orgeron was named LSU’s interim coach — a role he previously filled at USC — after Les Miles was fired four games into the 2016 season. The Tigers went 6-2 under Orgeron, finishing 8-4 overall and beating Louisville in the Citrus Bowl.
Former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva named Orgeron the full-time coach after failing to lure higher-profile candidates in Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman.
Fans react:LSU football fans react to Ed Orgeron not returning in 2022: 'The right decision'
LSU football coaching search:Top candidates to replace Ed Orgeron
Orgeron joined Miles’ staff as defensive line coach prior to the 2015 season. He spent one year out of football after failing to land the USC job in 2013. Despite leading the Trojans to a 6-2 record as interim coach — Lane Kiffin was fired after a 3-2 start — Orgeron was passed over for Steve Sarkisian.
Regarded as an elite recruiter, Orgeron helped Pete Carroll transform USC into a dynasty in his first stint at the school. Ole Miss took notice and gave Orgeron his first head-coaching job in 2004. Orgeron was fired in 2007 after three unsuccessful seasons. The Rebels were 10-25 in his tenure.
Orgeron’s overall record is 65-44 in 10 seasons.
Adam Hunsucker covers LSU for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @adam_hunsucker. Enjoy Adam’s work? Consider a digital subscription for unlimited access.