Here’s what Brian Kelly’s $1 million overpayment could’ve paid for at LSU

By: - February 7, 2023 6:00 am
A football coach walks in front of several football players

LSU coach Brian Kelly during the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 3, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The news that LSU football head coach Brian Kelly was overpaid a whopping $1 million in 2022 ruffled some feathers on campus, where faculty are consistently underpaid compared to the regional average. 

While $1 million may not sound like a lot in the context of LSU’s athletic riches, it’s a lot of money in the broader educational context, especially as Louisiana’s institutions of higher learning recover from an era of budget cuts. 

LSU has put in place an adjusted payment schedule to recoup the overpaid amount. 

So what would $1 million buy? 

According to Board of Regents data, the average professor at LSU makes $88,804. That means the money overpaid to Kelly could have paid a professor’s salary for more than 11 years. LSU graduate assistants are paid as little as $11,000 per year. Kelly’s overpayments total over 91 years of salary for those employees, who teach freshman courses and conduct research on campus. 

The average salary of a full-time faculty member among all public four-year institutions in Louisiana is $72,000, according to the Southern Regional Education Board. That’s more than $13,000 lower than the regional average. Louisiana ranks second from the bottom out of 16 states in the region.

While LSU’s Tiger Stadium has been deemed a “cathedral of college football,” in its shadow lies crumbling infrastructure. The university currently has a deferred maintenance backlog of more than  7000 projects that would cost in excess $636 million to clear. 

While $1 million would not remedy all of the infrastructure needs at all of the campuses in Louisiana, it would make a pretty serious dent. 

That million dollars also could have funded quite a bit of research. 

Since its inception in 2022, the LSU Provost’s Fund for Innovation in Research has doled out $1.1 million in grants to 33 research projects on campus. From external sources, professors across Louisiana are awarded millions of dollars each year. 

One million dollars is more than double what LSU’s School of Library & Information Science will receive over a three-year period to study how climate change is impacting archives, galleries, libraries and museums nationwide. 

It’s also approximately how much an LSU social work professor was awarded to implement to study disparities in mental health in East Baton Rouge Parish.


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Piper Hutchinson
Piper Hutchinson

Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor in chief for summer 2022.