EDITOR'S NOTE

LSU has named Ed Orgeron its next football coach, according to multiple sources. A press conference will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday to announce the hire. Full story

ORIGINAL STORY

LSU's football coaching search is down to two.

Athletic director Joe Alleva and interim coach Ed Orgeron met Friday morning to discuss Orgeron’s candidacy as LSU's full-time coach, and the school continues to harbor hopes of landing Houston coach Tom Herman, multiple sources told The Advocate.

The Tigers have heavily courted Herman, perhaps the hottest and most sought-after coaching candidate in college football. LSU began actively pursuing Herman several days ago, and he remains the top target, a source confirmed.

The program is preparing to meet with Herman on Saturday and present an offer to the coach, a high-level source confirmed.

The search is winding down, and leaders expect to make a decision by Sunday, but that is contingent on Herman's interest in the job at Texas. According to the Scout.com website HornsDigest.com, Texas is expected to fire embattled current coach Charlie Strong on Saturday and also meet with Herman.

ESPN.com and HornsDigest.com reported Thursday that LSU and Herman were deep in talks and could close on a deal as early as Saturday. The reports sparked Texas officials late Thursday to meet with Herman’s agent, Trace Armstrong, FootballScoop.com reported. 

That seems to have thrown Texas and LSU into a high-stakes game for Herman, something LSU's leaders hoped to avoid. Many feel Herman covets the Texas job and that his agent fed information to Texas officials and/or reporters who cover that school regarding LSU's negations with his client.

LSU leaders feared Texas' emergence in the coaching search arena. The Longhorns are desperate and wealthy, though going into the weekend it was believed that there was a chance Strong could be retained. Those chances appear to have ended Friday with a 31-9 loss at home to TCU. Texas finished 5-7, the third losing season in as many years under Strong.

"We're not going to miss out on any (coach) for a certain amount of money," an LSU source told The Advocate. "But we're not going to be lunatics."

Herman, a 41-year-old in his second year with the Cougars, is considered the ideal man LSU leaders are seeking: an up-and-coming, offensive-minded, sitting head coach who reminds many of a young Urban Meyer, who has led Florida and Ohio State to national titles.

Meanwhile, there's Orgeron, the 55-year-old Cajun who has led LSU to a 5-2 record after replacing Les Miles in September.

Multiple sources confirmed Alleva and Orgeron met Friday morning, less than 12 hours after LSU returned from a 54-39 victory at Texas A&M. Details of the meeting were not shared, but Orgeron remains a serious candidate to replace Miles in the full-time role.

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In the meeting with Alleva, Orgeron was expected to lay out a long-term plan that likely includes hiring an offensive coordinator with a proven and successful track record. It’s no secret who is at the top of his list: Lane Kiffin, the offensive coordinator at Alabama and a good friend and former co-worker of Orgeron.

Orgeron's hiring of an offensive "guru" to call plays is imperative with those conducting LSU's search. Leaders feel confident LSU will keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda with the hiring of Orgeron, another key component.

Also, Orgeron’s contract would be more economical for LSU, allowing the school to pay more than $1.5 million to its coordinators. Aranda signed a three-year contract in January paying him $1.2 million a year, and during the search process for a new head coach, the first-year assistant reciprocated LSU’s interest in him remaining with the program, sources said.

Herman, who was in college together with Aranda at Cal Lutheran, is the highest-paid coach among programs outside the "Power Five" conferences, making $3 million annually.

The Houston Chronicle reported Thursday night that the Cougars are offering Herman an extension and a seven-figure increase in total compensation. Houston finished 9-3 with a 48-44 loss Friday at Memphis. Last year, in Herman's first season, the Cougars went 13-1 and won the Peach Bowl over Florida State.

Herman, the offensive coordinator under Meyer at Ohio State from 2012-14, has a reported $2.25 million buyout clause in his contract. LSU paid Miles $4.3 million per year and is responsible for a $9.6 million buyout the university will pay over six years. That will be mitigated if Miles lands another job.

During a television interview before Houston's loss at Memphis, Herman was asked what he told his players about reports there were schools interested in him. 

"Honestly, don't believe anything you read," he said he told his players.

LSU leaders met last weekend to formulate their plan, and now it's coming into view. Decision-makers narrowed a list of candidates to Orgeron, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and Herman. Representatives for LSU discussed contract specifications with Fisher's agent, Jimmy Sexton, but the negotiations never went too far, an LSU source confirmed. 

Several outlets reported the Tigers made an offer to Fisher. LSU leaders denied that.

Orgeron was considered the favorite to land the full-time job if the No. 25 Tigers (7-4) had beaten Florida and Texas A&M, a result that likely would have sent them to the Sugar Bowl. After Thursday's win over the Aggies, Orgeron indicated he missed an opportunity to lock up the job. The Gators stuffed running back Derrius Guice on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line on the final play of LSU's 16-10 loss last week.

"I just wish we would have beaten Florida,” Orgeron said. "Came up short there. That's the only thing I'd like to take back."

Orgeron would not confirm his meeting with Alleva after the game Thursday, and he declined comment on what he might say to Alleva. 

"Joe asked me to do my best on a daily basis. That’s all been discussed. That’s all I’ve done. I’m sure things are coming up. I’ll take it one game at a time," Orgeron said. "I’ve been treated like the head coach here on a daily basis. I’ve not been treated like an interim coach. I couldn’t be more appreciative of him and the president. It was a great opportunity for me."

The players have made their feelings known about Orgeron. They chanted, "Keep Coach O!" in the locker room after the win, and they insisted during postgame interviews that LSU needed to hire him full-time.

“We want Coach O,” center Ethan Pocic said. “At the end of the day, we can’t go burn LSU down if that doesn’t happen, but we want Coach O. We were playing tonight for Coach O.”

The Tigers rolled up 622 yards and at one point led 41-17 against A&M (8-4, 4-4) at Kyle Field, an exclamation point on a disappointing season. LSU began in the preseason top five and finished with four regular-season losses for just the fifth time in the past 17 years. 

LSU fired Miles Sept. 26, just four games into the season, before promoting Orgeron as interim coach. He has led the program to a 5-2 record, with narrow losses to undefeated and top-ranked Alabama and Florida.

He now has more wins (11) in 15 games as an interim coach than he had in 35 games as head coach at Ole Miss (10) from 2005-07. He went 6-2 as interim coach at Southern California in 2013, when administrators replaced Kiffin with Orgeron.

An interim coach landing the full-time job is rare, but it does happen. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney went 4-3 in the interim after the school fired Tommy Bowden in 2008. Phillip Fulmer went 4-0 in an interim role in 1992 when Tennessee pushed out Johnny Majors. 

LSU leaders, though, are infatuated with Herman, who has been successful in doing the one thing LSU craves: developing quarterbacks and being creative offensively.

At Houston, Herman worked with Greg Ward Jr., a three-star recruit who blossomed into one of college football’s most dynamic players. Herman’s quarterback-tutoring talent also was evident at Ohio State as offensive coordinator, working with Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.

Herman's 2014 Ohio State offense finished the season ranked fifth in scoring offense at 44.8 points per game and ninth in total offense at 511.6 yards per game despite losing Heisman Trophy candidate Miller before the season. The Buckeyes claimed the 2014 Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoff semifinals with a 59-0 win over Wisconsin as Herman's offense rolled to 558 yards with Jones under center after an injury to Barrett in the regular-season finale.

As a head coach, Herman dominated since he stepped onto Houston’s campus for the 2015 season, winning his first 10 games. His success in Year 1 made Herman just the fourth head coach in NCAA history with at least 13 wins in a rookie season.

Houston ended the 2015 season at No. 8 in the final Associated Press and coaches polls, the highest final finish since finishing No. 5 in 1979 and just the sixth time in program history to finish in the top 10.

This season, Herman is again having big success. The Cougars are 9-3, though those three losses are a trio of unexpected stumbles — a 46-40 loss at Navy, a shocking 38-16 loss at SMU and a 48-44 defeat Friday in Memphis. The hype around Herman decreased after the loss in Dallas, but it ramped up again after Herman’s team dispatched high-powered Louisville 36-10 on Nov. 17.

 

High-flying Herman

Tom Herman has been an offensive coordinator or head coach at four FBS schools in his career. Here’s a look at where his offenses ranked nationally each season:

Rice (OC)

2007: 52

2008: 10

Iowa State (OC)

2009: 73

2010: 99

2011: 60

Ohio State (OC)

2012: 46

2013: 7

2014: 9

Houston (head coach)

2015: 20

2016: 46*

*through 11 games

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.