Ed Orgeron got the job he said he always wanted Saturday, being named LSU’s long-term head coach.
Joe Alleva already has the job as LSU’s athletic director, but his job is squarely on the line.
This isn’t news to Alleva, or any athletic director, really. At a school like LSU, hiring football coaches is your greatest legacy. Even Skip Bertman, who hired Les Miles in 2005 when he was athletic director, told Miles that Miles' hire would be how he would be remembered at LSU.
Bertman has often been given to a bit of hyperbole — those five NCAA baseball championships of his still loom pretty large. But Miles’ tenure, for good and bad, is a huge chapter in Bertman’s era at LSU.
In September, Alleva fired Miles, the winningest coach (by percentage) in LSU football history. This after ramping up to fire Miles the previous November, only to be vetoed at the last minute by LSU President F. King Alexander. Had that not happened, it’s highly likely Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, and not Orgeron, would be LSU’s coach today.
Alleva spearheaded a search for Miles' successor, vetting 10 to 12 candidates over the past two months. He considered Fisher anew and targeted Tom Herman but never lost sight of Orgeron, what he did and could do as proved during what Alleva himself called a seven-game “audition” as LSU’s interim coach.
LSU is sticking with Ed Orgeron, giving the interim football coach his dream job on a perman…
LSU was in deep with Herman, but the playing field tilted west when Texas got into the mix. A leak of LSU’s negotiations with Herman — by all indications coming from Herman’s agent, Trace Armstrong, and not from LSU — exposed LSU’s plans to try to land Herman.
It doesn’t mean LSU’s plan was bad. Neither does it mean LSU’s play to hire Orgeron is the wrong choice. Whether LSU is settling instead of trying to go back out to land Justin Fuente from Virginia Tech or Larry Fedora from North Carolina or even P.J. Fleck from Western Michigan is a matter of unanswerable debate.
Orgeron is a divisive hire, without a doubt.
There are those who will gravitate to his down-home Louisiana earthiness, a man of its native people.
There are those who won’t forget he won just 10 games in three seasons as head coach at Ole Miss, and rightly so. It’s a huge part of his history, and it raises a huge question as to whether he’s a long-term solution or better suited being a short-term fix, as he proved to be at LSU and Southern California.
Alleva was aware of that, too.
“There will be some critics that say, ‘Oh, look at his record at Ole Miss,’ ” Alleva said. “You know what? That was a long time ago. In this world, people learn more from their mistakes and their failures than they do from their successes.”
Alleva said he learned things during this coaching search. LSU fans concerned by some of his past hires certainly hope so.
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Alleva hired Trent Johnson as men’s basketball coach, though that comes with a bit of a qualifier. Alleva was hired in 2008, just as LSU was looking to replace John Brady and probably didn’t understand how bad a fit Johnson (who had a great résumé as a coach at Nevada and Stanford) would be in Louisiana. (Johnson left for TCU after an SEC title, two losing seasons and an 18-15 season that ended in the NIT.) Then he hired current coach Johnny Jones, a former LSU player and Louisianan like Orgeron who is clearly on the hot seat as his team struggles through the early non-conference schedule.
Women’s coach Nikki Fargas is coming off a 10-win season and is also feeling the pressure, but she was another Alleva hire that anyone would have made: a winning coach at UCLA who played and coached under Pat Summitt at Tennessee.
He thought he had wrenched super-successful softball coach Pat Murphy away from Alabama until Murphy did an about-face and returned to Tuscaloosa. That led Alleva to make what currently stands as his best high-profile hire in Beth Torina, who has led LSU to three Women’s College World Series appearances in five years.
Could LSU find itself reduced to a second-class football power with Orgeron’s hire? The argument can be made that LSU has already slipped to that level, hence the firing of Miles.
The reports that surfaced Thursday night during LSU's game against Texas A&M were "orche…
But there is always a risk with any coaching change. It's only with a twist of revisionist history that LSU fans look back and don't think Nick Saban's hiring carried with it some significant risks as well. At the time, plenty of detractors were saying, "Why are we hiring this guy? All he does is go 6-5 every year," which had a ring of truth to it then. And let's not forget, many scoffed at the money LSU ponied up, a then-staggering $1.2 million per year, in December 1999.
This will almost certainly be Alleva’s one and only football hire at LSU. If Orgeron wins, Alleva will be remembered for it when he retires. If Orgeron doesn’t win, a broom probably sweeps clean both the football coach’s and athletic director’s offices.
Alleva will take that bargain. He was, admittedly, surprisingly impressed with Orgeron’s acumen as a program manager and organizer over the past two months. His level of organization culminated in an impressive meeting Friday with LSU’s search committee, a group that didn’t think long in choosing Orgeron after Texas lost to TCU on Friday. It was apparent then that Texas would fire Charlie Strong and open the door that Herman wanted to walk through in Austin.
Alleva introduced Orgeron at a news conference Saturday and, as he did, the two embraced.
Will LSU fans ever embrace Alleva as openly as they will Orgeron if he wins? No. But to Alleva, that doesn’t matter. He did his job the way he thought he should, and for him that’s what will count.