Alabama’s Saban wants commissioner for 'wild, wild west' satellite camps _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU head coach Les Miles, left, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, right, chat before the game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Tuscaloosa.

In November 1999, LSU rocked the college football world by paying Nick Saban the then king’s ransom-like figure of $1.2 million per year, prying him away from Michigan State, which wouldn’t or couldn’t make a substantial counter offer.

LSU’s biographical page of Saban back then described him as “no nonsense.”

No kidding.

OK, enough about Saban. This is about the man who’s going to be coaching against him next fall (Unless Saban retires first. Fat chance.) and in the years after that.

Simply put, LSU needs to take a page from its own playbook of 17 years ago and implement it by rocking the college football world with its next hire — and what it’s willing to do to go get that person.

There are already stories flying that LSU is working through back channels to make a deal with this or that coach. It’s all way too premature. Does LSU know who it wants most? I’m sure. But at this stage, two, 2½, three months from a final hire, it’s all rampant speculation.

This much can be assumed: LSU wouldn’t part with a coach like Les Miles after 11-plus seasons, with his 114-34 record and his BCS national championship, if the school’s administration wasn’t convinced that it could make a significant hire at the position. FootballScoop.com, a reputable college coaching website, said LSU has gauged interest of the likes of Saban, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher (the celebrated target last November when Miles was on the ropes), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and the flavor of the year, second-year Houston coach Tom Herman.

The ripples from the Miles firing are being felt nationwide. Meyer, Fisher, Herman and Stanford’s David Shaw (another name generating some chatter regarding the LSU job) were all forced Sunday and Monday to deal with questions about LSU, either denying contact and/or denying they would ever leave their schools.

Of course, most coaches have said that at one time or another.

If this fact can’t be assumed, it darned likely will come to pass: Some head coach somewhere will deny he has been contacted by LSU or that he will leave the school he’s at, but sometime after that he will be standing at the podium before a crowded news conference with a gold LSU pin on his lapel.

Athletic director Joe Alleva is determined to hire someone with head coaching experience. He doesn’t have to have started the season as a head coach — insert interim LSU head coach Ed Orgeron into the discussion here — but he has to have occupied the big office at some point in his past.

LSU was at the point in 1999 of pivoting its search to coordinators when Sean Touhy called his friend, the late LSU athletic director Joe Dean, on behalf of another of Touhy’s friends, super agent Jimmy Sexton. Touhy asked Dean if LSU would be interested in Saban … and you know the rest.

LSU is beyond the point of settling for coordinators this time. Or the kind of coach who was 28-21 in four years at Oklahoma State like Miles was when LSU hired him in 2005. Somehow, Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury got onto a list of the odds-on favorites to get the LSU job.

Kingsbury is a decent young coach and would leave his alma mater for the right price to come to LSU. But he’s 21-20 at Texas Tech, where his teams are offense plus but don’t play a lick of defense. If Kingsbury is who LSU has to end up hiring, it would have been far better off sticking with Miles.

No, LSU has to go big. Go after a huge, tidal wave-making name, like Alabama did when it pried Saban away from the Miami Dolphins and like Michigan did when it brought home Jim Harbaugh from the San Francisco 49ers.

If LSU were to make say, Shaw, its top target, it would have to come with, to borrow a Milesism, a “damn strong” offer. Shaw is coaching at his alma mater — where he isn’t the football coach but the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football (eyes rolling in three, two, one …) — and is paid at least $4.1 million per year (as of 2014). It would likely take 5, 6, dare we say $7 million a year to get him off the west coast where he’s worked his entire career except for a year with the Philadelphia Eagles and four with the Baltimore Ravens.

LSU has to be prepared to pay someone significantly more than the $4.35 million per year Miles were guaranteed. If not, what was all this for?

All this being said, the Orgeron factor should not be ignored. Despite the Tigers’ tepid 2-2 record (1-1 Southeastern Conference) there is talent enough on this team to win any and all of the games remaining on LSU’s schedule. Should Orgeron win all of them/enough of them, he would have earned a chance to take the interim tag off his job title.

I've wondered for a couple of years now who my first call would be. Herman is a great bet though his sample size — 18 games, albeit at a sprightly 17-1 clip — is small. He may be great, but he may be a risk. 

This is all a risk, of course. I'd try first to mitigate the risk by hiring Fisher, who knows LSU and its machinations and knows the state and how to recruit it. He's got the experience, the résumé and certainly didn't shut LSU down in November when he was mentioned as Miles' successor.

Fisher, by the way, makes $5.15 million per year, a figure Florida State is sure to increase to keep him. LSU fancies itself a major player with the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Michigan and Florida State. All those schools, plus Texas and Texas A&M, are paying their coaches $5 million or more. LSU has to be prepared to do the same, to make Saban’s starting salary from 1999 look quaint by comparison.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​