The buffet and the beer taps will be empty Wednesday.
The LSU marching band won’t be booming “Hold that Tiger” off the glass ceiling of the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium.
And no one from LSU’s coaching staff will be questioning any recruit’s “chest” if he doesn’t sign with the Tigers. Certainly not on a stage in front of hundreds of people.
That’s because there won’t be a stage. Or a Bayou Recruiting Bash.
The NCAA turned the recruiting calendar on its ear this academic year when it created a football early signing period in December. Most schools signed 70-75 percent of their recruiting classes then. LSU signed even more — 21 in all.
The NCAA also put a hard cap on signing classes at 25, ending the wink-and-a-nod loopholes that allowed schools to sign two or five or 10 more players per year. That means LSU will sign four players Wednesday. All likely big-name recruits, certainly — but even in a state that lives to party, four signatures is a thin baseline on which to build an entire day of eating and drinking and talking football.
“Why pay $2,000 for a table to come when you already know what (the signing class) going to be?” said Chico Moore, one of LSU’s most famous longtime local football boosters and a Bayou Bash organizer with the Gridiron Club.
“You can throw a party, but it costs so much to throw a party.”
Still, it does seem strange that The Bash — a staple of the local sports scene for 22 years and the first event of its kind nationally — has gone from a living, breathing event to a memory in the sweep of one year. Stranger still when other state schools are still playing up their signing day parties as in the past.
“My Januarys were always tied up with the bash,” said Chuck Goodwin, who organized the event the past 11 years with the Gridiron Club, LSU’s prime football booster group. “This will be kind of different.”
Goodwin said Gridiron Club members understood why the Bayou Recruiting Bash wouldn’t happen this year.
“We sent a note to our members saying we weren’t going to have it,” Goodwin said. “They asked if moving national signing day to December messed it up, and we said yes.”
There are some indelible memories associated with the Bayou Bash, though. Three of them spring immediately to mind:
1997: The bash came to be in 1996 under then-LSU coach Gerry DiNardo and was held, believe it or not, in LSU’s Carl Maddox Field House (NCAA rules later forced it to move off campus). During the 1997 bash, DiNardo took the stage to address the crowd when he suddenly stopped to take a call on his cell phone. Everyone in the house had the same thought: He’s getting a call from Travis Minor, the sought-after running back from Catholic High. Turned out, Minor wasn’t on the other end, and he ended up as expected at Florida State. But the anticipation was like something out of a movie.
2007: Nick Saban had just left the Miami Dolphins for Alabama, and naturally the talk was already of the “Saban Bowl” in November between the Tigers and Crimson Tide. LSU had the better of Bama from 2000-06 under Saban and Miles, going 6-1, but the talk was already of how Saban would rebuild the Crimson Tide’s football fortunes. Apparently, that got under Miles’ skin. “We’re looking forward to playing Florida,” Miles said. “We’re looking forward to playing Auburn. But we have a new rival in (bleeping) Alabama!” Miles’ Tigers won the game that year en route to the BCS title, and in 2010 and 2011, but the loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS championship game started a skid that eventually helped lead to Miles’ downfall. Still, I miss Miles even now, because of moments like that.
2012: See LSU recruit Gunner Kiel, a quarterback from Indiana. See him decommit and sign with Notre Dame. See Miles stand up at the Bayou Recruiting Bash and say that some unnamed players don’t have the “chest” to be an LSU quarterback. Miles was widely bashed for that Bash remark — but not by Gunner Kiel, who told The Advocate the following January before the BCS championship game in Miami between Bama and Notre Dame that he understood why Miles (who later softened his remarks on Kiel) said what he said.
"I don't blame him at all,” Kiel said. “I was dumb during the recruiting process. I couldn't make up my mind, but I was also doing what was best for me at the time, which was picking a college."
Moore and Goodwin say the Gridiron Club is working on a new football-related event to replace the Bayou Recruiting Bash, which among other things was a major fundraiser for the club. An announcement is expected soon.
Hopefully, whatever that event is, Miles will make an appearance one day, emerging from the curtains at one end of the stage, while Kiel emerges from the other.
They meet in the middle. Miles thumps Kiel on the chest. And they hug.