LSU still has no plans to erect a statue for basketball legend Pete Maravich, despite mounting pressure from some powerful people and the university governing board’s need to readdress the campus statue policy.
Maravich, who died in 1988 at the age of 40, is considered one of the greatest college basketball players of all time, but a little-known — and now questioned — list of criteria for statue honorees has been cited as a reason why there isn’t one of him on his alma mater’s campus.
It requires that honorees have obtained degrees from LSU or other higher education institutions — criteria Maravich wouldn’t meet because he left LSU to play professional basketball before earning his degree.
The LSU Board of Supervisors is slated to take up its student-athlete statue policy during its regular meeting Friday, but it appears the plan isn’t to change the criteria outlined or make an exception for Maravich.
The board has never formally adopted the oft-cited policy that was drafted in 2011.
Athletics Committee Chair Blake Chatelain said he would be open to discussion when the policy comes up in his committee Friday, but the current plan is to adopt the version that was never previously approved.
If enacted as presented to the board, the policy, formally called the “LSU criteria for recognition by statue (life-size): Former student athletes,” would hold the same requirements as the university has consistently cited throughout the Maravich debate — including the degree requirement.
Other criteria former student athletes have to have met before earning a statue on campus: earned at least two varsity letters at LSU; waited 10 years since last competing for LSU; received the highest collegiate award given in his/her sport; made “significant accomplishments” in the sport outside of LSU; and established a reputation for character that reflects favorably upon LSU.
It’s unclear whether any LSU board members will wade into the Maravich debate at the upcoming meeting, but a lobby campaign in favor of a statue honoring “Pistol” Pete has been growing over the past year.
Last year, the state Legislature unanimously approved a resolution that called on LSU to erect a Maravich statue.
State Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, said he hasn’t heard anything from LSU since signing the legislative resolution during a ceremony last May that featured Maravich’s widow, Jackie McLachlan.
Bobby Jindal, while he was still governor, also got involved. He sent letters on official letterhead to LSU board members, urging them to intervene to honor Maravich. The governor appoints the LSU board.
Neither the governor nor the Legislature has offered any suggestions for who would pay for the statue. LSU and other higher education institutions in Louisiana are facing deep funding cuts if lawmakers don’t come up with additional revenue sources for the current budget year.
The outlook for next year is even worse, with the state facing a $1.9 billion shortfall that would leave higher education vulnerable to cuts.
McLachlan said she isn’t asking the school to foot the bill. She would be happy to take part in a fundraising effort to pay for the tribute, she said.
McLachlan said she would like for LSU fans to be able to snap photos with a statue of her late husband, as they do with the statue of former LSU star player Shaquille O’Neal and the nearby statue of the school’s tiger mascot, Mike.
“(Maravich) has so many fans that loved him who would support it,” she said.
McLachlan said she was promised that a statue of Maravich would be built in front of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center when the basketball arena was renamed in his honor.
“It has just kind of fallen through the cracks,” she said.
She said she’s heard about the policy that has been preventing the honor for Maravich but expressed frustration over the criteria.
“They have a building named after him, and Mike the Tiger doesn’t have a diploma that I know of,” she joked.