There are rumors to that effect – namely that Joe Alleva will be out as the athletics director sometime next month.
Should we believe those?
There was a rumor a couple of weeks ago indicating that Alleva was going to retire in 2019. We couldn’t trace the source of that one anywhere with our contacts, and since so many of these stories are just made up we let that one go.
But the one which surfaced yesterday seemed to have a little more juice to it. We heard it from a source connected to LSU who has been right several times before on matters like this one – that source told us about former assistant athletic director Eddie Nunez taking the New Mexico AD job almost a week before it happened, for example – and when we checked it out with our other contacts two of them reacted with “Yeah, I heard that as well.”
Which is not to say everybody is counting on this happening, mind you. It’s just that it’s a rumor going around among some people we talk to who are in the know over there.
This rumor has it that with the Board of Supervisors getting ready to experience a big changeover in June – Scott Ballard, Lee Mallett, Stanley Jacobs, Ann Duplessis, Mary Werner, Jim McCrery, Rolfe McCollister and the student member Lauren Johnson are all slated to see their terms end on June 1 – the half the board who faces replacement is interested in making a few changes on their way out.
Seven of those seats on the LSU board will be appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards. It’s very likely that Ballard, Mallett, McCrery and McCollister are going to be out for sure; Jacobs, Duplessis and Werner might stick around and be reappointed (though we wouldn’t bet on Duplessis, who’s a prominent school choice advocate, getting to keep such a plum appointment from a teacher union ally like Edwards).
We know that Jacobs was whipping votes back in the fall to make a run at Alleva, but he was three votes short of the nine he needed to force the AD out. Whether he’s making another run at trying to start the process to find someone new to run LSU athletics is hard to say. Nobody is talking, nor would anybody be expected to, in advance of something like that.
And this isn’t just a political thing. If there’s a move on Alleva, there’s something bringing it on. Actually several things, but one main one stands out as an issue which could precipitate a change.
That being the TAF donation deadline for football season ticket renewals passed on March 31 and the results weren’t good.
There isn’t any surprise this would be true. Athletics tickets nationwide aren’t the hot sellers they were, say, 10 years ago; you have an aging population around the country and the older people get the more attractive a couch and a big screen TV becomes for them rather than fighting the parking and traffic to attend a sporting event in a big stadium. It doesn’t help that the millennial generation isn’t quite the rabid fan base for football its predecessors were. So you’ve got some downward pressure on ticket sales which is universal to college athletics that LSU is going to feel some effects of.
But it’s more than that. Alleva’s hiring of Ed Orgeron was not well received by LSU’s fans, and Orgeron’s first season as head coach, though it produced a somewhat respectable 9-4 record and a 6-2 SEC mark, didn’t exactly bring the fan base to its feet in applause. The losses to Troy and Notre Dame really stung with a lot of LSU fans. Then there was a recruiting class which wasn’t rated as highly as its recent predecessors and came up short of a couple of expected blue-chippers on National Signing Day, and the announcement Orgeron was hiring tight ends coach Steve Ensminger as his offensive coordinator after the mess of Matt Canada’s tenure at LSU, rather than bringing in a hot name from elsewhere.
All of which is defensible, for one reason or another. Ensminger might do fine, and that recruiting class really is probably better than the recruiting services say it is. But none of this stuff is sexy. And with a fan base which isn’t united in having faith in Orgeron, who even after that 9-4 mark last year is still only 31-33 as a head coach, in charge at LSU to begin with, you could expect to see some negative effects with respect to ticket sales.
What the general public doesn’t know, and the guess is the LSU insiders do know at this point, is how big those effects are. All we hear are anecdotal stories about this person not renewing, and that – but those anecdotes definitely piled up this year. Way more than ever before in recent times.
TAF knows how many people didn’t renew their donations this year. And TAF and LSU can calculate the size of the season ticket base is going to be based on those non-renewals.
If you’re hearing rumors Alleva is out now, it could well be that the season ticket non-renewals are why. If that’s a big number – if it’s 15 or 20 percent, for example – then that right there could well be enough to generate a majority on the Board for LSU to make a change. We can talk about all kinds of things where the performance of LSU athletics are concerned, and we can make arguments about how many of them are a reflection of Alleva’s performance. That the baseball team is struggling through a bad year after being a Top 8 national seed six years in a row and going to the national championship series last year probably isn’t something to complain about where Alleva isn’t concerned.
But maybe the fact the women’s basketball program is in a state of complete implosion is. Alleva did hire Nikki Fargas, after all, though the state of women’s basketball usually doesn’t determine the fate of the AD.
But if LSU can’t sell football season tickets anymore, that’s a catastrophic failure. LSU athletics doesn’t work if LSU football can’t pack the stadium. And packing that stadium is the AD’s job; it’s the number one result he has to drive, at his peril.
Who would replace Alleva if this stuff were to turn out to be real?
The name you’ll hear over and over again is Scott Woodward, the LSU alum and Baton Rouge native who’s currently the AD at Texas A&M and who just gave Jimbo Fisher a $75 million guarantee to be the football coach there for the next 10 years. The jury is out on whether Fisher, who was only 5-6 at Florida State this past season before bolting to take the job in Aggieland, was worth that bank-busting contract, but A&M is not a place where frugality is a high priority in an athletic director.
Would Woodward have any interest in returning home? Some say yes. The guess here is, unless he’s got relationship problems with people in College Station we don’t know about, it’s going to be hard to pull him away from where he is and LSU can’t outbid A&M for one of their own people. LSU is more likely going to be looking for an AD at a mid-major, or lesser-resourced Power Five conference program, who would see the job as an upward move. We had a list back last year of such potential candidates.
And if Alleva were to leave, finding that new director of athletics would be a summer project headed up by school president F. King Alexander and members of the Board of Supervisors, half of whom would be newly appointed by Edwards.
We’ll find out if this rumor is true. And we may find out if replacing him is as good an idea as a lot of LSU fans, among whom Alleva has never been particularly popular, likely think it is.