LSU Finds Itself Once Again in the Trough of a Historic Boom and Bust Cycle
By Chris Warner
December 8, 2020
My newest book, “Inside the Eye of the Tiger,” the Rise, Fall and Rise of LSU Athletics with Hall of Fame Tennis Coach Jerry Simmons, is an expose’ on what really went on inside the LSU Athletic Department from 1981 to 2003. In the tell-all book Simmons speaks freely on his LSU experience from Bob Brodhead to Joe Dean and finally to Skip Bertman, constructively, on what it takes to have a successful athletic department. Jerry, who was not from Louisiana (Amarillo, Texas), never appreciated the politics that were omnipresent at LSU, nor did he appreciate their prevention of what he considered to be the essentials of a successful athletic department. These are constant ingredients in the tried and true recipe for big-time athletic success, hardly affected by the normal passing of time and circumstances. The more things change, the more they stay the same, with respect to winning in college athletics.
According to Coach Simmons, it’s about Leadership: It starts at the top. Jerry’s explanation of the contrasting leadership styles of the much different directors of Brodhead and Dean, and to some extent Coach Bertman toward the end of his time in Baton Rouge, predict that a department must have a leader who can spot talent in winning head coaches and hire them to win. However, that is not all. They must also provide the important resources the coaches need to win, like money for assistant coaches, money for necessary facilities, money for travel to games and money for recruiting. These things are somewhat understood to most onlookers, even casual fans. However, what is more nebulous and esoteric is the most important thing an athletic director must provide his head coaches outside of needed resources: protection—a critical insulation from the politics that can and will bring down the kingdom, if allowed.
In essence, the athletic director must manage the coaches and the politics in a way that separates the two realms of athletics and governance, allowing each to operate freely and independently of one another, because it is when they begin to mix that things can quickly go south, as we all know. As politics ostensibly creeps into the sacrosanct matters of the department coaches begin to worry about their place in the pecking order of things—whether or not they will have what they need to win; whether or not they are still in the favor of their civilian masters; whether or not they will be able to survive. This order is kept by walking a fine line regarding what is acceptable; and of course, winning.
LSU’s current vortex into the unknown of the also-rans has manifested from a breakdown of this important separation and balance of athletic and political powers. Somewhere along the line the recent athletic director(s) lost control of the program. USA Today’s reporting a few weeks ago of the dire situation on campus where alleged rapes and sexual abuse of many forms were swept under the rug to protect players and their coveted playing status shed an unfavorable and startling light on the program that was a clear message to anyone paying attention: LSU has many dark days ahead, as it will certainly have to defend itself as an institution that has critically not lost control of its athletes. One need only to look at the examples set forth by Baylor and Michigan State in their similar and costly legal battles related to alleged sexual abuse, ultimately proved true, as a precursor for what is to come.
Coach Simmons at the end of his pithy book (128 pp.) reminds the reader (LSU fans) that while LSU has enjoyed what can only be considered a golden age of athletic success from 2001 to 2020, it is and always will be vulnerable to a fall, if the leaders in charge are unaware of the past, and the hard times LSU endured under previous regimes characterized by poor leadership. This recurring cycle is one that has replicated itself many times over in the domain of the phallic-shaped Capitol built by Huey P. Long in the form of corrupt, free-wheeling governors being replaced by reform governors having to clean up the unbridled messes of their aloof predecessors. Sadly, it is always the people, and in this case, LSU fans, who suffer the unforgiving onslaught of the fall.
Chris Warner is the author and publisher of over 20 books. A double graduate of LSU in Baton Rouge, he holds a doctorate from the University of New Orleans. Visit his web page to learn more about him and how to purchase “Inside the Eye of the Tiger” with Coach Jerry Simmons, and his other available books: chriswarnerauthor.com
Comments will be approved before showing up.