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LSU Vacancy Brews Perfect Storm of Coaching Landscape, Increases Mario Cristobal's Odds of a Hefty Raise

LSU has the pocket books and prestige to make Oregon sweat.

With LSU head coach Ed Orgeron reaching a separation agreement with the program, one of the most coveted jobs in college football will been vacated. 

As with all marquee coaching vacancies in college football, Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal has been named as a candidate to watch by The Athletic's Bruce Feldman. He did however indicate Cristobal seemed more unlikely to land the job than other big-name candidates.

"His buyout is around $9 million, and it doesn’t drop to $6.5 million until Jan. 15, 2022," wrote Feldman. "He also knows his next two Ducks teams have the kind of talent that could make them national title contenders. Does he want to return to the SEC?"

Ducks fans have been here before. Last offseason, Cristobal was reportedly in the mix to take over Auburn but he signed a contract extension with the Ducks instead. When asked about the rumors, Cristobal said he hadn't had any talks with the Tigers. 

Cristobal's been rumored for jobs outside of Eugene for awhile now. His turnaround at Oregon has been remarkable with the Ducks ceiling being raised season by season. When USC fired Clay Helton in September, Scott Wolf of InsideUSC with Scott Wolf reported Cristobal is the Trojan's top-choice.

It does seem unlikely Cristobal would leave Eugene for USC when the Ducks are poised to control the conference for years to come. The LSU vacancy and perhaps an impending Miami vacancy would be more appealing to Cristobal, though. 

LSU is one of the nation's top jobs and one where the last three head coaches won National Championships (Nick Saban, Les Miles, Ed Ogergon). Meanwhile, Miami is Cristobal's alma mater and returning home could have some allure.

Last month, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote Hurricanes trustees want to fire Manny Diaz, and that Cristobal would be "the obvious target," but that he "doubt[s]" Miami could afford him without a hometown discount. One trustee told Jackson "we don't have that kind of money" to offer a 5-year, $35 million-contract to Cristobal, buyout Cristobal's Oregon contract and pay Diaz his buyout. 

That doesn't mean Miami will not be linked to Cristobal though. He's an obvious candidate who played for the school. Unfortunately for Oregon, he will always be linked to that job. 

With USC, LSU and likely Miami all opening, a few of the schools with more realistic shots to poach Cristobal from Oregon are all trying to fill coaching vacancies at once, thus creating a perfect storm for Cristobal to negotiate an even higher raise.

Yes, he signed a contract extension last offseason with Oregon, but that doesn't mean much. His buyout before January 15th, 2022 is $9 million. 

LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward gave Jimbo Fisher a 10-year, $75 million contract just three years ago while at Texas A&M. The same director also got Chris Peterson to leave Boise State, Buzz Williams to leave Sweet-16 Virginia Tech in men's basketball, and Kim Mulkey to leave Baylor women's basketball where she won three National Championships in 21 seasons. 

“I’m trying to get the best people,” Woodward said.

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Simply put, if Woodward wants Cristobal to be the next head coach at LSU then it'll take an astronomical effort, in addition to a steep raise, from Oregon to keep him in Eugene. 

In terms of base salary, Orgeron was college football's second-highest paid head coach at around $9 million. Jimbo Fisher, who Woodward hired while at Texas A&M, ranks seventh at $7.5 million. 

Mario Cristobal ranks 26th nationally and fifth in the Pac-12 at $4.4 million on the USA Today College Football Head Coach salaries. Stanford's David Shaw ($8.9 million), UCLA's Chip Kelly ($5.6 million), Utah's Kyle Whittingham ($5.2 million), and USC's Clay Helton ($4.8 million) all rank higher than Cristobal. 

However, all reports show Woodward wants a splashy name. Cristobal would seemingly qualify, but based on reporting from Bruce Feldman, Jimbo Fisher, Dabo Swinney and Mel Tucker would all have to turn down the LSU job first before the Tigers get to Cristobal's name on its internal list. 

What appears more likely is Cristobal and his agent use the USC, LSU and Miami job vacancies to negotiate a hefty raise. Especially after defeating Ohio State and hopefully winning the Pac-12 for the third consecutive season. 

In no world should Cristobal be the fifth-highest paid coach in the conference, especially with the resources at Oregon and the success he's seen while running the program. I understand the Ducks didn't want to repeat its mistake of extending a coach too early, look how that worked out with Mark Helfrich. But, with three premiere jobs opening with LSU among them, the Ducks will not have a choice.

Hopefully, this ends with Mario Cristobal being among the top-ten highest paid coaches nationally and excited to continue building the Ducks into a national power. 

Will it? Only time will tell. 

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