LSU’s homecoming loss to Troy was a wake-up call to the fans and administration alike to face a reality that should have been painfully obvious from the start. Like an impulsive Bluth family member, all parties are just now realizing they may have made a big mistake — or mistakes — jettisoning Les Miles out of town and hitching wagons to Ed Orgeron for the foreseeable future.
Now we’re seeing the story of a talent-rich program which could lose everything and the one coach who has no choice but to keep them together. And not because he has the temperament, skills, and football acumen to do it. Because bringing in someone else to do it would mean a $12 million buyout which boosters likely won’t be eager to pay.
LSU is 3-2 on the year and travels to Gainesville this weekend. It’s a must-win if only because every game is a must-win for the rest of the year. The Tigers’ schedule isn’t favorable going forward, and there is great concern throughout the program — both front-facing and behind-the-scenes from the president of the University down.
When Les Miles was fired after four games last year, he took his 114-34 Tigers record with him out of town. He left as a known entity, warts and all. LSU knew what he was capable of and what he wasn’t. He was the known devil, a familiar if not entirely green pasture.
Miles was imperfect but perfect can be the enemy of good, as the Tigers are slowly realizing. They messed with happy enough in the hope of finding euphoria. Messing with happy is always a risk, and risks carry consequences. This is not to say they’d be any better off if Miles were still at the helm. The program had grown stale and fans were restless with the offensive strategy that Miles had run for several years.
But trusting Orgeron was always a leap, especially after being in the running for a top young name like Tom Herman only to be outbid by Texas at the last minute. Sure, Orgeron went 6-2 in two interim stints at LSU and USC but he had a proven record of SEC struggles. A 10-25 career record that included a 3-21 conference record at Ole Miss from 2005-2007 is a large red flag. He looks, speaks, and acts like a Tigers head coach. His results, however, haven’t been great and that’s what led to Miles getting a swift hook.
Two team meetings and a sitdown between the athletic director Joe Alleva and coordinators does not portend good things, nor does it suggest LSU is a well-oiled machine. It’s still perplexing what led Alleva to hire Orgeron when young candidates like Herman and P.J. Fleck were readily available. The Miles firing and Orgeron hiring were both risk-laden. Time and the sudden fever in Baton Rouge is ferreting out a tough reality, one that not only fans, but the administration is not eager to deal with.
One, or both, may have been significant blunders. Unfortunately, moving on from Orgeron will be pricey and unlikely to happen this season, or next for that matter. Alleva married Orgeron to the program with a big-boy contract and finding a coach of Miles’ caliber to replace him wouldn’t be a slam dunk either.
Huge mistake? LSU may have made one or two. And that can be a painful realization.