lsu locker room

A side-by-side of LSU's library and the new football locker room.

LSU officials are unveiling a newly renovated locker room for the university’s football program this week, and the $28 million price tag for the luxury digs, funded by private donors, has promoted a lively debate on social media about the school’s priorities.

It’s a debate Louisiana needs to have, especially as statewide elections this autumn invite the usual questions about whether we’re moving in the right direction.

The space-age furnishings for the Tiger student-athletes, which include sleek foldout beds and iPad stations for each player, demonstrate a basic principle that’s governed the athletic program for years: To get the best talent and the best results, it’s necessary to invest in competing with rival institutions.

The same reality governs LSU’s ability to recruit the best students, but in that arms race for the future, the condition of the campus is a study in contrast with the opulence of the Tiger gridiron. LSU’s Middleton Library, which has become a poster child for civic neglect, is so leaky that some of the collection is covered by tarps. That sorry spectacle speaks volumes to prospective students about LSU’s commitment to learning.

Clearly, the university’s private donors seem more interested in funding brawn than brains. That’s why the football program is competitive — even as LSU often loses the race to recruit the intellectual capital that will move Louisiana forward.

Little wonder that this autumn, many Tiger alumni will be following the football season from other states where they’ve gone in search of opportunities Louisiana has failed to provide.