The divorce between Ed Orgeron and Matt Canada has been like a lot of splits.
It’s been long and drawn out. It’s been messy. And now it’s public.
Reports surfaced Wednesday night that Canada, LSU’s offensive coordinator, will likely be out after Monday’s Citrus Bowl against Notre Dame.
Officially there was no news, but indications are strong that Canada’s New Year’s resolution will be to find a new landing pad for his jet sweeps and multiple shift formations.
Canada was running drills Wednesday as the Tigers worked out in their indoor facility before flying to Orlando, Florida, on Thursday. He was at one end of the building, while Orgeron was supervising a drill at the other.
The symbolism was rich, to say the least.
It’s not clear when the Orgeron-Canada relationship hit the skids, but it clearly has been damaged since LSU’s 24-21 upset loss to Troy in late September. In the first half of that game, LSU clearly abandoned the principles of Canada’s offense and was shut out before going back to his offense and mounting a rally that came up just short.
Before practice, Orgeron bristled at a question about the state of his relationship with Canada. Famously, Coach O, Canada, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and athletic director Joe Alleva had a meeting after the Troy debacle to “get on the same page,” to use an Orgeron term. But he made it clear who has the ultimate say.
LSU plans to split with Matt Canada after the Citrus Bowl.
“I’m the head coach,” he said Wednesday during a news conference. “And we’re going to do what I want to do.”
The Tigers rebounded to win six of their seven games after that, but apparently the cracks in the Orgeron-Canada rift didn’t get any smaller. This doesn’t appear to be a one-sided problem, but one in which there is blame to be meted out on both sides. There was no prior relationship between Orgeron and Canada, and the friction built up to a fractious level.
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Now the question is not only whether Canada will be gone after this game, but it has to be asked whether he will coach even in the Citrus Bowl.
There are a couple of media availabilities leading up to the game that could speak volumes about this gridiron drama.
Orgeron is scheduled to meet with the media Thursday evening in Orlando shortly after the Tigers fly into town. Friday there is a news conference scheduled with the offensive and defensive coordinators from both teams and selected key players. Whether Orgeron addresses the story or not, or whether Canada shows up or not, it’s going to be news.
In fact, from LSU’s perspective, this whole episode could be more meaningful than the result of the Citrus Bowl itself.
And who would replace Canada? We can assume Ron Mexico, a fake name Michael Vick once used, isn’t on the short list.
Orgeron spoke glowingly about tight ends coach Steve Ensminger after the Texas A&M game, as he rightly should. Ensminger’s turn as LSU’s interim offensive coordinator over the Tigers’ final eight games did as much as anything to help Orgeron secure the job full-time as anything else, as he steered the offense toward the more pro-style elements of the playbook. Orgeron hasn’t forgotten, and it’s a good bet his familiarity and indebtedness to Enminger may make him his choice.
Would he be the best choice for LSU? Certainly Ensminger wouldn’t be the most flashy choice compared to some of the other more proactive-looking coaching changes that have been made around the Southeastern Conference this year. Considering that Ensminger will be 60 before next season, he wouldn’t be the long-term choice, either. But even one year can be a long time in college football.
Just look to the Orgeron-Canada relationship for proof of that.