Photo Credit: DeathValleyVoice.com
This saga of LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron goes back more than 5 years in Baton Rouge. After 1 final clock mismanagement situation in a loss to Auburn, athletic director Joe Aleeva had enough and dismissed Les Miles. In steps Ed Orgeron as interim coach for LSU football. He goes 6-2 in the final games of that season and injects some life into the program. Coach O was exactly what the tigers needed at that moment. He made practices fun again, invited alumni back and restored some pride in the program. Every Monday around the Tigers facility was called "Tell the truth Mondays." So, allow me to tell some truths on this Monday.
Coach O was not the first or even second pick for Joe Aleeva and the tigers. At the end of the previous year, there was a lot of talk about replacing Coach Miles. Ross Dellenger now of Sports Illustrated had a series of tweets that night updating the LSU/Texas A&M game with a line about the coaching search in every score update that night. There was a lot of talk at the end of the 2015 season about Jimbo Fisher coming to Baton Rouge. Apparently, the asking price was too high at the time, and then Scoot Woodward who was the athletic director in College station lured Jimbo from Florida State. Aleeva's second choice was Tom Herman who was leaving Houston, but Herman wanted the Texas choice and used LSU as leverage to get a better offer in Austin.
Aleeva famously called himself the "search committee" at the time and refused any third party assistance. The hiring of Coach O always felt like a consolation prize in Baton Rouge. A local boy, from the swamps of south Louisiana, who better to bring some pride back to the program. A loss to Troy in his first season left fans wondering what the LSU brass had gotten their fans into with this hire. After Orgeron's first season in Baton Rouge, he was able to convince QB Joe Burrow to come down south from Columbus, Ohio. A slightly better than average first year for Burrow lead to a remarkable second season in Baton Rouge that saw a National Title and one of the most dynamic offensive teams in the history of college football. And once you get to the top of the mountain, there's only one way to go for most coaches.
The truth on this Monday as of writing this, LSU is 9-8 in their 17 games since winning that national title. Almost half of Orgeron's losses (49-17 total record as head coach) have come since that magic night in January after the Tigers knocked off another set of tigers from Clemson. Recruiting has picked up in Baton Rouge, but truthfully, the culture is growing stale. Rumors are circulating that the coaches are getting tired of coaching for him, and the players don't want to play for him anymore. Coach O improved greatly from him 10-25 mark at Ole Miss from 2005-2007, but the belief amongst LSU officials is that he is Not the guy to lead them back to the top of the mountain.
Scott Woodward, a Baton Rouge native, returned to LSU as athletic director a couple of years ago, and this is his chance to get his guy. He hired Chris Peterson when he was AD at Washington, and as I stated earlier, he hired Jimbo Fisher to lead the Aggie program in College Station. Now he gets to put his stamp on the football program he pulled for growing up in Baton Rouge.
There will be a lot of names thrown out there as this unfolds. I think one to watch very closely will be Mel Tucker at Michigan State. Some have expressed reservations about the LSU job such as Joel Klatt from FOX, but this is a program that has won at a high level before, and with the right person at the helm, will win big again.
LSU made the mistake of being far too patient with Les Miles thinking he would right the ship, but they are not going to make that mistake, thus Coach O has to go. His name will forever be in the record books at LSU as the loud-talking, barrel-chested Cajun who lead the flagship program in his home state to the pinnacle of the college football world, but it's one thing to get there, and quite another to sustain that type of success. The 9-8 record since then shows he does not have the ability to sustain success. It was fun while it lasted for sure, but now it's time for a new voice and new life in Baton Rouge.