Saturday, Les Miles' LSU Tigers lost at Auburn in truly bizarre (or typical depending on your perspective) fashion. Clock management was poor, play calling wasn't any better. Once the final score was official, we all knew Les was done.
Before we move on, I'd like to add that Les Miles has been nothing but class during his tenure at LSU. He won & he did it the right way. Of late, since the beat down Alabama put on them in the National Championship game following LSU's undefeated 2011 season, Les just hasn't won enough of the games that mattered. For the most part he and his staff got the recruiting part right; but they simply couldn't get the Xs & Os to gel with their players. That is on the coaches. I personally hoped LSU's administration would do the right thing and tell Les this would be his final season and allow his players & his fans to celebrate all of the greatness that Les is as a man. I, however, did not have a vote.
Les was very unceremoniously fired Sunday by his athletic director Joe Alleva. Alleva has been working towards this moment for quite some time and made his play a few weeks too early last season. When the first possible opportunity presented itself this season, Alleva rounded up the votes and did the deed. Both Bruce Feldman and Brett McMurphy would note that sources within the LSU administration told them that Alleva felt he needed to pull the trigger now while he still could in fear of Les stringing together some wins in the latter half of the season "and being stuck with Les another year". That's a pretty telling statement from an administration. Very weak.
So here we are. LSU is governed by a fairly sizable Board of Supervisors, is influenced by a number of deep pocketed boosters, has a President who has been at LSU three years (and who most believe has larger aspirations) and an athletic director who flat out is a liability in a coaching search. Combine that with a fan base with a deep conviction that their team should be challenging for the National Championship in most years built upon the fact that LSU dominates recruiting in a state that is built on football and which is loaded with suitable recruits; and we have a bit of a perfect storm. This search should have everything you think, wish & hope a search should have. Let's all hope a movie is in the works, because this should be great theater.
Ok, so, LSU did the absolute right thing in turning to Ed Orgeron in this interim capacity. Ed loves Louisiana and LSU. He will give it everything he has and I expect the team to respond. The defense already was salty and will continue to improve with more time under Dave Aranda's watch. If Steve Ensminger is able to get production from the quarterback position this team has all the tools. We don't know how the rest of this season will play out; but man if the Tigers get it rolling that is going to cause a conundrum for Alleva and the Board, one I'm not sure they want to face.
In a coaching search, prospective coaches want to know who their boss truly will be. There is no question that Tom Jurich is calling the shots at Louisville. No question that Gene Smith calls them at Ohio State. No question that Bill Moos does the same at Washington State. At LSU, there are a lot of folks who are involved. Yes, sources tell FootballScoop LSU has already arranged a "committee" to lead the process in this search. LSU leadership apparently doesn't trust Joe Alleva to get on a plane, go have dinner with their target, evaluate him and make the offer / seal the deal as necessary.
So, where does LSU turn? First, don't assume that Ed Orgeron won't work his way into the job. That is obviously completely dependent on what happens over the course of the next two months; but Joe Alleva didn't work all this time to get Les out only to hand the reins to one of Les' assistants. If O winds up with the job it will truly be due to the fact that he earned it.
If Orgeron doesn't earn the job, sources tell FootballScoop that LSU's committee believes they can and should land a home run. "Their sights are on national championship caliber, proven head coaches," a source with knowledge told FootballScoop this morning. During the initial, exploratory phase, we are told to expect LSU, through representatives, to gauge the interest of some of the top coaches in college football, including Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman. Right or wrong, sources tell FootballScoop that LSU believes they will be able to attract a coach of that caliber.
Although the finances of LSU always seem to be changing, I have no reason to believe the powers that be at LSU will struggle to obtain whatever funding they need to attract the right coach. A source we spoke with this morning didn't bat an eye when saying "Money will not be an issue here. Donors are ready to take care of a championship caliber coach appropriately."
For what it is worth, Les' buyout is paltry, all things considered. We took a look at Les' contract last week. Assuming no settlement was involved (and no reason to think there was), LSU will owe Les less approximately $125,000 per month over the next 6+ years. If Les accepts any other employment that would further reduce what LSU pays him. Irrelevant in the grand scheme of things to LSU athletics.
Here are the assets LSU offers in trying to attract the right coach:
- Ability to win championships
- Compensation for you & your staff
- National championship level recruits in your backyard
- As passionate a fan base as you could possibly want
- B level facilities
- Some excellent assistant coaches already under contract
Here are the negatives LSU offers in trying to attract the right coach:
- Administration & Politics above
- B level facilities
- Have to play Bama every year (oh... and the rest of the SEC West)
Over the next few days I'll provide more detailed thoughts on each of the top 10 (or so) candidates for the job; but I'll leave you with this thought. This is a marquee opening in the SEC...
Whatever you do, do not discount the influence Jimmy Sexton will have on this search.