One poor defensive season was enough for LSU coach Ed Orgeron and defensive coordinator Bo Pelini to part ways. As part of a defensive staff overhaul, LSU has moved on from Pelini after just one year and will buy him out with a one-time payment, the Tigers announced Monday night.
“While this year has been challenging in many ways, the decision to return to LSU — a place that I love with many wonderful memories — is something that I’m thankful for. However, after meeting with Coach O and discussing the future of the program, we have mutually decided that it’s best we part ways,” Pelini said in a statement released by the program.
It is also expected that safeties coach Bill Busch and defensive line coach Bill Johnson will be released.
LSU capped a disappointing follow-up to its 2019 national championship run with a 5-5 record. There were many reasons why the team was unable to follow up on its title season — coaching staff turnover, NFL Draft declarations and COVID-19 related opt outs — but perhaps nowhere was that more noticeable than on the defensive side of the ball.
The departure of Dave Aranda, who became the coach at Baylor, along with a significant roster turnover led to a defense that simply couldn’t stop SEC offenses or adjust in-game. In his first game returning as defensive coordinator, Pelini’s defense gave up the single-game SEC passing yardage record to Mike Leach’s Mississippi State team in a 44-34 loss. LSU finished 10th in the SEC in scoring defense and run defense while finishing next to last against the pass — just above Vanderbilt.
Getting rid of Pelini was not cheap. The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that Pelini “is guaranteed all the remaining income in his three-year, $2.3 million contract, which pegs his buyout at about $5.2 million. … Orgeron was given a limited budget to restructure his staff, multiple sources said, and Pelini’s buyout will take up most of it.”
It is unknown whether Pelini’s one-time payment was for the total sum as LSU’s statement noted the payment was “in lieu of the liquidated damages detailed in his contract.”
This was Pelini’s second stint as LSU’s defensive coordinator with the first coming from 2005-07 under coach Les Miles. Pelini then left to become the coach at Nebraska but was fired after seven seasons in 2014. He then took over his hometown program Youngstown State, leading the Penguins to the 2016 Division I Championship Game. He left the program after five seasons to return to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.