History Says Woodward Gets It Right and LSU Further Rises
By Chris Warner
Chriswarnerauthor.com (Inside The Eye of the Tiger – Simmons)
October 21, 2021
LSU fans and alumni were relieved this past Sunday to learn that the university and Ed Orgeron agreed to part ways at season’s end, a move many suspected was imminent, if not slow to materialize, despite his success. In five seasons, Ed Orgeron’s record is admirable. When compared to one of his successful predecessors, Nick Saban, the King of Current College Football Coaches, an objective fan sees the rub. In the same span, Ed Orgeron is 49-17 at LSU, with five regular season games to go. From 2000 to 2004, Nick went 48-16. Both won national championships—Nick by the embattled, now-defunct, computer-driven, one-game, winner-take-all BCS system, Ed via the more democratic, two-game, four-team playoff championship format, the unblemished 15-0 effort considered the greatest season in college football history—with little debate to the contrary from the game’s most seasoned onlookers.
As LSU fans await the crowning of their newest head football coach, and the continuing of a great Louisiana tradition as grand as crawfish, hunting and hurricane seasons, it can find solace in the fact that history is on its side this time around, and that winning football games in the foreseeable future will remain a favored, anticipated staple of Saturday nights in Death Valley—that is, if the political mess inside the department is cleaned up for the new coach; and the focus thereafter is on winning, and doing things the right way, for a needed change.
With the announcement that Coach Orgeron would no longer be LSU Coach after the 2021 season, came the news that he will receive $17 million in compensation, a sure credit to his agent, and him, for negotiating so well, as his tenure was not without professionalism concerns. The buyout tab on his current staff is nine million. Last year LSU gave Pelini four million to go away. Coach Linehan got a million to desist. Former offensive line Coach, James Cregg, is suing the school for breach of contract, another potential encumbrance. For those keeping track—that’s over $30 million—and they still have to hire a coach. These costs must be met during a two-year pandemic period that saw the department hemorrhage funds to the tune of over $80 million; and they still have to pay the new coach and his staff. However, it would seem, based on reports, that LSU could privately raise the needed funds, despite concerns.
Meanwhile, despite the dearth of media coverage, two private lawsuits ($6 million and $50 million) and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education into Clary Act violations (Title IX) continue. As the lawsuits against LSU make their deliberate way through the trial system, the university must contemplate going to court, or settling, as no new head football coach will want the political turmoil such a transparent, public hanging would bring, and the negative recruiting by its staunchest rivals that would follow such a bloodletting of inconvenient truth. The new coach must be insulated from outside political distractions, and given strict assurances he will be protected going forward, so that he can build his program and win. Further, at some point, justice must be served within the legal and administrative processes set in motion, with respect to the alleged victims. After all, America is still a right-pluralistic society, and everyone is entitled to their day in court.
Earlier this year LSU issued the dubious Husch Blackwell Report, a paid project by LSU to smooth things over, and essentially buy time, placing blame on the previous Les Miles administration, even though timeline reports indicate the alleged incidents involving the litigants occurred during Ed’s tenure, and not that of Miles, or there would be a critical lack of legal standing. Nevertheless, this resulted in the ending of Les Miles’ coaching career; and since that time he has been conspicuously battered by the media, and equally silent.
The Rise, Fall, Rise, Fall and Rise of LSU Athletics, Circa 1982
I have written about the interesting pattern the State of Louisiana voters have engaged in over the years in regard to electing reform governors after corrupt, free-wheeling characters upended the perceived political party. For decades Louisiana voters replaced fun-loving shysters with perceived “fixer-upper” types sent to Baton Rouge to correct the problems their predecessor failed to address, each time forgetting their similar past sins in judgment; realizing often that the reform types were in retrospect, as questionable as their disliked predecessors. And in that subtle, very human way, the cycle continues in the collective citizen memory lapse; and the pervasive Banana Republic abounds, unabated in the special place that time, care and boredom conveniently long ago forgot. One could argue forcefully that LSU’s Athletic Department has unknowingly assumed a similar crest and fall approach to leadership, within the state political subset, and that history is at this juncture—firmly on LSU’s side. Morevoer, LSU’s last three coaches have won national championships, meaning that the LSU job is every bit the ripe plum to the coaching outsider looking in, its history of political mysteries and pitfalls notwithstanding.
A serious fan need only consider LSU Athletic Department history, with respect to its directors and football coaches, to understand that LSU, at this point, is again on the precipitous rise. Consider:
1982 – Bob Broadhead cleans up concession and ticket concerns and creates an SEC juggernaut that unmercifully tortured SEC competition—in all sports. However, his inability to play politics cost him. See his book, “Sacked” for more.
1987 – Over 13 excruciating years, former LSU Basketball player and Converse Shoe Salesman Joe Dean serves as AD. LSU endures six straight losing seasons in football, an unprecedented clip, and the downfall of one Curley Hudson Hallman, who Dean called, “The second coming of Bear Bryant.”
2001 – Former LSU Baseball Legend Skip Bertman is hired as athletic director. Before Bertman’s hiring, Joe Dean is disallowed from the coaching search of the new head football coach, Nick Saban. Bertman oversaw the start of what can only be considered the “Golden Age of LSU Athletics,” a 20-year period of winning in football and athletics that forged the modern brand. Two national championships in football were won under Skip’s leadership.
2008 – Upon Bertman’s retirement, LSU hired Joe Alleva, former Duke AD. He served LSU for 11 long years, and his tenure was punctuated with many of the same problems that saddled Joe Dean, and for a similarly, long and torturous plight. Alleva ran on Bertman fumes for the first few years, just as Joe Dean had with Bob. The year after Alleva left campus, LSU won its fourth national championship, under his successor, a Baton Rouge native.
2019 – Scott Woodward was fortunate to inherit a football and men’s basketball program on the precipitous rise in the fall of 2019, despite its lingering political concerns borne from his unpopular predecessor. Nevertheless, Woodward is poised perfectly to end the departmental politics and turmoil seeded by past administrations, by making a solid hire and cleaning up the department going forward, under what will be his administration. LSU fans hope his tenure continues its upward arc, and lasts as long as his failed, forgotten predecessors.
*Chris Warner is a double graduate of LSU in Baton Rouge and holds a doctorate from the University of New Orleans. He is the author and publisher of over 20 books, including “Inside the Eye of the Tiger,” a tell-all book on LSU Athletics, the memoirs of Hall of Fame Tennis Coach, Jerry Simmons: The Rise, Fall and Rise of LSU Athletics. Visit his website: chriswarnerauthor.com
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