Branch: Alleva’s ineptitude paved way for band-aid hire

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Blake Branch
Blake Branch

It’s nothing personal – I like the guy, I really do – but color me unimpressed with LSU’s decision to make Ed Orgeron the program’s 33rd head coach.

When embattled LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva made the decision to roll with the demonstrative cajun, he sent a message loud and clear: politics and pageantry take precedent over college football playoff appearances these days in Baton Rouge.

It begs a pretty pressing question for factions of Tiger faithful around the state: Why couldn’t LSU land Jimbo Fisher or Tom Herman?

Quite simply, because of Alleva’s incompetence.

Alleva, now famously, botched an opportunity to hire Fisher from Florida State last season, but opted instead to stick with Miles after closed door meetings with LSU brass.

Herman’s recent faux-interest with LSU seemed manufactured from the start, and his camp’s half-hearted flirtation with LSU can be summarized, fairly, as trolling the market. Herman was always going to Texas if the job became available, and at no point was Charlie Strong going to be given another year in Austin.

But back to Fisher.

The head coach of the Seminoles allegedly wanted upwards of $7 million per year and to bring in someone else as defensive coordinator in place of Dave Aranda, something LSU apparently was not willing to let happen.

That may be true, but LSU fans will always wonder what might have been if Alleva handled his business before the worst win in program history in 2015 against Texas A&M, a game where Les Miles was carried off the field.

How poetic it would have been for that to have been the Mad Hatter’s last game at LSU, as the program transition smoothly into the Fisher Era.

Instead, a guy nicknamed “Yaw-Yaw” and/or BeBe who’s cajun dialect is hardly audible to the untrained ear sits atop the thrown, but to be fair, Orgeron earned a fair shake at the job. His 5-2 mark to finish the season was commendable work and changes to the offense with OC Steven Ensminger payed off with more points. So, do not blame Orgeron for doing a good job, but do blame Alleva for failing miserably in interviewing other potential candidates.

There were no talks with Justin Fuente, the first-year head coach of Virginia Tech who has guided the Hokies to an ACC Championship game appearance in year one. No sit-downs with PJ Fleck, the youngest head coach in Division I. Fleck guided Western Michigan to an unbeaten record, defeating two Big Ten teams and scoring 30+ points in 10 games along the way.

Perhaps my favorite candidate of the forgotten bunch was North Carolina’s Larry Fedora who – despite late-season losses to Duke and NC State – has turned the Tarheels into annual contenders playing in the same division with Florida State and Clemson.

Fedora, a fiery southerner, isn’t afraid of competition and has a knack for developing quarterbacks, something that would have served the Tigers well with 4-star signal-caller Myles Brennan set to take the reigns from Danny Etling after 2017.

This was LSU’s chance to pair a proven offensive mind with a highly-regarded quarterback and young group of receivers, and they
blew it.

Speaking of offensive minds, Lane Kiffin is a name many are bringing up to fill LSU’s offensive coordinator position.

Kiffin has spent the last three seasons at Alabama running the Crimson Tide’s offense with precision, but rumblings from deep within the internet say Kiffin and Saban are not exactly pals, while Orgeron and Kiffin are more like brothers than friends.

With Aranda and LSU agreeing to an extension Monday, the defense is in good hands for the forseeable future. Kiffin would seemingly be the final piece to an Orgeron braintrust, but LSU would be wise to take full inventory of what Kiffin brings and be wary of his penchant for the next-best thing.

Ultimately, Alleva’s wagon is now hitched to Orgeron and what happens in the next 2-3 years.

A bold move to say the least, but around Baton Rouge, an area deeply-affected this year by historic flooding, the firing of a beloved football figurehead and the untimely demise of the school’s beloved mascot Mike VI, Orgeron presents himself as a local option for hope and change. He’s one of our own and a fierce competitor.

Unfortunately, I don’t think he is capable of delivering SEC Championships or playoff appearance, but maybe Orgeron is the perfect band-aid to wear for the next few years while LSU looks to remain relevant in a crowded college football landscape.

Blake Branch is the sports editor for the Minden Press-Herald.

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