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Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne answers a question during the final gubernatorial debate held at LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015.

LSU is in a crisis.

If you see a university racked by divisions because of its football program, it’s a crisis.

If you see a football program with a university attached, it’s still a crisis.

Time for LSU to call Jay Dardenne.

The state’s commissioner of the Division of Administration pulled his name earlier from the search for a new university president. He made it clear that he thought there should be a division of labor in the position of president-chancellor vacated by F. King Alexander.

The Board of Supervisors declined to revert to the old system of a president over statewide functions, including the far-flung campuses in several cities and important professional schools in New Orleans and Shreveport. A chancellor, sometimes more prominent, formerly ran the main campus in Baton Rouge.

The new vs. old arrangement has been endlessly debated.

Today’s crisis should settle the dispute.

The president’s job is too big to be also an effective chancellor for the main campus.

Alexander is under fire at his new digs in Oregon State because of the athletic department crisis now exploding. He was alas guilty of dealing with the big picture, sending memos down through several levels of bureaucracy to deal with occasional press disclosures of Tiger gridiron stars behaving badly, with women abused, including female athletes.

Interim President Tom Galligan also cut a sorry figure in front of a legislative committee, throwing $1 million at the Title IX office when it was too late.

LSU's mismanagement has been criminal.

If Dardenne, a prominent alum, has been shown to be more farsighted than the LSU leadership about the chancellor’s position, he also is needed to stabilize LSU’s “external relations,” starting with the governor’s office and the Legislature.

As a former state senator and statewide elected official, as well as commissioner of administration for Gov. John Bel Edwards, he’s the closest thing to an LSU and Capitol insider not under fire in today’s crisis.

With the president’s job more involved now with campuses from Eunice to Shreveport, a statewide perspective is needed by LSU's president. As a moderate Republican and certified LSU believer, he can reach out to constituencies across the state, including donors rattled by recent events.

Some donors are still angry at Galligan’s mishandling of the removal of President Troy Middleton’s name from the main campus library. Dardenne will clearly not be sympathetic with the segregationist positions taken by the late general and war hero, but he — and let us be frank, probably a “he” alone — can reach out to older donors to explain why the issue needed to be handled, just not in Galligan’s ham-handed way.

But the campus also desperately needs a chancellor. Events have shown the two jobs are too big for one person.

If an insider of Dardenne’s stature is needed, so is someone who can shake things up as only an outsider can. The search for chancellor must be open to all but as they say in the want ads, women will be encouraged to apply. That would surely send a signal that new perspectives are in order.

In a crisis, the stately process of academics and administrators pondering the vitae of potential candidates is slowing down the reckoning needed at the top level at LSU.

As president, Dardenne would have as Job One recruiting the person who could not only right the pirogue as chancellor today but potentially be his successor one day. That outcome might not be guaranteed in any big organization but it would be likely if the rescue plan worked.

The ideal academic candidate could be internal or external but would be mid-40s or very-early-50s to Dardenne’s mid-60s.

As a long-range plan, this works best for the institution. But in the short run, members of the LSU Board of Supervisors — all but two male — are more of an endangered species than philandering coaches and ostrich-head athletic administrators.

No one can make an LSU board member resign, as they were appointed by Edwards to fixed terms. But they got those plum appointments from years of donating to the university or donating to politicians, or both.

The costs of getting there were high. The costs of staying are also high for such proud people, as disclosures in the newspaper daily show failures of moral and executive capacity.

In the satire “Blazing Saddles,” Mel Brooks plays a fatuous governor who tells his cronies that a crisis in mythical Rock Ridge endangers their phony-baloney jobs.

Dardenne might be a better rescue than today’s board members deserve, if they call him.

Email Lanny Keller at lkeller@theadvocate.com.


Email Lanny Keller at lkeller@theadvocate.com.