Successful football programs improve universities

The pass over the middle was a blue dart, caught by the wide receiver as the rest of the LSU Tigers cheered. The video of Gov. John Bel Edwards tossing footballs at a practice was pretty impressive.

Here’s wishing Gov. Edwards was as accurate with his take on college coaching salaries as he was with those throws.

The New Orleans Advocate reported that Edwards, in a meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board, said that coaching salaries in football had “gotten out of control.” Edwards suggested a cap on coaches’ salaries.

Edwards lamented that faculty members at LSU and elsewhere hadn’t had a significant raise in years. The underfunding of higher education in Louisiana has been an issue for decades; actually, for generations. This issue has been persistent with Democrats and Republicans occupying the mansion in Baton Rouge.

But spending on LSU football and spending at the university is apples and oranges, and Gov. Edwards knows it.

A school spokesperson said last year LSU athletics returned $10 million to the university, a total of $50 million over five years. Last year, LSU football turned a profit of $56 million.

The positive effects of football have been felt for more than a decade at fellow SEC West competitor Alabama. Few, if any, in the state complain about the continually expanding paycheck of head football coach Nick Saban.

In 2006, the year before Saban arrived, Alabama’s incoming freshman class totaled 4,404. In 2017, according to USA Today, that number had mushroomed to 7,407 freshmen.

In 2006, 13 percent of Alabama’s freshman class entered with an ACT score of 30 or better. In 2017, that number had increased to 41 percent. Football has been a powerful force for change at Alabama.

Gov. Edwards has every right to express concern about lagging teacher salaries at state universities. But when LSU athletics paid former offensive coordinator Matt Canada $1.7 million to go away, no one should blink an eye. LSU football can afford it.

The issue of the state budget is both complicated and simple. When revenues don’t match spending, higher education and health care get the cuts because they are the areas of the Louisiana budget that are not constitutionally protected.

The governor has a tough job. He can either raise taxes or cut spending. Both of those options will elicit a hue and cry from his constituents. But the governor should stay in his lane.

Louisiana has many problems, but a fiscally sound football program isn’t one of them.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at

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