It’s been 28 years since the death of LSU basketball legend “Pistol” Pete Maravich, and now the university appears to be moving forward with an effort to erect a statue in his honor.
After hearing from an outpouring of support from fans and former LSU athletes, the LSU Board of Supervisors on Friday revised a policy regarding campus statues honoring former LSU athletes.
“Basically, it’s going to happen,” said board member Stanley Jacobs, a former LSU basketball player who has been pushing for a statue for the past five years.
The statue still will have to be approved by LSU’s Hall of Fame committee.
Athletics Director Joe Alleva said he would work to expedite the process. Normally, the policy would require that a statue request be on file for a year before it’s considered. No formal timeline has been identified, though.
The Maravich statue will be paid for by private funds. It’s not yet known how much it will cost, but LSU’s 900-pound statue honoring basketball star Shaquille O’Neal reportedly cost $70,000 in 2011.
Maravich, who is considered one of the greatest basketball players in history, died in 1988 at the age of 40.
LSU’s basketball arena bears Maravich’s name, but a little-known athletics policy in place since 2011 blocked him from being honored with a statue of his likeness outside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center because he left college a few credits shy of earning a degree.
The LSU board on Friday altered that policy to require, instead of a college degree, 100 credit hours or three full years of college in good academic standing, which Maravich would meet.
Board member Scott Angelle acknowledged that degree completion is the university’s goal but said statues recognize more-significant accomplishments.
“Anybody who has lived in Louisiana understands the significant contributions of ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich,” he said. “He absolutely changed the culture — not just in Louisiana but in America.”
More than a dozen people called on the board to back the statue effort, including Maravich’s widow, Jackie McLachlan, and former LSU basketball player Collis Temple, who integrated the university’s basketball team.
“Pete was the greatest player in the history of college basketball,” Temple said.
McLachlan said she has been told on multiple occasions that a statue would be built to honor her late husband, including during the PMAC renaming ceremony and the unveiling of O’Neal’s statue five years ago. She said she thinks the tribute is fitting for Maravich.
“Pete was always recognized at events as ‘Pistol Pete, the LSU star,’ or ‘LSU’s Pistol Pete Maravich,’ ” she said. “Pete loved LSU, and LSU loved Pete.”
The state Legislature last year passed a unanimous resolution in support of a Maravich statue, and Bobby Jindal, while he was governor, lobbied on its behalf.
After approving the policy that likely will pave the way for the statue, several members of the LSU board approached McLachlan to shake her hand and tell her how much they admired her late husband. She shared a hug with Alleva in the hallway.
“It just goes to show you how loved Pete was,” McLachlan said of the outpouring of support.
Dressed in a purple blazer with an LSU lapel pin, Bill Halsey, of Madison, Mississippi, held a hand-written sign up to the board: “LSU Forever” and “This statue is for ever,” it read on each side.
“The man deserves it,” Halsey said.
Leslie Tassin clutched two books he had purchased on Maravich, including a vintage 1969 publication with his likeness on the cover.
“I can close my eyes and see him dribbling the ball in the Old Cow Palace,” he said.
Perry Segura, a former LSU board member, recalled that, when Maravich played freshmen basketball (freshmen were separate from the varsity team at the time), more people would attend the freshmen basketball games than attended the varsity games.
“People loved LSU for football — not basketball — until Pete came to LSU,” he said. “It would be a horrible mistake if LSU didn’t honor him.”
But not everyone was happy about the image the university’s decision and the belabored discussion projected during a time of financial stress. LSU has prepared an outline of $65 million in cuts it would have to make if the state Legislature is unable to fill a $750 million budget hole before June 30.
Kevin Cope, president of the Faculty Senate, asked the board to consider the message a statue would send to faculty who haven’t seen raises in recent years and to taxpayers who have heard a constant message of doom and gloom with regard to the university’s finances.
“We wonder, in this time of budget stress, what kind of message does it send to the public?” Cope said.
He also questioned why there isn’t a process for erecting statues to honor academics.
Board member Blake Chatelain said the university is considering a policy that would set up a similar process for nonathletes.