Football limbo, gumbo-style: An unwinnable situation for LSU, Orgeron and Alleva
LSU is in a bind with a coach too expensive to buy out and an AD who can't be trusted to replace him
BATON ROUGE, La. -- This is what football limbo looks like at LSU …
Five games into a five-year contract, critics are suggesting the school write a $12 million buyout check to Ed Orgeron after the Tigers lost to Troy.
Five days after last week's disturbing FBI investigation upped the ante on the out-of-control nature of college athletics, Tiger Nation was going all-in.
See you and raise you: money, greed, expectations and the cut-throat SEC.
College athletics may be nuts, but it's a special kind of nuts here.
"I think it's disrespectful, it's absurd," defensive end Christian LaCouture said of the rising temperature of his coach's seat.
Orgeron's departure would also be absolutely welcome in large swatches of this state. LSU is used to being better. This week, its coach might have Butch Jones as his biggest ally. The Tennessee coach with his own set of problems is at least diverting attention in the gossipy SEC.
They can't fire Orgeron, of course. Not now because of the upheaval, the ego, the optics, the cash commitment it would take.
You know, all the reasons LSU is in this rut in the first place. The man responsible for it all refused an interview request from CBS Sports.
Athletic director Joe Alleva usually does that when times get tough … and sometimes when they don't.
Alleva operates imperially, almost in the shadows in a job that demands interpersonal skills. His hiring record -- as you will see -- mostly sucks, too.
Alleva basically apologized to LSU fans in 2009 with an open letter in the midst of an eight-win season only two years removed from a national championship.
Les Miles still hasn't forgiven him for that.
If Alleva bought out Orgeron, the school would be on the hook for $20 million in buyout money alone. That's counting what is still owed to Miles.
A buyout would cripple the school financially and also signal the AD admitting his folly. So it won't happen, not anytime soon.
But even then, we'd have to trust Alleva to hire the next guy, which, of course, we can't.
At stake is the future of a proud program in what is usually the nation's toughest conference.
Being burned at the stake of public opinion is the 56-year-old Orgeron, who was elevated from defensive line coach last fall when Miles was fired.
Before they got to the 2 p.m. break Monday on 910 AM CBS Sports radio in Baton Rouge, the locals had accused Orgeron of a feud with his offensive coordinator, suggested a nine-loss season was a possibility and generally predicted doom.
"I haven't heard that," Orgeron said -- tongue in cheek -- when asked about his job security, "thanks for telling me."
The gloom spreads by the hour. So have the excuses. There are five defenders from last year's team starting as rookies in the NFL. There are two freshmen starting on the offensive line.
None of it allows room for a loss to Troy.
"Oh sure, we should have beaten them," Orgeron said. "Outcoached and outplayed. They almost beat Clemson last year, [but] there's no excuses for losing to Troy."
Welcome, then, to football limbo, gumbo-style. Coach O is safe until the buyout becomes more affordable in a year or two or he starts winning big.
Orgeron's career .325 winning percentage suggests the former will occur sooner or rather than the latter.
An LSU fan has already started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the buyout.
Orgeron is everybody's nice guy -- a local (native Cajun), an accomplished assistant and a top-tier recruiter. He was also a second, perhaps third, choice.
"I am the search," Alleva boasted last year on local radio once Miles was let go.
How'd that go? Orgeron has never been a coordinator and arrived at his second head coaching chance here a decade removed from a 10-25 record at Ole Miss. He still hasn't won an SEC road game as a full-time head coach as the Tigers head to Florida this week.
To put the Troy loss in perspective: Since 2006, the SEC has won eight national championships. In its history, the Sun Belt Conference had won eight games against the SEC (against 139 losses).
"It's something that shouldn't happen here," LSU linebacker Devin White said. "I'm embarrassed that it happened here."
The blueprint here, believe it or not, should be Nebraska. Last month, that school's administration fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst three weeks into the season. The unstated reason was the same one Alleva shouldn't survive on the job one working day longer.
He can't be trusted to hire the next coach if it's this month or three years from now. Alleva has maneuvered this starship of a program into tractor beam of mediocrity.
Florida State's Jimbo Fisher might have left FSU in late 2015 if Alleva's dissatisfaction with Miles didn't become so public. What kind of message does that send to the next guy?
Alleva was clearly manipulated by Tom Herman's agent, Trace Armstrong, late last season. Herman wanted the Texas job. Hand it to Armstrong. He played out the process long enough here so that eventually the sleepy Texas administration did get interested.
Alleva was left with a guy who would have accepted the job the day before the season started. And someone still has to explain to me what leverage Orgeron and his agent had to demand a $12 million buyout.
Don't forget, Alleva was in charge during the Duke lacrosse scandal that dragged athletes, coaches and Duke's good name through the mud.
His football hiring record with the Blue Devils makes Orgeron look like Knute Rockne. Ted Roof and Carl Franks went a combined 13-90. He does, however, get credit for current coach David Cutcliffe.
Alleva remains one of the more aloof college administrators in the country.
Former Duke president Nan Keohane "made a terrible choice when she selected Joe Alleva as athletic director in 1998." That was written by respected sportswriter John Feinstein -- nine years ago.
This really isn't about Les anymore even though he curiously chose Monday to announce his new podcast was dropping, the same day his old assistant was being roasted.
Limbo is Joe and Joe is limbo. Alleva can't be trusted -- to fire, to hire, to continue on the job. It's been obvious for a while.
What's left is a mess. This tweet first alerted us to the fact every team Orgeron coached for in the last 22 years lost over the weekend.
Maybe that's piling on. Maybe it's a premonition.
At one point Monday, Orgeron was asked whether his team was giving maximum effort.
"You know," the coach said, "a lot of people have asked me that question."
Is it a positive to go on the road this week?
"Ya think?" he asked rhetorically.
"We'll keep this team together," Orgeron promised.
A strange assessment entering Week 6 of Year 1.
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