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Brian Kelly Contract, Salary, & Buyout Breakdown at LSU

LSU looks to take a step closer to the SEC title game this weekend when it visits Fayetteville for a noon kickoff against Arkansas. Here’s what head coach Brian Kelly potentially stands to gain.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the LSU Tigers are knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff. First-year coach Brian Kelly is coming from Notre Dame, where he led the Fighting Irish to double-digit wins in five consecutive seasons and a pair of playoff appearances.

Now, on the heels of back-to-back wins against top-10 teams, the Tigers have erased memories of an Oct. 8 thrashing at the hands of Tennessee and have surged into the top 10 themselves. There’s plenty of work left to do, including possibly winning an SEC championship, but for now, the Tigers look to take care of business on Saturday against the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville.

LSU is only a year removed from a 6-7 season, but Kelly has turned things around in Baton Rouge — and the university is paying him handsomely to do so. Boardroom takes a deep dive into the Brian Kelly contract at LSU.

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Brian Kelly Contract Overview at LSU

Signed: April 6, 2022
Term: Through 2031 season
Base Salary: $400,000

Brian Kelly Supplemental Compensation
  • 2022: $8,600,000
  • 2023: $8,800,000
  • 2024: $8,800,000
  • 2025: $9,000,000
  • 2026: $9,000,000
  • 2027: $9,200,000
  • 2028: $9,200,000
  • 2029: $9,400,000
  • 2030: $9,400,000
  • 2031: $9,600,000

Kelly will receive an additional $500,000 as a longevity bonus every July that he remains employed by the university, bringing his total 2022 earnings to $9,500,000 before any on-field bonuses. As it stands now, the total value of Kelly’s contract — again without bonuses — is an even $100,000,000.

Kelly is, however, subject to raises if he leads LSU to an SEC or national championship. Immediately following the first SEC championship Kelly wins, the remaining supplemental compensation amounts on his contract will increase by $250,000 each. If LSU wins a national championship, every remaining amount will increase by $500,000 — even if a $250,000 increase has already been applied. That means if LSU wins out and takes the national title along the way, the remaining amount on his contract will go from $90,500,000 to $97,250,000.

For context, here’s how Kelly’s current pay compares to other coaches whose contracts Boardroom has analyzed so far this season:

*coach has since been fired

Brian Kelly Buyout Details

In the simplest terms, LSU will owe Brian Kelly 90% of what remains on his contract in base salary, supplemental compensation, and longevity compensation, payable in monthly installments through the rest of the term, should the university fire him without cause. But there’s a catch. If LSU wins a national championship at any point during Kelly’s tenure and he is still fired at some point after, that 90% immediately bumps up to 100%.

There is also a clause in Kelly’s contract that would reduce the buyout if he lands another coaching job. As is normal for such clauses, Kelly’s salary at his new job would be deducted from the amount LSU owes him.

On the other hand, if Kelly leaves for another job, he would owe LSU a buyout on the following schedule:

  • $4,000,000 if he leaves prior to Dec. 31, 2022
  • $3,000,000 if he leaves prior to Dec. 31, 2023
  • $2,000,000 if he leaves after that

Potential Bonuses

Kelly’s incentive compensation schedule is broken into three categories: postseason incentives, coaching recognition incentives, and academic incentives.

Postseason Incentives
  • $75,000 for participating in the SEC championship game OR $150,000 for winning the SEC championship game
  • $500,000 for making LSU bowl eligible AND
    • $100,000 for reaching a New Years Six Bowl OR
    • $200,000 for reaching the College Football Playoff OR
    • $300,000 for reaching the National Championship game OR
    • $500,000 for winning the National Championship
  • LSU and Kelly will agree to additional incentives if the College Football Playoff expands during his tenure.
Coaching Recognition
  • $50,000 for winning SEC Coach of the Year
  • $75,000 for winning National Coach of the Year
Academic Incentives
  • $25,000 if the team finishes with an APR of 930 or better OR
  • $50,000 if the team finishes with an APR of 970 or better

If you want to estimate Kelly’s odds of getting an extra $25K or $50K via academic incentives, it may be helpful to know that the LSU football team had an APR of 933 last year and 952 in 2019 (records for 2019-20 are not available). Notre Dame scored a 982 in 2021 and 988 in 2019 while Kelly was there.

In terms of postseason incentives, LSU is already bowl-eligible, so Kelly has locked up a $500,000 bonus for this year. The SEC championship and national championship incentives are still in play, as are the coach of the year awards. If it all breaks LSU’s way, Kelly can earn an additional $775,000 in postseason and coaching recognition bonuses this year.

Special Allowances & Perks

In addition to Kelly’s pay and bonuses, he is entitled to the following while at LSU:

  • An automobile allowance for two cars, totaling no more than $1,000 per month for each
  • A $275,000 per year stipend to be used on private air travel
  • Complimentary country club membership

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