During a scramble at last week’s Southeastern Conference Spring Meeting, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva had a hole-in-one.
You could say he’s been coming up aces a lot lately.
For as long as I can remember, it has rarely if ever been popular to give props to LSU’s A.D. Every decision is second-guessed, and certain to rub at least one constituency the wrong way.
Alleva didn’t hire Les Miles, so his fortunes aren’t tied directly to him, and he has generally has maintained a low profile compared to his two predecessors, legendary baseball coach Skip Bertman and Mr. String Music Joe Dean.
This year, LSU’s athletic fortunes have experienced some great highs and dismal lows. Football finished No. 8 and LSU’s Austin Ernst and John Peterson became the first golfers from the same school to win NCAA titles in the same year. But for the first time since 1983 men’s and women’s basketball and baseball all missed their respective NCAA tournaments in the same year.
Lately, though, there have been signs of promise. Men’s basketball plundered through a six-game exhibition tour of Italy, giving hope that the Tigers will return to postseason play after back-to-back dismal campaigns under Alleva hire Trent Johnson. Johnson has the chops to right the ship, and this season will be a huge test.
Meanwhile, Alleva has scored big time in his last two hires, luring rising women’s basketball star Nikki Caldwell away from UCLA and this week plucking established softball star Patrick Murphy from SEC West rival Alabama.
Caldwell’s hire continues to generate positive buzz. Murphy’s hire is a complete stunner, landing a coach with seven Women’s College World Series appearances. It’s the kind of hire a lot of A.D.’s would have talked themselves out of before even making the call.
“It’s like being single and seeing a beautiful young lady,” Alleva said. “You’re never going to get a date unless you ask.”
With both Caldwell and Murphy, Alleva landed the coaches who appeared to be his No. 1 choices.
Alleva has still caught heat for his spending. He’s paying Caldwell $750,000 per year, making her LSU’s highest-paid women’s coach ever. And Alleva said Murphy will be one of the five highest-paid softball coaches in the nation.
Alleva makes no apologies.
“My job is to help us compete at the highest level and to strive for excellence,” he said. “To do that, you have to have good people. It doesn’t pay to be cheap.”
Alleva’s profile will soon ramp up even more as he joins the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee - the most high-profile NCAA committee there is - for a five-year term starting in September.
His seat on the tournament selection committee will enhance his and LSU’s reputation (he’s the first LSU person on it). Ultimately, Alleva’s legacy will be judged by the people around him.
Lately, you have to judge him pretty favorably.