Monday, January 10th, 2022

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



Perception and reality often intertwine.  At Louisiana’s flagship university as well as other major universities across the country, any talk of the so called “revered tradition of amateurism” has gone by the wayside.  College athletes are now able to shop their athletic abilities to the highest bidder and jump from school to school at will.

But the perception is a bit different at LSU.  Want to see how the state is viewed by the rest of the nation?  Take a look at this past weekend’s headlines in the Washington Post.

“In Baton Rouge, there’s a $100 million football coach and everyone else. While LSU pays Brian Kelly millions, Baton Rouge residents — and even LSU students and employees — scrape by.”

 Coach Kelly seems like an amiable guy and a good football coach. But he’s migrating down to a state that consistently is ranked at the bottom of the barrel in key quality of life indicators.  In the most recent ranking by U.S. News and World Report, Louisiana was graded as the worst state to live in including being listed as  worst in the nation for opportunity, crime & corrections, natural environment, education and healthcare.

While LSU is making their new coach the highest paid in the nation, it’s ranking in the latest survey by U.S. News & World Report slipped 19 spots and the school is tied for 172nd among national universities. LSU is also next to last among the 14 schools in the Southeastern Conference, ahead of only Mississippi State University.

Louisiana colleges are in a financial free-fall, with new budget cuts being imposed yearly. LSU has seen its state-funding cut by over 40% in recent years. The endowment of the state’s flagship university is one of the lowest of any major colleges in the country.

Yes, some will say, but no state funds are used to pay for the coach’s salary. Not so says my former Louisiana State Senate colleague Tony Guarisco.  “It is a myth that “no public money” is being used for LSU athletics,” says Tony.  “It’s past time to put the quietus on that bromide. The truth is that it is almost all “public money! 

“Donations to the 501(c)3 Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF) are the coins of the realm. Federal tax deductions fund sports entertainment at the university. For example, money destined for the common good is diverted to the TAF through federal tax write-offs. This is called “supplanting.”

“As for season ticket holders, Tiger Stadium is truly “Death Valley” As a precondition to buying a ticket, fans must “donate “a fee to the Foundation for the right. -a clever, but questionable legal subterfuge. The administration is complicit in this dubious scheme. “

Here is where the perception problem really hits home. When national companies are looking for expansion opportunities in new states, particularly in the south, they consider a variety of factors. Important quality of life factors for their employees who may be relocating. When they look at Louisiana, they see a state ranked at the bottom of the barrel in national listing after listing.

But then these companies see what’s really important down in the deepest of the deep southern states. It’s not healthcare, education, cleaning up the environment, or having affordable insurance rates. No, it’s making their football coach the highest paid in all of America.

Something is definitely wrong with the way priorities are set in the Bayou State.  But with all the money earmarked only for sports, don’t expect much to change. After all, we only care about winning football games.


“Football: A sport that bears the same relation to education that bullfighting does to agriculture.”

― Elbert Hubbard

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at



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