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To understand LSU football hiring Brian Kelly, start with Scott Woodward's dad | Toppmeyer

Blake Toppmeyer
USA TODAY NETWORK

MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. – LSU athletics director Scott Woodward deserves the credit for hiring Brian Kelly, but give Woodward’s dad, Si, the assist.

Woodward has earned a reputation for hiring proven winners – and spending big, when necessary.

The basis for that hiring mentality is rooted in wisdom Si (pronounced Cy) shared with his son long ago.

“My dad told me early in life that there’s a lot of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing,” Woodward told me at the SEC’s spring meetings. “And it matters to me that I know what the value is.”

Si's sage words were quipped by characters in Oscar Wilde's "Lady Windermere's Fan" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray."

Kelly brings the value of a proven winner at a price of a 10-year, $100 million contract. Most of that money is guaranteed.

That’s the price.

Time will tell Kelly’s value.

“If people (say), ‘Oh, you overpaid for something,’ well, how do you know that? I thought it through. Maybe I didn’t (overpay). Or, I underpaid for something. They know the cost of it, but do they know the value of it?” said Woodward, speaking more philosophically and less about Kelly’s contract in that moment.

Hiring unproven wild cards just isn’t Woodward’s style.

“It’s always worked for me that the best predictors are usually past performances,” he said.

Woodward’s ace hiring includes Chris Petersen at Washington.

Next came Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M.

Later, Kim Mulkey at LSU.

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And, in November, the biggest stunner: Kelly bolted Notre Dame, a College Football Playoff contender, for a premier job within the nation’s best conference.

Woodward lured Fisher from Florida State to A&M with a 10-year, $75 million deal that reset the bar for coaching contracts. He leapfrogged his own bar to snag Kelly.

Before Woodward hired Petersen or Fisher or Mulkey, he faced the first major hire of his career as Washington’s athletics director, after firing Tyrone Willingham.

Woodward interviewed Kelly, who was coaching Cincinnati, for that opening. He hired Steve Sarkisian. Thirteen years later, Woodward rekindled his interest in Kelly.

To put it in stock-market terms, by hiring Kelly, LSU bought Coca-Cola. Kelly is a steady performer who has largely been immune to drastic dips. As someone who owns more than a few shares of Coke, I appreciate this business strategy.

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But what if Woodward brought Coke into Pepsi country? How will that go over?

Kelly is as Southern as a snowplow.

He’s a native of the Boston suburbs and had spent his coaching career in the Midwest. This is Kelly’s first tour of the SEC. His attempt at a faux Southern accent when he grabbed the mic at an LSU basketball game in December was roundly mocked.

Woodward brushed off Kelly’s failed Southern drawl. LSU’s AD considers geographic fit to be “kind of overstated” in coaching hires.

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“A guy named Urban Meyer and a guy named Nick Saban did pretty well in the Southeastern Conference,” Woodward said.

Indeed, crawfish and boudin balls aren’t menu staples in Saban’s native West Virginia or Meyer’s Ohio. And those two coaches combined to win nine national championships at SEC schools.

They don’t make a better cultural fit than Kelly’s predecessor, Ed Orgeron, for LSU. But Orgeron is better suited to win a game of flip cup than a coaching chess match. The coach preceding Orgeron, Les Miles, considered blades of grass to be an in-game delicacy.

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Kelly's record in big games is the imperfection on his résumé. Notre Dame’s Citrus Bowl victory over LSU to cap the 2017 season ranks as his best postseason triumph. He’s 0-5 in New Year’s Six-level bowl games.

Maybe LSU can be the salve on that blemish.

Orgeron and Miles, despite their shortcomings, each won a national title at LSU. Include Saban, and three straight coaches have led LSU to a national championship.

LSU ranks among the nation’s best jobs, boasting a transcendent brand, statewide support as Louisiana’s lone Power Five team, and a fertile recruiting base.

As contemptible as the timing of Kelly’s Irish exit was, it’s easy to see why he coveted this job.

Woodward’s interest in Kelly spanned from Seattle to the Bayou.

LSU paid the price to land such a decorated coach, but Woodward is focused on the value of this hire, just like his dad taught him.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.