SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Dave Aranda is normally the man with the answers.
LSU’s defensive mastermind routinely dissects every way an opposing offense can attack. He prides himself on devising counters to an opponent’s strength and devising ways to attack any perceived weakness.
That prowess earned Aranda a contract extension last offseason when Texas A&M came calling, and at $2.5 million, Aranda’s annual salary dwarfs that of many Division I head coaches. Football is becoming an increasingly offensive game, and Aranda is paid handsomely to come up with the answers.
But one question gave the defensive coordinator a bit of pause during his Fiesta Bowl press conference on Saturday morning: do you aspire to become a head coach?
“I’ve always wanted to do that,” Aranda responded after a moment of thought. “I think all of that will come at the right time.”
Such questions always crop up this time of year, and Aranda understands why. Bowl season coincides with college football’s silly season, and the bowl game is one of maybe two time a year that LSU’s coordinators are made available to the media.
That doesn’t mean the thought had crossed Aranda’s mind before he sat down at the podium on Saturday morning.
“We’re in a bubble man, completely, and I feel that way with most of my life, to be honest,” Aranda said. “When something like that comes up, it’ll come up, but it’s got to come up.”
‘The Professor’ professed to living in an airtight bubble of football and family when asked if it occurred to him that there exists a palpable fear amidst the LSU fan base that he will one day leave for greener pastures.
“Oh no,” Aranda responded, asked if such a fear registered with him. “I hope I’m here a long time.”
Earlier in the media availability, Aranda spoke at length about what returning to LSU for a third season meant to him. He expressed satisfaction in his role as associate head coach under Ed Orgeron and said his family is happy with their current situation in Baton Rouge.
“I love being here,” Aranda said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach O, for sure. Coach O captures the team. He treats all of us, as coaches, well and with respect. You can’t ask for more than that.”
He continued: “You know my family loves it here. My girls love their school. They’ve got their friends. They all have phones. They’re on their phones all the time with all these people. They’re a big — you want everyone around you happy. You feel like it is home.”
Logistically speaking, Aranda’s robust salary would make it exceedingly difficult for him to take another job without having to accept a pay cut.
Only 54 Division I coaches made at least $2.5 million this season, according to the USA Today Salary Database. That limits the number of schools that could afford to pay Aranda at the rate LSU does, even if it would be as a head coach.
According to Aranda’s contract, he can leave without paying any buyout after Dec. 1, 2019. There’s also no buyout if he leaves for a head coaching position.
When asked if his massive contract would hinder his ability to get a head coaching job — assuming he were to pursue one — Aranda appeared genuinely unsure of the answer.
“I haven’t thought of it,” Aranda said. “I imagine I would. That’s a good question. It’s hard for me to answer that. One side of it I guess it could look like that. On the other, I won’t have to worry about any of that other stuff. I feel security. I feel like I know where I’m at. I’m investing in this. They’re investing in me. We’ve got it. I feel more like that.”
Now back to the more pertinent question at hand for LSU’s defensive coordinator: how to slow down a lightning-fast UCF offense while missing starters at all three levels of his defense.