Rabalais: Fortunately, LSU’s Joe Alleva realizes bigger isn’t always better _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU's Tiger Stadium.

The number to beat is 109,901. That’s the capacity of Michigan Stadium, a.k.a. “The Big House.”

It doesn’t appear likely LSU’s Tiger Stadium will ever mount a challenge.

The oak trees lining North Stadium Drive probably shivered with a sigh of relief Monday when they heard Athletic Director Joe Alleva say he doesn’t think Tiger Stadium needs to be expanded beyond this year’s project to stack the south end zone with more club seats and suites.

That means they won’t get cut down in the name of expanding Tiger Stadium to 110,000 or whatever the number would be to do a north end zone expansion similar to the one now being built on the south end.

Tiger Stadium’s capacity will be just north of 100,000, Alleva said, though a final number hasn’t been released. If so, the 90-year-old coliseum will be the seventh 100,000-seat stadium in the country, joining Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee, Ohio State, Alabama and Texas.

And that may be it for Death Valley expansion. Ever. It probably should be. Alleva said he couldn’t foresee the need to enlarge the stadium further and said he could envision a day when Tiger Stadium’s capacity actually goes back down again in order to install more and more comfortable chairback seats, which currently don’t exist in the end zone seating areas.

The focus, where it should be, is now increasingly more on enhancing the fan experience than seeing if you can one day out-Big House the Big House.

Two new video replay screens in the south end. A new sound system put in last year. More and better restrooms. (There’s always a call for those.) All are on the short list of Tiger Stadium enhancements to try to convince you, the fan, to come out to the ballgame instead of parking in front of your 50-inch high-def screen. Fans are still buying tickets but are starting to stay away in increasing numbers, an alarming trend not only at LSU but nationwide.

“We were sold out for the Florida game but only had 73,000 people in the stands,” LSU President F. King Alexander said Tuesday.

Personally, I don’t think Tiger Stadium will be filled to capacity this fall except for the Alabama game and possibly Ole Miss.

As they said in the movie “The Right Stuff,” the press likes a nice, round number. And 100,000 is as nice and round as Tiger Stadium probably ever needs to be.

  • Hey Lamar Louis, Corey Thompson, Vadal Alexander, Danielle Hunter, Deion Jones and the rest of you LSU football juniors: Check out these numbers while you’re deciding whether to give up your senior year to turn pro in 2015:

Of the record 98 underclassmen who declared for this year’s draft, 36 of them (40 percent) went completely undrafted. That number included former LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who signed a free-agent contract with the Miami Dolphins.

Now the old standard touted by coach Les Miles may no longer be a measuring stick for everyone. Miles said for years a player should be a likely first-rounder before coming out early. Former Tigers running back Jeremy Hill was drafted in the second round, and considering there hasn’t been a running back taken in the first round in two straight drafts, Hill probably was unlikely to improve on being the 55th overall pick to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Still, there are a lot of very good players getting bad advice on entering early from agents and even family members, players who may think they’re getting played by their coaches to entice them to return.

Are there some coaches advising players in their best interests? Sure. But consider this: Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly has come out saying he prefers players with degrees. Six of the Eagles’ seven draft picks have graduated; the seventh is reportedly within a year’s credit hours from doing so.

  • If you needed any further convincing that football and football talk are now 24/7, 365, we submit that while they’re still breaking down the set from the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall, the preseason college football magazines are starting to bloom like wildflowers.

Athlon chimed in Tuesday by announcing that LSU is its No. 19 team — fourth in the SEC West behind Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss.

One last jolt to get the juices flowing: SEC Football Media Days begin two months from Wednesday.

  • From the “You’ve Got To Be Kidding” Department, Texas A&M system regent Jim Schwertner wants to rename Kyle Field, “Kyle Field: The House That Johnny Built,” in honor of Aggie Ex Johnny Manziel once the stadium’s $450 million renovation is completed for the 2015 season.

Mr. Schwertner, couldn’t there be a teensy pressing academic issue or two worth your attention more than this ridiculous idea?

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter @RabalaisAdv.