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 was winning Thursday night, but it looked like it was losing, too.

The Tigers were paving Kyle Field with Aggies maroon and khaki in a physically overwhelming 54-39 victory at Texas A&M. But in the ether of LSU’s highly publicized and critically important coaching search, it looked like LSU was getting played.

First came word that Florida State coach and former LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher was out of the mix, either simply deciding to stay in Tallahassee (plausible) or pricing himself out of LSU’s market. (Jimmy Sexton is his agent, so what do you think?) Around kickoff, word began to break just west of College Station in Austin (an important point to remember) that LSU was closing in on a deal with Houston coach Tom Herman, the apple of both the Tigers' and the Longhorns’ eye.

It seemed like Herman — who, according to everyone but him, returns Texas’ affections — was LSU’s fallback candidate once Fisher slid off the board.

But there’s another possibility: It could be Fisher was the fake in LSU’s run-pass option — and that Herman was LSU’s favorite all along.

 

Fisher is a great candidate and, were LSU have been able to convince him to move, would have been the most accomplished coach LSU ever landed in any sport. Can you think of another coach who came to LSU already toting a national championship ring as a head coach?

At 51, though, Fisher doesn’t fit the target demographic LSU is combing college football for as well as the 41-year-old Herman does. LSU ideally wants the next Urban Meyer — a young, charismatic coach just beginning to ascend the upslope of his massive potential.

Now the 55-year-old Ed Orgeron doesn’t fit the ideal template, either, being older and with his career spent on the defensive side of the ball. But LSU feels it has to make a move soon regardless.

Apparently in the wake of his redemptive romp over Texas A&M, LSU won’t move past Orgeron if Herman decides not to accept LSU’s advances. It won’t dip down to North Carolina’s Larry Fedora or Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente, who may be the poor man’s Herman from LSU’s perspective. It won’t come calling on Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and his magnificent mullet. It’s certainly not going to court Louisville’s Bobby Petrino as a matter of principle.

If it’s easy to assume LSU could botch a coaching search, why is it so hard to assume LSU could be playing one with a deft touch? If it weren’t for what we can all assume were leaks by Herman’s agent, Trace Armstrong, with media in Texas to prod UT to the bargaining table, LSU may have pulled this hidden ball trick off completely. But secrets are dearly bought at times like these, and when agents get involved, the price can be higher than anyone can imagine.

Armstrong’s aggressive tactics certainly aren’t enough to scare LSU off Herman or make its search group feel like it can’t take on the burnt orange monolith and its mountain of greenbacks. LSU took the time since firing Les Miles in late September to painstakingly vet its candidates and concluded Herman was the man for them.

That didn’t, of course, stop ESPN college football analyst Mark May from carelessly blasting LSU for being the one to leak word that it was closing in on hiring Herman. May only needed to pull out an old-fashioned map to see the story was coming from Austin, not Baton Rouge.

Being skewered by the Wrongway Feldmans of the college football world shouldn’t deter LSU from its mission. If it’s Herman, it’s Herman, although Texas’ 31-9 loss to TCU on Friday reportedly will finally prompt Texas to fire Charlie Strong and make Herman unattainable for LSU — if he really, really covets the Texas job as much as everyone says. If it’s Orgeron, it’s Orgeron, although for him the critical part will be fitting his staff with the right assistants to make his tenure sing, particularly at offensive coordinator.

That these two men are LSU’s final choices is something of a triumph for LSU at this point. There are camps to lobby for both candidates. With Herman, LSU is betting on the next big thing, a coach lauded by football people for his football acumen. With Orgeron, LSU would be getting someone who embodies the warmth and passion of Louisiana, experienced and well connected.

The view here is LSU should try for Herman to try to tap into his vast potential. It’s time for LSU athletic director Joe Alleva to close the deal with his top choice and prove the search to this point hasn’t been a random mess but a game plan that worked. But it’s difficult if not impossible to root against Orgeron — for who he is, what he represents and the job he has done as LSU’s interim coach.

Either way, we’re about to see the fruits of LSU’s labor, smiling from a podium in LSU’s administration building. It’ll be up to either man to keep the smiles coming.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​