Yesterday, LSU athletic director Scott Woodward was on the radio with Baton Rouge local host Jim Engster, Democrat whose show has never lacked for a left-wing bias, and Woodward made some news when Engster asked him about his football coach making statements about politics.
Woodward was asked directly about Orgeron’s appearance last August on Fox News, when Orgeron said “I love President Trump … I think he’s doing a fantastic job.”
Woodward said Orgeron’s words were a mistake and that he had informed his football coach as much.
“Yes. And he owns it and he admits it,” Woodward said of Orgeron. “You know, he needs to stay out of politics; that’s not a good thing to do. I want all of our staff and all of our coaches to be involved with it, but they understand that they have a platform that they can’t use, except for LSU and for doing the right thing. And politics is not where it is.
“I want you to vote, I want you to be involved in the process. But I don’t think it’s for us to do those types of things.”
Asked by Engster if he had implored LSU’s athletics coaches to avoid political statements, Woodward assented.
“Yes,” Woodward said. “But they have First Amendment rights. I just make it clear that it’s poorly advised, that it would be bad. Not a good smart thing to do.”
And yes, Scott Woodward is correct. It would be better if LSU’s athletic department and its employees could be successful in staying out of the political fray. LSU athletics is something that the entire state of Louisiana, and the university’s far-flung supporters and alumni, ought to be able to derive joy and enthusiasm from untainted by the divisiveness and vitriol of politics.
Which is why one cannot help but ask where in blue blazes Scott Woodward was when Ed Orgeron was hosting fundraisers for John Bel Edwards on LSU’s campus in advance of the 2019 gubernatorial election.
Oh, do we not remember that?
From the Hayride’s archives, dated April 4, 2019…
This morning we had a perfect example of the lack of ethics and propriety inherent in the current occupant of Louisiana’s governor’s mansion. Namely, that John Bel Edwards threw a fundraiser at the Andonie Museum on LSU’s campus at which he had football coach Ed Orgeron deliver a full-throated endorsement of his re-election.
Attendees paid $1000 a plate for that this morning.
Look, Orgeron can endorse who he wants. This isn’t about what he’s doing. It’s about Edwards, and whether it’s appropriate for him to be dragging Orgeron into his re-election campaign.
It isn’t. It wasn’t appropriate when Bobby Jindal dragged Les Miles into his political orbit, either.
If you’re the football coach at LSU, you are not a political figure, or at least you’re not appropriately a political figure. Especially when you’re in the middle of the university’s $1.5 billion capital campaign, $600 million of which is supposed to be raised by the Tiger Athletic Foundation which mostly supports your program.
For you to be picking sides in a gubernatorial race while that campaign is kicking off is for you to be alienating half of your fans and half of your donors. You should not be doing it. It’s bad marketing, and it smacks of suspect ethics.
Which is not a criticism of Orgeron. It’s a criticism of Edwards. Edwards is the governor. If he really wanted to protect and promote Ed Orgeron he wouldn’t put him in a position to politicize the coach by taking his endorsement in public and on video.
What this speaks to is John Bel Edwards putting himself before the state’s institutions. It puts Edwards’ re-election above the continuance of LSU’s good name among Louisiana’s citizenry, and that’s wrong.
And this wasn’t some forgotten thing, by the way. It made ripples around the state. From our archives the next day, Sen. John Kennedy was on the radio having a go at Edwards about it…
Kennedy’s position, that governor’s races are divisive things and LSU shouldn’t be thrown into the fray, is undoubtedly going to fan the fire of the Orgeron endorsement. He didn’t attack the coach much, reserving more of his ire for LSU president F. King Alexander and for Edwards for letting it happen.
But Kennedy wasn’t alone in expressing opposition to the endorsement. Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham, currently polling as Edwards’ likely runoff opponent in the gubernatorial election, backed Kennedy’s position.
“Sen. Kennedy’s correct,” Abraham told The Advocate. “This is very disturbing. We have a leadership problem in Louisiana, and it extends further than the governor’s office.”
But then he went further, laying into Edwards for the poor form involved in staging that endorsement…
“Let’s be real here – John Bel is his boss,” he said. “Next thing you know he will be trying to lead the band out like Huey Long.
“It’s beyond inappropriate. It’s selfish and shows poor leadership for the governor to co-opt LSU football for personal political gains. He just threw the our flagship university into another PR nightmare and isolated half the fanbase. It’s shows poor leadership for everyone involved.”
Scott Woodward was named LSU’s athletic director about two weeks later. He had been in talks with LSU well before Orgeron hosted that fundraiser for Edwards. It’s impossible that Woodward, who is as political a cat as it’s possible to find as a college athletic director, was not completely aware that Orgeron had hosted that fundraiser and endorsed Edwards.
Edwards, by the way, insinuated himself into LSU’s football program to an obnoxious extent during that championship year. He even showed up at Joe Burrow’s Heisman ceremony, which was remarkable in its awkwardness. It’s funny how when the LSU sexual assault scandal is front and center and it touches a whole bunch of Edwards’ political pals along with Les Miles – like for example Edwards’ buddy Jim Bernhard, whose fingers are all over that scandal – there is precisely zero mention of whether the scandal touches Edwards at all.
And yet there’s no public admonition of Orgeron for going political until he says something nice about Trump? Orgeron didn’t even endorse Trump. He just said he was doing a good job when interviewed following hurricanes that hit Louisiana and Trump was sending aid to the state at the time – and Trump was working to get college football back open at the time, too.
“I Love President Trump. He treated us very well when went to the White House. I think he is doing a fantastic job.”
That’s what Orgeron said.
It’s a well-known fact that Woodward is a Democrat and a former Democrat political consultant, a pal of Democrat political consultant James Carville and a staffer of a Democrat governor in Buddy Roemer (later, Roemer switched parties and became a Republican). For him to grow a revulsion to politics over support for Trump and not over support for Edwards is a pretty clear indictment of that obvious bias.
And for all this to happen in the wake of countless examples of increasingly-obvious woke bias at LSU is a sign that the state’s flagship campus is only friendly to members of one political party and not both of them.
Don’t think the donors aren’t noticing, by the way. This wasn’t on our radar until three of them brought it to our attention last night and those guys are beyond furious about it.
“That’s the last dime they’ll ever see from me,” one of them said.
Of course, Woodward could claim that the Orgeron-Edwards fundraiser and endorsement happened before his watch and he didn’t even know about it. Whether anybody believes that or not is a question, but he can at least make the claim.
Jim Engster, on the other hand, was sitting in exactly the same chair he was sitting in yesterday. How come Engster didn’t bring up the fact that Orgeron is a bipartisan abuser of the no-politics rule?
Bias, that’s why.
Which is Engster’s right to have. He isn’t a journalist, he’s a talk-show host. If he wants to run the Democrat Power Hour on the radio and he can get listeners for it, OK.
But nobody ought to be surprised when shenanigans like this result in more and more Louisianans just giving up on the state’s scandal-plagued flagship university, and more and more state legislators who say “Nope” when LSU trudges hat in hand up the state capitol steps looking for more of our tax dollars to fund its one-sided woke indoctrination factory.