LSU and head football coach Ed Orgeron have agreed to part ways at the end of the 2021 season, Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger reported early Sunday afternoon.
Orgeron went 49-17 straight up and 41-25 against the spread, winning the national championship in 2019 with one of the most dominant teams in college football history.
Since then, however, the Tigers have struggled to a 9-8 record. In fairness to Coach O, the 2020 team was set up to fail from the start. Fourteen LSU players were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, several key returning players opted out of last year due to the global pandemic and Orgeron’s staff was gutted by the losses of offensive guru Joe Brady (OC Carolina Panthers) and defensive coordinator Dava Aranda (Baylor HC). Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger retired at the end of the 2020 campaign.
In a Twitter post early Sunday evening, LSU Director of Athletics Scott Woodward offered his appreciation to Orgeron’s work for the football program since replacing Les Miles in the middle of the 2016 campaign. Then he ended his statement by saying, “The search for LSU Football’s next championship head coach begins now.”
Orgeron also released a statement on Twitter:
As always, Orgeron ended his message with his patented phrase, “Geaux Tigers.”
Orgeron filed for divorce from his long-time wife shortly after that remarkable 2019 season. Multiple reports have indicated that Orgeron’s enjoyment of his status as a single man created friction with the school’s brass.
There were other off-the-field issues that contributed to Orgeron’s demise. He rubbed some of his players the wrong way when he made a statement supporting former President Donald Trump during the height of the social-justice movement following the murder of George Floyd.
Make no mistake, Woodward is going big-game hunting in his search for Orgeron’s replacement. He was Texas A&M’s AD when he hired Jimbo Fisher away from FSU, a perennial national powerhouse during most of Bobby Bowden’s tenure and Fisher’s reign in Tallahassee.
After dozens of schools tried and failed to lure Chris Petersen away from Boise St. for the better part of a decade, it was Woodward who finally was able to talk Petersen into making a move during his tenure as Washington’s AD.
Woodward’s splash hire at LSU, where he arrived in 2019, was plucking Kim Mulkey away from Baylor to lead the Tigers’ women’s basketball program. Mulkey had won three national titles during her 21-year run in Waco, but Woodward was able to convince the Louisiana native to come back home.
LSU is a coveted job, easily one of the top-10 gigs in all of college football. The program has everything needed to compete for natties, including a large and passionate fan base, incredible facilities, plenty of money and some of the country’s most fertile recruiting grounds.
Baton Rouge is one hour away from New Orleans. It’s far enough West to recuit Texas and close enough to do damage in Florida.
Who are the top candidates to replace Orgeron? Well, Woodward has relationships with Fisher and Petersen, although the former Washington HC retired after the 2019 season and hasn’t expressed an interest in returning to the sidelines.
Fisher has a massive contract and seems happy in College Station, but you never know.
LSU men’s basketball program has been the subject of recent FBI and NCAA investigations, and the school is also in the midst of an ongoing Title IX investigation. Therefore, coaches with recent NCAA history (Liberty’s Hugh Freeze comes to mind) and/or off-the-field baggage (Jacksonville Jaguars HC Urban Meyer) are unlikely targets.
There’s another coveted gig open for the upcoming Silly Season. That would be USC, which pulled the plug on Clay Helton’s tenure back in September.
If Woodward likes Penn State’s James Franklin, he might have competition for the coach that thrived in the SEC while at Vanderbilt for three years. Other hot names include Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, Oregon’s Mario Cristobal and Ole Miss’s Lane Kiffin.
William Tate IV became the first Black president in school history earlier this year. If Tate pushes for LSU to make a minority hire, perhaps Franklin and Michigan State’s Mel Tucker will get extra consideration?
The Athletic’s Brude Feldman already reported that there are multiple people in power at LSU that are high on Tucker, who has the Spartans undefeated in just his second year in East Lansing. (But would Tucker want to leave Michigan St. after only two years when he pulled a one-and-done at Colorado to take the Spartans’ job?)
As of Wednesday morning, BetOnline had Tucker listed as the +200 ‘chalk’ to become LSU’s next HC. Leading candidates include Kiffin (+500), Fickell (+600), Franklin (+650), Fisher (+750), Louisiana’s Billy Napier (+750), Alabama OC Bill O’Brien (+900) and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops (+950).
The other names on the board are Brady (+1200), ex-Oklahoma HC Bob Stoops (+1200), Aranda (+1400), Meyer (+1600) and former Raiders HC Jon Gruden (100/1).
Napier is right down the road in Lafayette, where he’s led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 26-4 record in his last 30 games. Many feel like Brady is an “NFL guy,” but he’s a popular dude in Redstick.
Like Franklin, Fickell could be in the mix at USC. He was hired at UC by current USC AD Mike Bohn. Many think Fickell is eyeing the right Big Ten job, but he turned down Michigan St.’s overtures last year. Whatever the case, I find it hard to believe that Fickell would say no to LSU unless he just prefers the USC job (which is plausible).
Whatever the case, I’m not sure we should consider anyone outside of Nick Saban, Ryan Day and/or Kirby Smarts off limits for Woodward, who wants to make the biggest splash of his career in his first hire of an LSU football coach.