There’s an old prank out there surrounding high-profile institutional officials – football coaches being a good example – which holds that when things get really bad some smart-assed fan will put up a “For Sale” sign in the unpopular official’s yard.
As LSU president F. King Alexander is about as unpopular as any football coach has been in Baton Rouge, that prank might well apply to him. Except this is no prank; that is his house in University Club and it is in fact for sale.
Alexander putting his house on the market is the best indication yet of something the rumor mill has been churning out around Baton Rouge for weeks; namely, that he’s on the outs at LSU. This being an election year and Alexander being a political liability for Gov. John Bel Edwards among a segment of Louisiana’s voting population which tends to be made up of a lot of swing voters (the big LSU fans are often, if not typically, soft Republicans who’ll pull a lever for Donald Trump or John Kennedy but didn’t extend that goodwill to David Vitter in 2015), it was at least somewhat predictable that Edwards would seek to move Alexander as part of a series of actions aimed at bolstering his popularity heading into this fall’s elections.
And this is something which came to a head during the month-long saga of Will Wade’s suspension by the university during the basketball postseason. Not that Alexander’s fate would be decided solely on the basis of a personnel matter involving a basketball coach, but that’s just a final straw on the camel’s back. A history of questionable administrative moves, a record of alienating legislators by poo-poohing his own product in pursuit of state general fund dollars, low morale among the faculty, a controversial and possibly illegal change in LSU’s admissions standards and a botched rollout of a $1.5 billion capital campaign have played a more substantial part in his rumored demise than the Wade suspension, or the botched firing of Les Miles in 2015, did.
But everybody in the know at LSU expects Alexander will be gone this summer, and most seem to think Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne will take over as the interim president of LSU when Alexander is out.
Nevertheless, there is no real reason to think the house going on the market is an indication Alexander’s exit is imminent, or that it will happen before the end of the current legislative session in June. LSU put out a statement which reads like a fairly plausible cover story for why he’s selling his house…
LSU President F. King Alexander and his wife, Shenette, have put their 4,630-square-foot University Club home on the market and are relocating to the University House on East Lakeshore Drive that has traditionally been the residence of LSU’s top administrator.
LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard says Alexander is moving to the University-owned property, in part, because LSU is in the throes of an ambitious, $1.2 billion capital campaign and it made sense for the president to be closer to campus.
“Moving into the University House, which is an existing LSU asset, presented an opportunity for President Alexander to advance the momentum of our most ambitious campaign ever by hosting more events closer to campus,” Ballard says. “In addition, being close to campus allows for even more opportunities for him to interact with students, faculty and staff.”
Also, a factor in the Alexanders’ decision is that their three daughters, who were teenagers when the family moved to Baton Rouge, are grown so it was an appropriate time for the empty nesters to downsize.
It’s a lot easier to hit the road when you’re living rent-free in a house you don’t own than when you’re stuck with a million-dollar property.
Let’s also remember that Alexander still has four more years on his contract at LSU, which pays him $600,000 per year. That would come to some part (or all) of $2.4 million, which would be a nice going-away present if in fact he’s going to be shown the door.
But so far as we can tell, there is nothing especially fresh on Alexander other than the persistent rumors his time at LSU is drawing to a close. We’re watching the situation, though, and we’ll pass along anything of note.