It’s Impossible To Have Any Confidence In LSU Given Current Leadership

The statement in the headline isn’t just a traumatized ranting reaction from a fan who sat through three and a half hours of abysmal underachievement that allowed a better-coached Notre Dame team to steal a 21-17 victory away from Ed Orgeron’s LSU football team Monday.

Though it most certainly is that.

At the risk of overdramatizing a close loss to a higher-ranked team in terrible weather, what LSU football fans were subjected to in Orlando on New Year’s Day was a heavy dose of decline. It turns out decline is cold and wet, and it smells like fear – the kind of fear which leads to sending your hideously terrible field goal kicker out to barely convert for three points rather than put your offense out to put the ball into the end zone from one inch away with two minutes left in a tied game. That was fear; it was palpable and unquestionable. It was the smell of a coach who knows he doesn’t belong in the job he has and is holding on for dear life.

After having been outcoached – badly – by Brian Kelly, the Notre Dame coach who was very nearly fired last year.

Later this week we’ll hear, reportedly, that Orgeron will announce his offensive coordinator Matt Canada (who didn’t exactly distinguish himself in the Citrus Bowl, if you take it at face value that it was Canada calling the plays Monday without fetters from Orgeron) will be leaving and collecting some part of $3 million in buyout money from the LSU athletic department on his way. That’s a hell of a consolation prize for Canada, who was Orgeron’s most high-profile hire upon getting the LSU job; if he’s gone, as it seems he will be, then we can look upon bringing him in as the savior of LSU’s offense as more or less a mistake. After all, Canada’s offense – which at times wasn’t bad, the Citrus Bowl notwithstanding – was supposed to show off Orgeron as something different and better than Les Miles, whom he politicked to replace. Instead, Canada will be paid $3 million not to work at LSU, just like Miles ($9 million), Cam Cameron ($575,000), Dameyune Craig ($500,000) and Johnny Jones ($800,000) on a dead-money roster larger and more expensive than – assumedly – any other college athletic department is responsible for.

Which brings us to the athletic director who hired Orgeron. We’re beyond blue in the face in questioning why Joe Alleva still has a job on the campus of the Ole War Skule, and the $14 million in buyout money Alleva is set to shell out given the flailing decline he’s presided over at LSU.

Alleva is, after all, the abject imbecile who in December greeted the news of the just-passed tax reform plan by attempting to spread panic over the “devastation” of the athletic department’s fisc due to the new law’s changes in tax treatment of seat licenses. This was nonsense from the beginning, as we noted when Alleva first began babbling about it; there will be very few season ticket holders who will be giving up their tickets over the loss of a letter from the Tiger Athletic Foundation confirming a tax deduction of a few hundred dollars when those same people will be likely getting a lower tax rate and a larger standard deduction. They might give up their tickets, but the reason will almost certainly be a reaction to the product on the field than the tax reform bill.

Bloviating about the “devastation” of the tax reform bill in advance of paying a $3 million buyout to Canada because he and Orgeron weren’t friendly should hardly make anyone comfortable with Alleva’s stewardship of the athletic program.

And Alleva’s boss F. King Alexander is hardly a source for comfort to LSU fans or Louisiana taxpayers. Not after the revelations surfacing over the weekend to the effect that Alexander is guilty of spreading malicious rumors about Louisiana’s legislators and their supposed threats against his funding. From a Washington Post column last week titled “Why do so many Republicans hate college?” came this anecdote…

At a dinner in New York last month with about a dozen college presidents, other officials described similar showdowns with peacocking, publicity-stunting politicians.

A group of Louisiana legislators recently threatened to further slash public higher-ed appropriations — already down 43 percent per student since 2008 — if any student football players took a knee during the national anthem, according to Louisiana State University President F. King Alexander. (The threat was withdrawn after Alexander reminded lawmakers that LSU players traditionally remain in the locker room during the anthem.)

The Baton Rouge Advocate inquired as to the rather pointed accusation and came up with very little in the way of confirmation of Alexander’s story…

No other details are offered in the column. The state budget took effect July 1 — prior to the attention on the NFL’s “take a knee” protests and before LSU’s football season began. Lawmakers haven’t yet begun formal work for the upcoming budget cycle, which includes a looming $1 billion shortfall that could threaten higher education funding.

“I can confirm the phone call occurred, but we won’t name the person, as that was an unfortunate comment that is better left in the past. We hope that in the future, LSU’s state appropriations will be tied to its performance in the classrooms and laboratories and its economic contributions to our state,” Jason Droddy, interim Vice President of communications, said in an email Friday night.

While several lawmakers this fall publicly questioned the subsidies that the state gives to the New Orleans Saints professional football team after players knelt during the anthem, such a threat hasn’t previously been reported on the college level.

House Republican Caucus Chair Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, told The Advocate on Friday that he had not heard about the incident described in the Washington Post column.

We didn’t talk to Harris, but we did speak about the Alexander story to several other members of the legislature. Just like Alexander and his staff refuse to identify the legislators who supposedly threatened him, we won’t name the names of those who gave us their reactions.

“That is complete and utter Bull S**t!” said one. “Alexander is shameless. He lies even when he’s silent.”

Another: “That’s the kind of thing somebody in the legislature would have bragged about at the time and we would have heard about it. I’m not surprised they won’t give a name – there is no name.”

Yet another: “Anybody in Louisiana who cares about the national anthem at football games already knows that at LSU the band plays the alma mater and the national anthem before the Tigers run out of the tunnel. Maybe he ran across somebody who didn’t know that, but it sure wouldn’t be a group of legislators.”

One more: “I find it peculiar that it’s always F. King Alexander behind these constant provocations of the state legislature, and even more so that this story supposedly gets told up in New York as he’s trashing Louisiana’s elected representatives.”

And just a little extra reaction: “You might consider contrasting him with Jim Henderson (the president of the University of Louisiana system) who is just as strong of an advocate for higher education but who does it with class and intellect rather than lies and chicken little hyperbole.”

The embarrassment of the Lazy River at LSU’s new recreational complex, written up most lately in the Wall Street Journal as an Alexander production even though he defends the frivolous theme-park feature has having been voted on by former students, wasn’t even brought up by either the Post or the Advocate.

Regardless of whether you might think LSU is getting short shrift from the state in the budget process, it’s hard to argue that the consequences of Alexander’s griping to the Washington Post will be positive given those reactions. What would be a more reasonable conclusion is that LSU is run by a gibbering nincompoop who wants to parlay his current position into status as a mover and shaker on the national education politics scene rather than to serve as an effective administrator down on the farm in Baton Rouge.

And because of that, it’s impossible to have any confidence in Alexander, or much in his subordinates at LSU. The university’s leadership is palpably out of touch with its stakeholders and makes what looks like a never-ending string of unforced errors, and with yet another fiscal cliff looming this spring it’s hard to see why anybody should see funding it as something to fight for given that leadership.

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