In the aftermath of last week’s turnover atop the LSU athletic department, which will be completed at noon today when Scott Woodward has his first press conference as the school’s new athletic director taking over for Joe Alleva, lots of people ascribed a great deal of credit to university mega-donor and former Board of Regents chair Richard Lipsey for his efforts in dispatching Alleva.
That credit was warranted. Lipsey publicly called for Alleva’s ouster last month, and then proceeded to collect political allies among the LSU Board of Supervisors and others with influence in the university community toward carrying out a change at the LSU Board of Supervisors a week ago. Lipsey also played a role, as did his longtime ally Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, in reeling in Woodward – a nationally-recognized superstar athletic director at Texas A&M as well as an LSU graduate and Baton Rouge native – as a splash hire to replace the unpopular Alleva.
So Lipsey’s bona fides as a mover and shaker, and even a shot-caller, at LSU are established beyond a doubt.
That’s why it’s significant to remember that when Lipsey called for Alleva’s head it was only part of what he suggested as a change to LSU’s management structure. He said university president F. King Alexander had to go, too.
Which is something Lipsey was sure to remind everyone in a blog post yesterday…
As we have pointed out for months the numerous reasons we need new leadership at LSU our emphasis was not athletics. The final events leading to the recent change in the position of Athletic Director involved the 2019 Basketball Tigers, but these events were only a final addition to mismanagement and improper messaging in regard to athletic affairs. This email from the public record proves that Joe Alleva was not the problem:
In this matter and in every case of mismanagement we have witnessed at LSU the buck stops with King Alexander. Based on Alleva’s history with Duke Lacrosse and Alexander’s reckless and embarrassing extended leaked firing and third quarter “unfiring” of Les Miles, no prudent person would have agreed to a rushed meeting with King Alexander and Alleva. Our student athletes paid the price.
We commend the LSU Board of Supervisors and James Williams for one of the most professional transitions ever seen in Louisiana public life. We can’t say enough about the flawless execution. This process was in great contrast to Alexander’s bungled handling of similar matters. In the hire of Scott Woodward, Board Chair James Williams and the LSU Board of Supervisors hit a home run.
We now must complete the changes needed to unleash the great potential of LSU in its full Flagship role. Winning at the highest level athletically and doing it the right way is important, but the other activities of LSU are more critical to our future. The primary responsibility of a Flagship university is to be a generator of competitive research and economic and intellectual development for a state. Just like in athletics, LSU is not in existence to compete and compare with other Louisiana institutions. LSU must win in research, STEM based and other economic development, and intellectual development against other state Flagships.
Since our original engagement for new leadership at LSU began in September we have demanded the best for LSU and have seen resistance from those who profit from the status quo. King Alexander’s announcement of an Alexander and Alleva “donor relations” team following the Alleva reassignment demonstrates just how tone deaf Alexander is to the groundswell for a change in the Office of President at LSU. Except for those who personally benefit from the current leadership, the support for timely change in the Office of President is now nearly universal. It’s clearly time for the same coalition that got new leadership done for LSU Athletics to quickly address the real source of the actions that made that change necessary and have resulted in the parade of scandals at LSU. The hiring of Scott Woodward has brought instant credibility to LSU Athletic Administration. Professional and timely action to complete the needed change in LSU leadership that we have called for can unleash a new golden age for all of LSU. Just as in the recent changes in LSU Athletics, judicious and professional action is in order. However, it is clear that timely action to change leadership and bring the best to LSU will be required to end the embarrassing headlines and replace them with headlines of achievement.
We thank you for all the kind words recently received and share your excitement in recent events. We look forward in engaging specifics on your behalf to Put LSU First and move forward to a prosperous future for this great institution.
After the move to get rid of Alleva, this obviously can’t be dismissed as the ranting of some old guy with a grudge – though Lipsey absolutely has a longstanding problem with Alexander with fairly deep roots, going back further than last year when, as the Board of Regents chairman, he called Alexander out over the latter’s policy of “holistic admissions” which disregarded the Regents’ established academic requirements for admission to LSU. That dispute is still very much active, particularly given Alexander’s touting of the “holistically-admitted” LSU freshman class’ achievements in every media outlet possible.
Here’s a prediction based on what the rumor mill has been churning out over the past week or more – this summer Alexander is going to be gone, though whether he’s out based on a Lipsey-generated firing squad at the Board of Supervisors or of his own volition (a really smart thing for Alexander to do would be to have his resume in the hands of headhunters shopping him to peer universities with the narrative that dirty Louisiana politics, stupid fan and booster sentiment in favor of a cheating basketball coach and a dysfunctional funding model made success at LSU impossible for him – a false narrative, to be sure, but one hell of a good spin to lay on a prospective new employer).
And when Alexander goes, LSU is going to be faced with an interesting choice for his replacement.
It should be remembered that, while Lipsey and other supporters of current Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards have been quite vocal in pinning Alexander’s hiring on the Bobby Jindal administration, two things are true. First, Edwards owns Alexander every bit as much as Jindal does, because he not only put Alexander to work shilling at the state legislature for the governor’s tax increases (Alexander earned the nickname “Chicken Little” among legislators for his constant threats of calamity if the university’s funding wasn’t shored up) but rewarded Alexander with a contract extension through June 2023 last year. And second, if Alexander were to be made to walk the plank Edwards’ brain trust will be stuck with the same problem Jindal’s team had when he was hired – that being it’s very difficult to find superstar college administrators in this day and age.
You would think that the Mark Emmert model, in which the university uses its athletic department as a high-octane marketing department for the university in order to attract lots of student applicants and energize the donor base, would be something university presidents across the country would be scrambling to emulate given Emmert’s success at LSU and the University of Washington before being named the NCAA President. And yet you’d be wrong – the uniting factor of the “hot names” among university presidents across the country these days is their adherence to the social-justice-warrior mentality on display at places like Yale, Missouri, Evergreen State and Georgetown, where lunatic notions of identity politics and cultural Marxism have all but pushed out more conventional strategies of university management.
That was true when Jindal’s team hired a search firm in an attempt to find the next Emmert and ended up with a list that had Alexander along with some fairly noxious lefties, and it’s likely even more true six years later should Edwards’ team attempt to make a hire after Alexander would depart this summer. But while at the time Jindal was a lot more interested in pursuing the 2016 GOP presidential nomination than actually doing a good job as governor, Edwards will be trying to get re-elected and pursuing the votes of the “15 percent” of the electorate who, despite being normally Republican voters, chose him over David Vitter in 2015.
And hiring a noxious social justice warrior as LSU’s next president, particularly given that LSU’s Board of Supervisors chairman is a lawyer who spread the Black Lives Matter “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” propaganda as the attorney for Ferguson, Missouri petty criminal Dorian Johnson, would put that crucial 15 percent of the vote in jeopardy. Jindal could hire Alexander without any real political cost; Edwards can’t afford to make a similar, or perhaps worse, mistake this summer.
Accordingly, the second part of this prediction is that when Alexander goes, Edwards is going to hire Dardenne to replace him.
With Dardenne, you’ll have a Republican getting the LSU President’s job – something which would show how “bipartisan” Louisiana’s Democrat governor is. Dardenne being a Baton Rouge native and two-time LSU graduate (for both a baccalaureate and law degree) and a former floor leader for LSU’s agenda in the Louisiana legislature makes him a familiar enough face on campus, and therefore largely inoffensive – though the LSU Faculty Senate offered a vote of no confidence in Alexander’s hiring because he had never been a tenured professor at a major university, and Dardenne has even less academic experience than Alexander.
Dardenne would also be a favored choice of Lipsey, seeing as though he’s been a political ally and benefactor to Dardenne throughout his political career. And that, in the aftermath of the Alleva-Woodward transition Dardenne facilitated, isn’t insignificant.
Don’t doubt us on this, as it’s politically the safe move for the governor and the one his prime-mover ally will be pushing for.