Category Archives: LSU Fighting TIgers

Thawed and posting

Sorry I went three days without posting. Not much happened to write home about, save for my session Thursday with Crista. Let’s say I was not in the right frame of mind.

I was going to go to Hays tomorrow for an appointment, but I rescheduled due to icy roads. I’m there today, killing time at Taco Bell and playing trivia on my phone. I am going to need Sudafed when I get back to Russell because my nose is stuffed.

LSU’s football team visited the White House yesterday and was greeted by President Trump, who attended the championship game in New Orleans. Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and future Cincinnati Bengal (barring something out of far left field), said it best that political affiliations didn’t matter; visiting the White House on invitation by the President of the United States is an honor.

Too bad too many athletes are turning this honor into a political statement. The Warriors famously refused to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after their 2017 and 2018 NBA championships because coach Steve Kerr and several players detest Trump. Disgraced ex-Red Sox manager Alex Cora did not accompany the Red Sox after their 2018 World Series championship. Several members of the Patriots and Eagles boycotted following their Super Bowl championships.

The ONLY good thing about the Raptors winning the NBA championship in 2019 is we didn’t have to hear about boycotting Trump. They were warmly received by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Candaian Parliament in Ottawa. Too bad Brian Mulroney was the last Canadian Prime Minister to host a Stanley Cup champion, the Canadiens in 1993.

These teams should be grateful to visit one of the most elegant residences on the planet. It wasn’t always the case.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins, the NFL’s only undefeated and untied champion, didn’t visit the White House until 2012, by which time Richard Nixon, who was in office at the time (and a huge Dolphins fan), had been dead for 18 years, and two of his successors (Ford and Reagan) had also passed on. Three members of the ’72 Dolphins–Jim Langer, Bob Kuechenberg and Manny Fernandez–did not attend because they disagreed vehemently with President Obama. Sadly, Langer and Kuechenberg are no longer with us.

The 1985 Bears were scheduled to visit the White House a few days after winning Super Bowl XX, but the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion less than 48 hours after the victory over the Patriots scuttled that.

Today, there was a short parade on LSU’s campus from the School of Music and Dramatic Arts down Victory Hill to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, where more than 13,000 fanatics stuffed the “Deaf Dome” to greet Burrow, Coach O and all the rest. Two assistants were absent: Joe Brady, now the Panthers’ offensive coordinator, and Dave Aranda, now Baylor’s head coach.

LSU fans should gloat and enjoy it. It may be a long time before another championship.

It’s just coincidence, but LSU has sewn up all four of its national championships in New Orleans, a mere 75 to 80 miles east-southeast of LSU’s campus. If that trend continues, LSU’s next championship won’t come before 2027, since the sites through 2023 have been named, and the college football playoff folks want a large rotation of cities, not a few as used to be the case for the Super Bowl.

Miami , Los Angeles and Houston will host the next three championships. It figures Minneapolis, Detroit and Indianapolis will all host soon, since all those cities have retractable roofs. Charlotte, Nashville, Baltimore and Washington will all want to host, even though the weather is a roll of the dice compared to Florida and California.

A few people posted on social media that LSU clinched its 1958 national championship by defeating Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.

Not true.

However, it was true the Bayou Bengals clinched their championship in the Big Easy, defeating Tulane 62-0 in their regular season finale. LSU did not play the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and thus had to wait out the results from that weekend to find out if they would hold on to the top spot.

When the polls were released 1 December 1958, LSU held a comfortable margin over No. 2 Iowa. That was the final poll for the Associated Press and United Press International. The AP first conducted a post-bowl poll in 1965, went back to ending polling after the regular season in 1966 and ’67, then made the post-bowl poll permanent in 1968. The UPI did not switch to a post-bowl poll until 1974, a move roundly criticized.

The Hawkeyes were awarded the Football Writers Association of American (FWAA) national championship after they defeated California in the Rose Bowl, feeling LSU’s victory over Clemson was unimpressive.

Between 1960 and 1973, Minnesota (1960), Alabama (1964), Michigan State (1965), Texas (1970) and Alabama (1973) all lost their bowl game after finishing first in the UPI poll Minnesota and Alabama in 1964 were also first in the final AP poll. The bowl losses opened the door for Alabama in 1965, Nebraska in 1970 and Notre Dame in 1973 to win the AP poll.

Ole Miss won the FWAA championship in 1960 and Arkansas did so in 1964. Arkansas’ claim is more widely recognized than Ole Miss’, as the Razorbacks were 11-0 after defeating Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, while Ole Miss tied at home against an LSU team which went 5-4-1. The Rebels also try to claim championships in 1959 and 1962 by retroactive computer polls, but I can count the number of non-Ole Miss fans who count those on one hand. I don’t recognize them.

Notably, LSU was named No. 1 in five other seasons by computer polls or some other methods. The Bayou Bengals don’t recognize those titles. 1958, 2003, 2007 and 2019 count.

The participants for Super Bowl LIV will be determined tomorrow.

I really don’t care for either team in the AFC championship.

I don’t like Nashville, period, and I hated the way the late Bud Adams screwed the good people of Houston by sabotaging the Oilers following their 1993 playoff loss to the Chiefs to ensure fans would stay away from the Astrodome and the NFL would approve the move to Tennessee.

Chiefs fans have become arrogant and entitled the past two seasons. They’re saying it is their right to be in Super Bowl LIV after they were screwed by the officials and the overtime rules in last year’s AFC championship game vs. the Patriots. No, the Chiefs weren’t screwed. Don’t fall behind by an ungodly amount of points on your home field, even if you were playing the Patriots.

If I HAD to pick a side, it would be the Chiefs, since they haven’t been to the Super Bowl since January 1970. Besides, I know a few Chiefs fans, although many have become as cocky as Royals fans were during their glory years of 2014 and ’15.

I don’t like anything about Nashville. NOT A DAMN THING. I hated the place when I visited for LSU baseball games vs. Vanderbilt. Nashville looks down its nose at Memphis as a crime-ridden hellhole whose musical icon could dance and not sing and became a morbidly obese drug addict at the end, and think East Tennessee is nothing but hillbillies riding around with shotguns in the back of pickups. And don’t get me started on how Nashville has an NHL team and Quebec City and Hartford don’t.

Sorry, but I’ll listen to Elvis over any country music which came out after 1989 any time. Last I checked, the University of Tennessee, a nuclear power plant and many hydroelectric plants are in East Tennessee.

As for the NFC, I don’t dislike the Packers, but I would rather not see Aaron Rodgers highlights on NFL Network and ESPN 18 hours a day. Even worse, we’d see more of Danica Patrick than a human should have to. It would be nice for Kyle Shanahan to lead the 49ers to a championship and redeem himself for all the bad calls he made as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator when the Falcons blew that lead to the Patriots three years ago.

Here’s hoping for a lot of red in Miami Gardens. If it is 49ers-Chiefs, I’m wondering if Joe Montana will toss the coin seeing he played for both teams.

It’s been football overload this week. Thankfully after tomorrow night, nothing until 2 February (the Pro Bowl doesn’t count).

LSU completes its mission

The lights were out in the basement at 1224 North Brooks at 20:10 last night. The CPAP mask was on, and I was going to try to get as much sleep as possible.

I woke up at 00:48, went back to bed, then was up for good at 03:50.

I waited a few minutes before venturing to The Advocate website.

The header screamed “THIS IS FOR ALL OF US”.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out LSU defeated Clemson to become the 2019 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision national champion.

The Bayou Bengals fell behind the Tigers from South Carolina 17-7 early in the second quarter, the first time LSU has trailed by more than seven points since losing 29-0 to Alabama in November 2018.

I felt 95 percent sure LSU would not lead wire-to-wire, as it did against Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl and Georgia in the SEC championship game. I figured Dabo’s boys would build a two-score lead at some point, which it did.

By halftime, the tenor of the game changed 180 degrees.

LSU scored three touchdowns to turn that 17-7 deficit into a 28-17 lead.

Clemson scored early in the third quarter and added the conversion to make it 28-25, but Trevor Lawrence and his team did not score again.

Final: LSU 42, Clemson 25. The Bayou Bengals joined the 2018 Clemson Tigers as the only college football teams to finish 15-0 since 1900. The others to win 15 (or 16) without a loss played in the 1890s, before the NCAA was founded.

Ed Orgeron proclaimed his 2019 team the “best ever”.

He has many great points.

LSU, which was ranked #6 in the Associated Press preseason poll, defeated the teams ranked #1 (Clemson), #2 (Alabama), #3 (Georgia) and #4 (Oklahoma) in that poll. That never happened until 2019.

LSU defeated seven top-10 teams: the four aforementioned teams, plus Texas, Florida and Auburn.

Joe Burrow had a season for the ages, throwing 60 touchdown passes (yes, he did so in 15 games, but four TD passes per game is incredible), finishing with 467 yards and five TDs against Clemson.

Burrow is headed to Cincinnati barring something cataclysmic. The Bengals would be asinine not to pick him first overall in the upcoming NFL draft.

LSU fans got a dose of bad news late this afternoon when it was announced Joe Brady, the 31-year old wunderkind who came to Baton Rouge and installed the high-powered passing attack Bayou Bengal fans could only have dreamed about prior 2019, would be going back to the NFL as offensive coordinator for Matt Rhule and the Panthers.

The worry is without Brady, Orgeron and Steve Ensminger will resort to the prehistoric offense which hastened Les Miles’ demise. I don’t think it will happen, but Orgeron needs to move swiftly and decisively to fill this hole.

Coaching turnover is an inevitable part of football. However, Brady is going to the NFL, not to another SEC school. The bad news is he’ll be facing the Saints twice a year.

Many fans would have been mighty disappointed had LSU lost last night, but many might not have been. The Bayou Bengals defeated Alabama two months ago to end an eight-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide, and Nick Saban was sitting next to Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit all night in a suit and tie, which meant he wasn’t on the sideline coaching Alabama.

With that in mind, I hope LSU fans who are 25 and under are grateful for the success the Bayou Bengals have enjoyed since 2000.

LSU’s WORST record since 2000 is 8-5, which occurred in 2008, one year after LSU defeated Ohio State for the BCS national championship.

I’m old enough to remember LSU suffering through six consecutive losing seasons from 1989-94. Two words: CURLEY HALLMAN.

Hallman, who only got the LSU job because Brett Favre was his quarterback at Southern Miss–gifted to him by Jim Carmody–and Joe Dean was too freaking cheap to hire anyone better. Dean got bamboozled by Hallman’s record as a drill sergeant and he was an assistant on national championship teams at Alabama (1973) and Clemson (1981).

Too bad Hallman put together a mostly incompetent staff, save for Phil Bennett. He didn’t recruit all that poorly, because Gerry DiNardo came in and took LSU to three consecutive low-level bowl games from 1995-97.

I’ll never forget just how excited LSU fans were over a 6-4-1 regular season in 1995 which sent the Bayou Bengals to the Independence Bowl to face Michigan State When LSU defeated Nick Saban’s Spartans 45-26, LSU fans reacted like they were well on their way to a national championship.

Yes, there was a national championship coach in the house in Shreveport on 29 December. Only he was wearing green, not purple.

LSU went 10-2 in 1996 and won the Peach Bowl. It was one of the worst 10-2 teams I’ve seen. The Bayou Bengals played a pillow soft schedule, and in the two biggest games, they were routed 56-13 by eventual national champion Florida and 26-0 by Alabama when Shaun Alexander rushed for 291 yards.

Then came the most overrated win in LSU athletic history, the 1997 game vs. then-No. 1 Florida, which it promptly pissed away a week later by losing to Ole Miss.

With mostly his own players, DiNardo had two horrible years in 1998 and ’99, which was a blessing in disguise, because it forced LSU to open its wallets to pay for a quality coach. That quality coach was Nick Saban, a choice which angered many fans who considered him a “Yankee” from Michigan State.

Saban went 48-16 in five seasons in Baton Rouge. Les Miles followed and went 114-34 over the next 11-plus campaigns, combining for 25 more wins than Charles McClendon had in 18 seasons (137-59-7).

It wasn’t all wine and roses for Orgeron, either. LSU fans were up in arms after losses to Alabama and Florida in November 2016, and many hoped Tom Herman would leave Houston to come to Baton Rouge. When it was announced Orgeron would get the job full time two days after LSU defeated Texas A&M to close the 2016 regular season, a collective groan could be heard from Shreveport to Port Sulphur, from Lake Providence to Cameron, and many points in between.

Orgeron’s seat heated up again when LSU lost at home to Troy in 2017, and again when Alabama came to Baton Rouge in 2018 and laid the 29-0 beatdown on the Bayou Bengals.

Today, no coach in college athletics is more beloved by his or her fan base than Ed Orgeron. More so than Nick Saban, Coach K, Bill Self, Geno Auriemma, and Dabo.

Part of me wishes I were in Louisiana to experience the season. The other part says I’m better off from a distance. Regardless, it’s history. Time to let the pros take it from here.

Tuning out the Tigers

You would think I would be watching LSU and Clemson play for college football’s national championship (at least for the highest level).

I’m not.

I am so convinced Clemson will win I am not watching.

The game kicked off at 19:15. I am self-censoring. The TV is off. I have set my devices to do not disturb. I am not checking any sports sites. I think I’ll go to bed really early, considering I rose at 05:00 and have a lot of work to get done tomorrow morning.

The last time I self-censored was the night of the 2016 presidential election. I watched some crap on LMN, then went to bed early. I had no earthly clue who had won what state.

I went to bed convinced Hillary would win, just as almost every major media outlet predicted.

It wasn’t until I came upstairs, where my mother had the TV tuned to Today, when I learned Trump won.

When LSU played Alabama for the BCS national championship in January 2012, I didn’t watch the game, but I made the mistake of looking at Twitter. It was there I learned just how badly LSU was getting its ass kicked by Alabama. Of course, a few jerks had to rub it in.

This season, I purposely did not watch most of the first half in LSU’s game at Alabama and the Peach Bowl vs. Oklahoma. I didn’t see a score until I came upstairs, because my mother was watching. In each of those games, the Bayou Bengals built up a big enough lead, making it okay to watch. Not tonight. It won’t be that easy vs. Clemson.

Tonight, no social media, Nothing. If I want to watch the game, I can watch a replay on ESPN+. Something tells me those wearing orange are going to be much happier tonight than those wearing purple and gold.

More sports woe in Houston.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch for the 2020 season for their roles in Houston’s sign stealing throughout the 2017 postseason, which ended with the Astros defeating the Dodgers in the World Series.

Houston was also fined $5 million, believed to be a record for a major sports league due to an on-field incident. Too bad Roger Goodell doesn’t have the guts to fine the Patriots that much.

Astros owner Jim Crane went one step farther than Manfred, immediately firing Luhnow and Hinch. Houston has a huge hole in the rotation now that Gerrit Cole is in the Bronx, but it still has many strong pieces in Justin Verlander, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Corriea and George Springer. The question is who will manage them, and who will step into this mess?

I didn’t mention the Oilers blowing the 35-3 lead in Buffalo in the 1992 playoffs, but I figured you knew about that already. It has been repeated ad nausem following the Texans’ collapse yesterday in Kansas City.

On the other hand, Chiefs fans are convinced more than ever the Super Bowl is their destiny. Mahomes is God. The Titans might as well stay in Nashville. Bring on the 49ers or Packers.

Before the season, a Kansas City Star online poll asked “What would it take for you to consider the Chiefs season a success?”. I don’t remember the exact split, but at least 80 percent said either “get to the Super Bowl” or “win the Super Bowl”. If the Titans win Sunday, mental health professionals will be in high demand in the so-called “Chiefs Kingdom”.

Good night, blogosphere. Hopefully I’m waking up to good news in a few hours…but I have my doubts.

40 years ago: LSU’s tragic night

LSU and Clemson still have approximately 69 more hours of waiting before facing off in New Orleans to crown 2019’s college football champion, at least for the highest level.

Forty years ago, college football was all but wrapped up after New Year’s Day. Alabama’s 24-9 victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, combined with Ohio State’s 17-16 loss to Southern California in the Rose Bowl, ensured Bear Bryant would win his third consensus national championship and sixth overall with the Crimson Tide. Three years and 25 days after defeating Lou Holtz’ Razorbacks, Bryant died of a massive heart attack in Tuscaloosa at age 69.

Sadly, on New Year’s Day 1980, another college football coach–one who recently came to the Southeastern Conference–had less than 10 days remaining on this earth.

Robert “Bo” Rein was named LSU’s coach on November 30, 1979, six days after the Bayou Bengals lost their regular season finale to Tulane in New Orleans. Rein had the unenviable task of filling the shoes which would be vacated by Charles Youmans McClendon, who led the Bayou Bengals from 1962-79, piloting LSU to a 137-59-7 record.

McClendon, who played for Bryant at Kentucky and was an assistant to Paul Dietzel on LSU’s 1958 national championship team, was forced out by LSU’s Board of Supervisors for one major reason: the inability to beat Alabama. Sound familiar? I’m sure a former LSU coach now residing in Lawrence agrees.

McClendon’s teams beat Alabama in 1969 and 1970, when the Crimson Tide suffered its only major downturn in Bryant’s 25 seasons.

Alabama was 6-5 in 1969 and 6-5-1 in 1970, losing to Tennessee and Auburn in both of those seasons as well. The 1969 team lost at Vanderbilt, the last time the Tide has lost in Nashville to the Commodores. The 1970 team lost 42-21 to USC in Birmingham, the game which convinced Bryant and his administration it was time to desegregate.

It didn’t hurt LSU had two of its best teams of the 20th century in 1969 and ’70.

The 1969 team’s lone loss was by three points to Archie Manning’s Ole Miss Rebels in Jackson. Even with the loss, LSU was expecting to receive an invitation to the Cotton Bowl to play the winner of the season-ending showdown between Texas and Arkansas, both of whom were expected to be undefeated heading into the December 6 showdown in Fayetteville. However, Notre Dame opted to end its self-imposed bowl ban which dated to the Four Horsemen and Rockne, and with the Irish now in play, the Cotton Bowl jumped on Ara Parseghian’s team. The Sugar Bowl took Ole Miss instead of LSU, and the Bayou Bengals opted to stay home despite a 9-1 ledger and a No 7 ranking in the final regular season Associated Press poll.

One year later, LSU lost its season opener by two points to Gene Stallings’ Texas A&M Aggies. A&M did not win again in 1970, and by the end of 1971, Stallings was no longer the coach at his alma mater. LSU’s other loss was 3-0 to then-No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend. When LSU’s plane landed in Baton Rouge the evening of November 21, McClendon learned LSU would be invited to the Orange bowl if and only if the Bayou Bengals defeated Tulane and Ole Miss in their last two games.

No sweat.

LSU took down a strong Tulane club in New Orleans 26-14, then came home and mauled the Rebels 61-17 to win the SEC championship and the date with Nebraska in Miami. The Bayou Bengals fought the Cornhuskers to the wire, but Nebraska prevailed 17-12 for the AP national championship after losses earlier in the day by UPI national champion Texas and Ohio State.

In 1971, Bryant changed Alabama’s offense to the Wishbone, the attack which helped Texas win 30 consecutive games prior to the loss to Notre Dame on New Year’s Day 1971.

LSU played Alabama tough in most years, but the Tide and their attack were simply too much. From 1971-79, Alabama won or shared the SEC championship in every season except 1976, shared two national championships (1973 with Notre Dame, 1978 with USC), and as mentioned before, won the 1979 title outright.

The Bayou Bengals won nine games in 1971, ’72 and ’73, but when LSU went 5-5-1 in 1974 and 4-7 in 1975, LSU fans demanded McClendon’s ouster. It was originally announced McClendon would coach through the 1978 season, but when Dietzel became LSU’s athletic director in early 1978, he extended McClendon for an extra year.

Rein was a popular choice to succeed “Cholly Mac”. He was a standout football and baseball player for Ohio State, helping the Buckeyes win the 1966 College World Series. He was an assistant for Woody Hayes at his alma mater and Holtz at North Carolina State. When Holtz left Raleigh for his disastrous season with the New York Jets, Rein was tapped as his successor.

Strangely enough, Rein left NC State to serve as an assistant to Frank Broyles at Arkansas in 1975. Broyles resigned as coach after the 1976 season, but remained as the Razorbacks’ athletic director for the next 32 years. Broyles the AD named Holtz to succeed Broyles the coach. I’m sure neither dreamed Arkansas would one day be in the SEC.

Led by Rein, All-America offensive lineman Jim Ritcher (who started for the Bills in all four of their Super Bowl appearances) and linebacker Bill Cowher (the future coach of the Steelers), NC State enjoyed great success in Rein’s four seasons, going 27-18-1 with victories in the 1977 Peach Bowl over Iowa State and the 1978 Tangerine (now Citrus) Bowl over Pittsburgh. The 1979 Wolfpack won the 1979 Atlantic Coast Conference championship, but did not go to a bowl game, while rivals Clemson and Wake Forest did.

Ironically, the Deamon Deacons, coached by John Mackovic, lost 34-10 to LSU in McClendon’s last game, the 1979 Tangerine Bowl.

While McClendon got the 1979 Bayou Bengals, led by quarterbacks David Woodley and Steve Ensminger, ready for Wake Forest, Rein and his coaching staff hit the recruiting trail hard in search of new talent.

On January 10, 1980, Rein and an assistant coach drove to Shreveport to visit with a recruit from Fair Park High, long a power in northwest Louisiana. Following the visit, Rein arranged for a private plane owned by a construction company to fly him back to Baton Rouge. The assistant would stay overnight in Shreveport and drive to another visit the next day.

Travel was much different in 1980 than it is in 2020 in two major respects.

First, LSU did not own its own plane as it does today. Ed Orgeron, as well as predecessors Miles and Nick Saban, have enjoyed a plane provided by the Tiger Athletic Foundation, LSU’s athletic booster club, to travel long distances.

Second, driving between Shreveport and Baton Rouge was a lot more arduous.

Interstate 49 had been proposed in the early 1970s by then-Governor Edwin Edwards, but in January 1980, two months before he left office and gave way to Dave Treen, the highway was still only a dream.

Before I-49, it required a very long journey on two-lane highways to make the trek. One option was to take Louisiana Highway 1 through New Roads and Marksville through to Alexandria, Natchitoches and Shreveport. The other was to take US 190 to Krotz Springs, then pick up US 71, which also went through Alexandria, but bypassed Natchitoches and instead went through Coushatta to Bossier City, on the opposite bank of the Red River from Shreveport.

My family made the long and lonely drive up US 71 on trips to Kansas in the 1980s. It took about five hours to get from Baton Rouge to Interstate 20. We’ll never forget the rocks along the highway in Bunkie which cracked the windshield of our old station wagon in 1986.

When I-49 was finally completed in 1996, that trip was cut to under four hours. With the speed limit now at 75 MPH (121 km/h) on I-49 from Shreveport to US 190 at Opelousas, fast drivers can make it in three hours, 25 minutes.

The assistant coach drove Rein to Shreveport Regional Airport, which fronts the eastbound lanes of I-20. Rein climbed aboard the Cessna 441, piloted by 48-year old Lewis F. Benscotter Jr., for what should have been a 50-minute flight to Ryan Field (now Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport).

There was a line of severe thunderstorms over central Louisiana, so the air traffic control tower at SHV instructed Benscotter to fly east into Mississippi, paralleling I-20, then turn south over Vicksburg, which would parallel US 61.

Shortly after takeoff just after 22:00, Rein and Benscotter were incapacitated. The plane kept climbing, all the way to 41,600 feet (12,700 meters), well above its ceiling maximum of 35,000 feet (10, 668 meters). The cabin pressurization malfunctioned, and without oxygen at high altitudes, Rein and Benscotter slipped into unconsciousness.

The doomed plane flew over Tennessee and North Carolina. In a sad twist of irony, the plane passed directly over the NC State campus.

Air Force fighter planes from Norfolk attempted to contact the plane. Nothing. The Cessna finally ran out of fuel off the coast of Virginia and nosedived into the Atlantic shortly after 01:00 Eastern.

Robert “Bo” Rein was 34 years old. He had been LSU’s coach for all of 42 days. His final record: 0-0-0.

Technology in 1980 was primitive. ESPN debuted four months earlier, but it did not have the resources to send someone to Baton Rogue, and besides, most Americans didn’t have cable. Of course, most households didn’t have a computer, and the Internet was for government use only.

Most found out by reading an evening newspaper (Baton Rouge’s evening paper, the State-Times, was still publishing, as was the States-Item in New Orleans; the Russell County News was published four days a week then and delivered in the late afternoon) or watching Roger Mudd (substituting for Walter Cronkite on CBS), John Chancellor (NBC) or Frank Reynolds (ABC) on the evening news. If you had a friend or relative in Louisiana, you found out sooner I’m sure.

Herb Vincent, who was born and raised in Little Rock but grew up an LSU fan, was about to begin his second semester in Baton Rouge when Rein’s plane went down. He may have been the first LSU student to learn of the tragedy from legendary LSU sports information director Paul Manasseh.

Vincent was one of only a handful of students on campus that Friday, because classes for the spring semester were to start the following Monday. The only other students on campus were LSU’s men’s basketball, women’s basketball and wrestling teams, those who had important jobs, and possibly a few football players lifting weights.

Nearly 20 years after Rein’s tragic death, an eerily similar fate befell golfer Payne Stewart four months after his victory in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. A private plane which was scheduled to ferry Stewart, his agent and three others from Orlando to Dallas went well off course. By time it ran out of gas, it crashed into a field in South Dakota.

In 2015, a documentary about Rein was aired by the SEC Network. It was well-produced, thanks in large part to Herb’s guidance.

Jerry Stovall, the 1962 Heisman runner-up and an assistant to McClendon in the late 1970s, was named Rein’s successor less than 48 hours after the plane crash. Stovall did the right thing by keeping all of Rein’s assistants, while also adding Pete Jenkins, in hindsight the best thing he did in his four seasons.

It’s speculated Rein may have led LSU to great glory in the 1980s. Even with Georgia assuming superpower status thanks to Herschel Walker, Florida ascending, Auburn becoming elite again under Pat Dye, and Alabama still competing well under Ray Perkins and Bill Curry, the Bayou Bengals could have ruled the roost under Rein if he had been able to keep the best high school players from Louisiana at home.

It’s also fair to speculate if Rein lived, Bill Arnsparger never leaves the Dolphins and gets another shot at being an NFL head coach; Mike Archer would have coached the Miami Hurricanes at some point, either succeeding Howard Schnellenberger or Jimmy Johnson; Curley Hallman would have still been in Hattiesburg long after Brett Favre departed for the NFL; and Gerry DiNardo would have languished at Vanderbilt a few more years.

Nick Saban stays at Michigan State until he finds more money somewhere else. In fact, he may very well have ended up at Alabama in 2001 after it fired Mike DuBose.

Les Miles coaches three more years in Stillwater before succeeding Lloyd Carr at his alma mater, Michigan.

On the other hand, something tells me Ed Orgeron is coaching the Bayou Bengals right now anyway. Orgeron would have come to LSU right out of college and stayed in Baton Rouge, resisting overtures from Ole Miss and at least 20 other Power Five schools.

Rein retires at 70 after the 2015 season, and Big Ed leads LSU into the 2016 season opener vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field. Joe Burrow comes to LSU from Ohio State with Rein’s encouragement, wins the 2019 Heisman, and all is right with the world (unless Clemson wins).

That’s the beauty of what-if. The not so beautiful part? It couldn’t happen, because the man at the center of this what-if left us far too soon. Rest in Peace, coach Rein. You would have been a great one.

The Superdome must be secured!

Donald Trump announced yesterday he would attend the College Football Playoff championship game in New Orleans.

Security was already going to be problematic with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and nearly all 144 members of the Louisiana Legislature making their way down Interstate 10 from the state capitol, where Edwards, other elected officials and legislators will be inaugurated that day.

Adding a visit by POTUS is going to exacerbate the problem exponentially.

Security for the game will be as tight as it was for the two Super Bowls in the Superdome since the September 11 attacks. The Secret Service will take the lead from the Louisiana State Police and New Orleans Police Department for security, and searches will be much longer and more thorough.

The Superdome would be better off asking the Transportation Security Administration to get full body scanners and place them at each of the four main entrances.

I bring this up because 16 years ago tonight, the Sugar Bowl matched LSU and Oklahoma for the BCS national championship. Nearly 80,000 crammed into the Superdome, which was–and still is–a record for a football game in the facility. The record for all events is 87,500 for a 1981 concert by The Rolling Stones, although an estimated 95,000 attended a 1987 youth rally with Pope John Paul II.

Please forgive me as I go off the trail to tell another story about John Paul’s only visit to the Crescent City.

The pontiff hosted an outdoor mass behind the left field fence of the University of New Orleans’ baseball stadium a few hours after the youth rally. It was not the best idea. It poured before the mass, which proved to be the lesser of two meteorological evils for New Orleans in September (at least when there’s not a hurricane bearing down on the Bayou State). Better wet from rain than dripping with sweat.

If the Archdiocese of New Orleans was smart, it would have held the mass on Sunday morning in the Superdome and asked the Saints to play on the road in week one of the 1987 season. Sure, fewer people would have been able to attend, but it would have been much more comfortable for all. John Paul was frail after he was shot in May 1981 in St. Peter’s Square, but had not yet displayed symptoms of the Parkinson’s which would claim him in 2005. He made it through the nearly two-hour service, but Archbishop Philip Hannan breathed a lot easier when the pontiff got into an air-conditioned limousine after the service.

Now, back to LSU and Oklahoma playing for half the 2003 college football national championship.

I say half the national championship, because the media voting in the Associated Press poll had Southern California (DO NOT EVER use Southern Cal) atop its poll following the regular season, and the Trojans figured to stay there after hammering Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl three days prior. The coaches poll was contractually obligated to name the winner of the designated BCS championship game its champion.

Oklahoma stayed No. 1 in the final BCS standings despite a disgustingly ugly 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, the Wildcats’ first conference championship since 1934. LSU moved into the No. 2 spot following a 34-13 victory over Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Two weeks prior to the Sugar Bowl, the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert threat from “Elevated” (Yellow) to “High” (Orange). Since September 11, 2001, DHS devised a terrorism threat chart with five color-coded levels. The highest was “Extreme” (Red), followed by High, Elevated, “Guarded” (Blue) and “Low” (Green).

For the Sugar Bowl, DHS, LSP and NOPD ordered nearly all of the parking lots attached to the Superdome closed. Only the garage at the southwest corner of the stadium would be opened, and very few permits would be issued.

I was one of the fortunate few. I assisted the media relations staff in the week leading up to the game, and I would be in the press box on game night researching information for the media to use in their stories. The media from out of town had a shuttle running from their designated hotel to the Superdome, so they did not receive parking passes. Some media were staying at the Hyatt Regency attached to the east entrance of the stadium, so all they had to do was walk.

When I arrived at the Superdome, I got out of my car to allow a search of all areas, including the trunk. I was driving the Oldsmobile 88 which I totaled running into a deer in Kansas in October 2005.

I made sure to only take what was essential to the game to make the search easier. I took it in stride. At least my car wasn’t being searched for drugs or other contraband!

The Bayou Bengals defeated the Sooners 21-14, giving LSU its first national championship since 1958. Nick Saban celebrated for all of six minutes, 13 seconds, give or take. There was no Gatorade shower for Saban, which was a good thing for LSU players, given Saban’s anger over his dousing by Alabama players six years later when the Crimson Tide defeated Texas for the first of five titles won by Saban in Tuscaloosa.

Security was a breeze for the 2005 Sugar Bowl, where Auburn completed a 13-0 season by defeating Virginia Tech, but had to settle for No. 2 behind USC.

The 2005 Sugar Bowl marked the last time I have set foot in the Superdome. What I wouldn’t give to set foot in there one more time.

I’m into my last day in Kansas City. Tomorrow morning its back to humdrum Russell. All good things must end.

The last–or next to last–post of 2019

The final 24 hours of 2019–and the 2010s–for those of us six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time are underway.

It will be 2020 at this time tomorrow. YIPPEEE!

Those of you who are going to some lame party later this evening to celebrate the flipping of a calendar–GET A FREAKING LIFE.

I hate New Year’s Eve. I find it to be contrived, phony and nothing but cow feces. Your life is not going to magically change because the year changed. Your debts will not be magically erased because the year changed. Your favorite team is not going to magically win the championship of their league because the year changed.

Resolutions are just as pointless. Why bother? Most people, myself included, are only going to break them.

If I am up when 2019 becomes 2020, I will not be watching live television. I never watched Dick Clark hosting from Times Square, and I certainly have never watched Ryan Seacrest. That tradition should have ended when Clark suffered his debilitating stroke in 2004, and if not then, definitely when Clark passed away in 2012.

I never considered venturing to the French Quarter on New Year’s Eve when I lived in New Orleans. Too many a-holes in the Big Easy like to shoot guns in the air to celebrate the flipping of the calendar, and tragically, it killed a tourist from Massachusetts in the first minutes of 1995, a harbinger of what was to come.

I ended 1995 at the Superdome watching Virginia Tech beat Texas in the Sugar Bowl, the night Frank Beamer’s Hokies officially became a power player on the national college football scene. Four years later, Beamer’s squad was back in New Orleans, losing to Florida State in that year’s BCS championship game.

I got an up close look at Beamer during the leadup to the Sugar Bowl in January 2005, when the Hokies faced Tommy Tuberville’s Auburn Tigers. I came to the conclusion Beamer was one of the nicest men to ever coach college football. If I had a son who had a chance to play football for a Power Five school, I hope he’d have Virginia Tech high on his list..

Anyone who has a bad thing to say about Frank Beamer needs help. A great coach and a greater man. The game is a little emptier without him on the sideline in Blacksburg.

Say what you want about Tuberville, but I enjoyed seeing him at press conferences that week as well. Sadly, the man who called Auburn’s 16-13 victory in that Sugar Bowl for Auburn radio, Rod Bramblett, was killed along with his wife by a reckless teen driver this past May. Ironically, Bramblett became Auburn’s play-by-play announcer for football after his predecessor, Jim Fyffe, passed away from a heart attack in 2003. Life is cruel.

Witnessing the Hokies’ defeat John Mackovic’s Longhorns was one of the best days of 1995 for me. Tells you how bad that year was. It is the only time I have been out past 2100 on New Year’s Eve, and it’s something I don’t want to repeat. As long as I’m in Russell on December 31, I won’t have to worry about that.

Speaking of college football, it’s a good thing LSU and Clemson will have two weeks to prepare for the showdown in my native city. LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and the rest of the Bayou Bengal family needs the time to grieve the loss of Carley McCord, a sports broadcaster with New Orleans’ NBC affiliate, WDSU, who died in a plane crash in Lafayette with the pilot and three other passengers five hours before the Peach Bowl kicked off. McCord was married to Steve’s first child, Steve Jr.

McCord, who received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern State in Natchitoches and her master’s from LSU, was only 30. Sadly, Natchitoches is where singer Jim Croce perished in 1973 after a small plane crashed just after takeoff from the small town’s airport.

(In case you haven’t looked a a map of Louisiana, Natchitoches is almost halfway between Alexandria and Shreveport along Interstate 49. It’s where the blockbuster motion picture Steel Magnolias was filmed.)

Steve Ensminger was the football coach at Central High, where he was a star athlete from 1972-76, in 2001. I covered two of his team’s games, losses to perennial powers St. Amant and East Ascension. The Wildcats may have been overmatched by their foes from Ascension Parish in those games, but they were disciplined and fundamentally sound. Those kids had to be thrilled to be coached by a Central legend, an ex-LSU quarterback, and someone who had been a college assistant at powerhouses like Georgia and Texas A&M. Ensminger’s wife, Nancy, coached Central’s softball team for many years, and his daughters were All-State pitchers for the Wildcats.

My oldest friend on earth, Rosemarie Renz Huguet, now teaches in the Central school system, as does Michele Ashmore LeBeouf, who helped St. Joseph’s Academy go 165-9 and win four consecutive volleyball state championships from 2001-04.

A lot of people criticized Ed Orgeron when he kept Ensminger on staff following the 2016 firing of Les Miles, but Orgeron has had the last laugh. Ensminger, who preferred a run-heavy offense in his earlier years, has proven to be flexible and able to adapt to the pass-first mentality of 2019. Orgeron also deserves credit for coming to that conclusion after Alabama came to Baton Rouge in 2018 and embarrassed the Bayou Bengals 29-0. He hired Joe Brady, who along with Ensminger helped Joe Burrow enjoy one of the best seasons for a quarterback in college football history.

Two questions remain for Burrow: (a) Can he complete the job against Clemson, and (b) Will he enjoy a long and prosperous NFL career, something only two previous LSU quarterbacks (Y.A. Tittle and Bert Jones), have done?

It’s a shame Ensminger never got the chance to be a college head coach, yet I think he’s happy where he is and is content with never occupying the big office.

He was cordial enough to me when I interviewed him after the 2001 games, but wasn’t as quotable as coaches like Dale Weiner (Baton Rouge Catholic), Sid Edwards (Redemptorist and later Central), Kenny Guillot (Parkview Baptist), David Masterson (Northeast), J.T. Curtis (John Curtis) and Hank Tierney (Shaw and now Ponchatoula). It’s not that he dislikes the media. Instead, he’s comfortable staying in the background and letting Ed Orgeron do the talking. Nothing wrong with that.

Another rambling post in the books. Night.

Good-bye 42

The last 12 hours of my 43rd year got off to a sour start.

Following my fourth marathon day at Buffalo Wild Wings, I stopped at the QuikTrip in Riverside to fuel the Buick so I wouldn’t have to do it tomorrow.

When I arrived, I noticed a white GMC Yukon sitting in front of pump #4 with the pump in the tank. He was blocking one of the four non-ethanol pumps, and of course, I wanted non-ethanol.

After three or four minutes in the store, I pulled out of the lot in front of the store. Yet all the non-ethanol pumps were not available: the Yukon was still there, one was blocked by a guy fixing his car, another was blocked by a car not getting non-ethanol, and another was in use by someone actually buying non-ethanol.

I waited for three minutes for the Yukon. Nothing.

I finally had to go in and ask the clerks at the cash register to see if the Yukon owner was in the store. Sure enough he was. He told me he would move it. He looked pissed off.

First, it is absolutely RUDE to block a gas pump when you’re done. Move on.

Second, it is even more RUDE to block a pump which has non-ethanol or diesel. EVERY pump–20 of them in this case–has the three standard grades of 10% ethanol gas. And while it was busy, there were eight pumps open for the regular gas.

Third, why the hell do people leave their vehicle in front of the pump when they want to go shop in the store? That’s stupid. Why not pull the car to the front of the store so you don’t have as long to walk?

I am to the point where I might just have to take a trip to Tulsa and chew out the bigwigs at QuikTrip. No, I won’t make a special trip–although I could go for Whataburger–but I will send an angry letter. No cursing, no threats, but just my absolute disappointment at the lack of courtesy.

It was a great day at Buffalo Wild Wings. Robb and Theresa stopped by for an hour. Theresa brought me some of her homemade sausage to take back to Russell.

Yet I’m ready to get back to Russell. Got a lot of work to do between now and Wednesday at noon.

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I left B-Dubs upset last night. I was hoping Peggy would stop in Kansas City on her way from Des Moines to Paola. She was in Iowa yesterday to watch Caitlyn play, and she was heading to Courtney and Andy’s home to stay before going to Wichita today for the Ottawa-Friends match. I asked her to consider stopping on her way down I-35, but I never heard from her.

When I left B-Dubs, I made a beeline straight for Overland Park and Cheesecake Factory. I got two slices of cheesecake (tiramisu and Godiva–delicious) and a strip steak. The steak was overcooked and thin, so that taught me a lesson–stick to Cheesecake. I would have been better off making a second stop at Outback on the other side of I-435. Oh well.

I felt very guilty that I didn’t go to Wichita and to Ottawa, where Caitlyn was a member of the homecoming court. I was much harder on myself than they were on me. St. Louis bought a lot of goodwill.

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Georgia choked today. The third-ranked Bulldogs gagged to a mediocre South Carolina team 20-17 in double overtime in Athens.

I won’t go into how much I hate overtime in college and high school football. If you’ve read the blog you know my stance.

If anyone in the SEC was going to beat Georgia, South Carolina is the LAST team I wanted doing it.

Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp revealed himself as a gigantic douchebag last year when he vigorously defended then-Maryland coach D.J. Durkin, who helped kill Terrapins offensive tackle Jordan McNair with his gross negligence. Muschamp fired back at anyone who dared speak ill of Durkin and called those who did “soft”.

I never liked Muschamp when he coached Florida, although he dragged the Gators into the abyss, so that was good for LSU. The defense of Durkin sealed it.

Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher, Urban Meyer and Kirk Ferentz are four coaches I would never, EVER want any male relative of mine to play for. Nick Saban is a more complicated matter, one I don’t have time to delve into right now, considering its after 2300 and I want to be back in Russell in 12 hours.

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LSU didn’t choke, although the Bayou Bengals had me way too nervous. They traded blows with Florida for three quarters before pulling away in the fourth to a 42-28 victory in Baton Rouge. The Bayou Bengals will be fourth or fifth in the polls tomorrow, depending on where Oklahoma is slotted following its 34-27 victory over Texas in the Red River Rivalry. Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State will be the top three.

Honestly, why do we need polls before the end of October? Most of the early polls are based upon reputation and nothing more. Same with college basketball, where Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina are automatically ranked in the preseason no matter what.

Missouri beat Ole M(P)iss 38-27. Good. As much as I can’t stand Florida, I totally depise the plantation in Oxford. I wish there would have been more allegations against Hugh Freeze which would have given the SEC reason to expel the Rebels.

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Washington won AGAIN in the National League Championship Series. The Nationals take a 2-0 lead back to the banks of the Potomac. The Cardinals had better find an offense NOW or else there will not be another game at Busch Stadium III until April.

The Yankees beat the Astros 7-0 in the first game of the ALCS at Houston. I can see it now….all the east coast media slobbering over the prospect of commuting up and down I-95. People in Philadelphia might not be so excited about the idea.

It wasn’t a good day for Larry. The Cardinals lost again, and the Blues got hammered 6-3 in Montreal. At least Mizzou prevented it from being a total disaster.

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Louisiana’s governor’s election is going to a second round. Incumbent John Bel Edwards failed to reach the necessary 50 percent plus one vote to win in the primary. He will now face Eddie Rispone in a runoff.

Rispone is a carbon copy of former governor Mike Foster–an rich old white man financing his own campaign. Foster didn’t do squat in two terms. He was more concerned about hunting and riding his motorcycles.

Louisiana was a total mess under Edwards’ predecessor, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal. Jindal cut state services and higher education to bare bones and the state swam in red ink deeper than the Mississippi River running through Baton Rouge. Jindal neglected the Bayou State to prepare his presidential campaign, which bombed spectacularly thank God.

Edwards–no relation to former four-term governor Edwin Washington Edwards–has put Louisiana back on solid financial footing. Of course, too many sycophant voters see a “D” next to Edwards name an automatically think he’s evil.

Rispone ran disgusting attack ads against both Edwards and Republican U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham, who finished third. I am so glad I’m not in Louisiana to see this crap.

Politics disgusts me. Period. I hate it. I’m sick and freaking tired of the hatred on both sides. Just because someone has an opposite view to yours doesn’t mean he or she is your mortal enemy. The real enemies are in North Korea, Russia, Venezuela and other countries which would destroy the American way of life.

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My 43rd year is down to its last 10 hours. By time I reconnect with this blog, I will be into my 44th. Good night.

The missing legend—and great guard play

When I last posted Tuesday evening, I mentioned about my first meeting with three LSU athletics legends, none of whom took the field for the Bayou Bengals. All three–Kent Lowe, Bill Franques and Dan Borne–are still alive and well in Baton Rouge, still proudly representing the purple and gold.

The man I knew prior to the 1994 football media day, Herb Vincent, has gone on to bigger and better things as an associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. I was sadly disappointed he didn’t become LSU’s athletic director when Skip Bertman retired in 2008, but Herb, Jamey and Kennedy are very happy in Birmingham.

There was someone else I should have met at the 1994 football media day.

Instead, Michael Bonnette was at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, recuperating after knee surgery.

Michael suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a recreational softball game earlier in August. He had just been hired full-time by Herb after five years as a student assistant and graduate assistant in the sports information (now sports communications) office. Michael had the unenviable task of promoting the LSU women’s basketball team during its darkest period, one which saw the Lady Tigers suffer three consecutive losing season, bottoming out at 7-20 in 1994-95 and nearly causing coach Sue Gunter to lose her job. Fortunately, LSU turned it around beginning in 1995-96 and Gunter eventually was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Sadly, she died in August 2005 of cancer as LSU was in the midst of five consecutive trips to the Final Four.

Michael’s bloodlines destined him for a job in the sports media business. His father, Louis, became McNeese State’s sports information director in 1966, and it was assumed Michael would replace him. Michael made his way 125 miles east and stayed there, but the Cowboys’ post is still in the family, since younger brother Matthew assumed it upon Louis’ retirement in 2011. Louis’ legacy at McNeese is secure, as the playing surface at Cowboy Stadium is named for him.

I met Michael the week before classes started. There were plenty of times I wanted to be far away from him, but the times he bailed me out of trouble and supported me far, far, far outnumbered the bad ones.

In 2000, Michael succeeded Herb as leader of the LSU sports information office and enters his 20th football season at the helm. Michael has lived through the full tenures of three football coaches, worked under four athletic directors, and has witnessed the women’s basketball coaching position pass from Gunter to Pokey Chatman to (temporarily) Bob Starkey to Van Chancellor and now to Nikki Caldwell-Fargas.

Just like the late, great Paul Manasseh groomed Herb for the job, just as Herb groomed Michael for the job, Michael has groomed his students for other jobs, most notably Bill Martin, who’s now in charge at Mississippi State. Michael and Bill are both from Lake Charles, although they went to rival high schools (Michael to LaGrange, Bill to Barbe).

Herb, Kent, Bill, Dan and Michael all deserve sainthood for putting up with me all those year. Unlike the others, Michael isn’t Catholic, so I’d have to see if the Vatican will give him an exemption.

Herb’s adroit handling of Curley Hallman’s four years of misery also deserves him sainthood. I would have gone nuts trying to deal with both sides.

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With this being the National Football League’s 100th season, I’m trying to compile a list of the greatest player at each uniform number.

I can already tell you two of the winners on my list. I never saw either play live, but thanks to NFL Films, I could tell they were legends by time I was 11.

Number 64 is Jerry Kramer, the author and Packers guard who was the brawn behind Vince Lombardi’s famed “power sweep”. Teaming with Fuzzy Thurston and later Gale Gillingham, Jimmy Taylor, Paul Hornung, Elijah Pitts and Donny Anderson all found plenty of green grass in front of them after defenders had been wiped out by the green and gold marauders.

It was a damn shame Kramer had to wait 44 years to get into the Hall of Fame. He should have been a first ballot inductee in 1974, or at worst, inducted by 1988, his last year of eligibility on the writer’s ballot. Thank God this was rectified in 2018, and even better, Kramer was able to give his induction speech on stage in Canton despite being 82 years old. Several men his age were unable to give a live induction speech (Hank Stram, Mick Tinglehoff, Johnny Robinson), or worse, passed away before their enshrinement. With the passing of Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr earlier this year, and Jimmy Taylor’s passing last October, Kramer, Willie Davis, Dave Robinson, Herb Adderley and Willie Wood are the last of the living greats who played for Lombardi.

Old Jerry was also a fine placekicker. In the 1962 NFL championship game, Kramer sliced three field goals and a extra point through vicious winds at Yankee Stadium, providing the margin of victory in Green Bay’s 16-7 triumph over the Giants.

Kramer, drafted in 1958 in the third round out of Idaho, missed the entire 1964 season when he needed to have slivers of wood removed from his abdomen, an operation which nearly killed him. He recovered to play four more seasons, helping the Packers win three consecutive NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls. He retired following the 1968 season.

Runners-up: Dave Wilcox (49ers LB, 1964-74); Randall McDaniel (Vikings G, 1989-2001)

Number 73 was slightly more challenging. Very slightly.

Like Kramer, this man also was a great offensive guard.

John Hannah toiled for 13 seasons for the Patriots and is, in my opinion, still the greatest to play for the franchise. Sorry (not sorry), Tom Brady.

Hannah was a two-time consensus All-American for Bear Bryant at Alabama, where he led the Crimson Tide to unprecedented offensive success in the Wishbone, which Bryant adopted in 1971 after seasons of 6-5 and 6-5-1 in 1969 and ’70. He is still regarded by many as the greatest offensive lineman to ever play college football.

Chuck Fairbanks, who took the Patriots job in January 1973 after six seasons at Oklahoma, wasted no time in selecting Hannah in the first round. By 1976, the Patriots reached the playoffs for the first time since 1963, and Hannah was a big reason, opening huge holes for Sam “Bam” Cunningham while giving Steve Grogan more than enough time to spot Russ Francis, and later, Stanley Morgan.

Hannah reached the Super Bowl with the Patriots in 1985, his final season. The Bears’ 46 defense, led by Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary and Richard Dent, proved to be too much for New England, which lost 46-10.

The Patriots won the AFC East in 1986, but starting in 1987, they went into a steep decline, bottoming out in 1990 when they went 1-15 and were outscored 446-181.

That wasn’t the worst thing which happened to New England in 1990.

Four players were charged with sexually harassing Boston Globe sportswriter Lisa Olson, and owner Victor Kiam doubled down by calling Olson a “classic b***h”. Two years later, the Patriots very nearly moved to St. Louis, but the hiring of Bill Parcells in 1993 and Robert Kraft’s purchase of the franchise in 1994 kept the team in Massachusetts.

Sadly, the good feelings about Kraft would evaporate a few years later.

Runners-up: Ron Yary (Vikings OT, 1968-82); Joe Klecko (Jets DL, 1977-87); Leo Nomellini (49ers DT/OT, 1950-63)

Severely tarnished silver anniversary

I was hoping to be headed east on Interstate 70 back to Russell by now.

Instead, I’m marooned at the Golden Q. Cassidy and Jocelyn are lovely to look at and there are a couple of pretty ladies at a table to my right, so it’s not bad.

Three inches of rain drenched Hays between 1830 and 2030. Ash Street, which runs in front of the Golden Q, is under ankle-deep water. The water is above the bottom of my Buick’s tires. I could use a pirogue. I would say New Orleans’ pumps would come in handy right now, but given the problems my native city has had with its pumping stations, I doubt it would help.

I was hoping to leave early tomorrow for Wichita. I have to pick up an Amazon order at the locker in front of QuikTrip at Central and Oliver, buy some more bleu cheese from Dillon’s on Central at Rock, and get my car cleaned of the bugs on the windshield. Since this isn’t time sensitive, I can sleep in and leave later. I’ll probably stay overnight now, either in Wichita or Hutchinson.

I have not watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High today. It was released 13 August 1982 and launched the careers of three of Hollywood’s most recognizable names: Sean Penn (Jeff Spicoli), Judge Reinhold (Brad Hamilton) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Stacy Hamilton). Phoebe Cates, who played the promiscuous Linda Barrett, has largely withdrawn from the public eye since marrying Kevin Kline in 1989 to raise her children.

Bravo Phoebe. As much as I’d love to see you on the screen, you’re doing much better without the limelight.

As for Ms. Lehigh (born Jennifer Leigh Morrow), she’ll be returning for season 3 of Atypcial on Netflix next month, the comedy-drama about the struggles of raising a son on the autistic spectrum. Leigh (Elsa Gardner), Keir Gilchrist (Sam Gardner, the “Atypical” young man), Michael Rapaport (Doug Gardner), Brigette Lundy-Payne (Casey Gardner), Amy Okuda (Dr. Jennifer Sasaki) and Jenna Boyd (Paige Haradway, Sam’s first girlfriend) are all first-rate. The one character I cannot stand is Sam’s best friend, the lecherous Zahid, portrayed by Nik Dodani. Along with Last Chance U, it’s my favorite show on Netflix.

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Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of one of sports’ blackest days, as well as the day my life was altered for better or worse.

The black day was the beginning of the Major League Baseball players’ strike. The players walked out due to constant threats by owners to implement a salary cap. The NBA adopted a salary cap for the 1983-84 season, the NFL adopted one starting in 1994, and the NHL would follow suit a decade later after it cancelled the entire 2004-05 season with a lockout.

Thirty-three days after the strike began, Brewers owner Bud Selig, the chairman of the owner’s council and acting commissioner (Fay Vincent was fired by the owners in September 1992 for appearing to be too friendly towards the players), announced the entire 1994 postseason would be cancelled. It was the first time since 1904 there would be no Fall Classic.

The strike finally ended on 2 April 1995 when U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor–the same Sonia Sotomayor who now sits on the Supreme Court of the United States–ordered the players back to work under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement which expired 31 December 1993.

Baseball after the strike was disastrous.

Hundreds of players became addicted to steroids. Home run totals went through the roof, with Mark McGwire hitting 70 in 1998, four more than Sammy Sosa. Both later admitted to taking steroids. Barry Bonds, who hit 73 home runs in 2001, also cheated, but he lied about it and would not be man enough to admit it. To me, Roger Maris’ 61 in 1961 is still the legitimate record.

It took the new CBA in August 2002 to finally bring the juicers under control. Sadly, it looks like steroids are back, given another round of ridiculous home run numbers.

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A few hours after the last out of the 1994 MLB season was recorded in Oakland, my life changed, thanks to the introduction of three new people into my sphere.

12 August 1994 was LSU football media day. The media covering the Bayou Bengals at the time were looking forward to it as much as they would an IRS audit or a trip to the dentist to fill a cavity.

Hudson “Curley” Hallman was entering his fourth season as the leader of the woebegone LSU football program. In his three previous seasons, Hallman compiled a dreadful 12-21 record, including a 2-9 mark in 1992, the worst ever by an LSU team.

It appeared to get worse in 1993, when LSU started 2-5, including a 58-3 embarrassment by Florida in Tiger Stadium, a game also witnessed by millions on ESPN in an era when having a game televised at 1830 was an honor, not a routine occurrence.

Had a sane man been in charge of the LSU athletic department, Hallman would have been fired within 48 hours of the Bayou Bengals’ 35-17 loss at Kentucky one week after the Florida debacle.

Sadly, Robert Joseph (Joe) Dean was LSU’s athletic director.

Joe Dean was a great basketball player for LSU, where he teamed with Bob Pettit to help the Bayou Bengals reach the Final Four in 1953, LSU’s last trip to the NCAA tournament until 1979. In case you don’t know, Pete Maravich had only one winning season in three years on the LSU varsity, and since the NCAA took only one school per conference to the big dance prior to 1975, the Bayou Bengals had to content themselves with a trip to the 1970 NIT.

Dean was also a tremendous color analyst on basketball broadcasts for over two decades. His trademark phrase “strrrrinnnng music” was repeated by tens of thousands of teenaged boys who one day dreamed of playing for Kentucky, LSU or any other SEC school.

In 1987, Dean was hired to clean up the mess in LSU’s athletic department. LSU hemorrhaged red ink in the early 1980s under the mismanagement of Paul Dietzel, the man who coached LSU to the football national championship in 1958 and groomed his successor, Charles McClendon (Cholly Mac), who led the Bayou Bengals to a 137-59-7 record from 1962-79.

Dietzel was fired by the LSU Board of Supervisors in February 1982 and succeeded by Bob Brodhead, the one-time general manager of the Houston Oilers, and later the business manager of the Miami Dolphins. Brodhead got LSU back on sound financial footing and made several tremendous coaching hires, including Skip Bertman, Sue Gunter and Bill Arnsparger.

Brodhead, however, ran afoul of the NCAA and men’s basketball coach Dale Brown, who led LSU to the Final Four in 1981 and ’86. Brodhead was convicted in April 1986 of wiretapping and sent to federal prison.

Dean inherited new football coach Mike Archer, who went 10-1-1 in 1987 and 8-4 in ’88 , largely with players he inherited from Arnsparger, who was 26-8-2 from 1984-86. When Archer had to play with his own recruits, LSU went down the toilet, going 4-7 in 1989 and 5-6 in ’90.

Dean fired Archer with two games remaining in the 1990 season. His coaching search began and ended in Hattiesburg, where Hallman led Southern Mississippi to a 23-11 record over three seasons and several huge upsets (Florida State, Alabama, Auburn), all away from Hattiesburg.

Actually, Hallman would never haver sniffed 23-11 had not been left a present by his predecessor, Jim Carmody.

That present was an unknown kid from Kiln, 70 miles south of Hattiesburg.

His name: Brett Favre. If you don’t know Favre’s story, stop living like a hermit crab.

Hallman was clearly out of his league in the SEC in 1991, ’92 and ’93. Not only did he come up woefully short against Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M, his LSU teams lost twice each to mediocre teams from Kentucky and Arkansas, was shut out 32-0 by middling Ole Miss, and was humiliated 17-14 at home by a Colorado State team which went 3-9, leading to the firing of Earle Bruce and the hiring of Sonny Lubick.

Nobody should have felt sorry for Hallman, because many of his problems were self-inflicted.

First, he completely closed practice to all media. However, people who provided players with summer jobs were provided unfettered access to practice. Watching football practice bores me to tears sometimes, but the good men who were covering LSU regularly in 1994–Scott Rabalais, Dave Moormann and Sam King (The Advocate), John Reid (Times-Picayune) and Scooter Hobbs (Lake Charles American-Press), not to mention television and radio stations–deserved to have more access than a locked gate. If he had opened practice, maybe those covering the team would have been in his corner and been able to report credibly the team was improving despite the record. With no practice access, the reporters could only go off of what they saw on Saturdays.

Second, his brutally physical practices left the team drained. He basically took the model he was subject to when he played for Bear Bryant disciple Gene Stallings at Texas A&M in the late 1960s and copied it to the letter. Hallman held two-a-days from the start of camp until the start of classes. Actually, he didn’t; sometimes Hallman used THREE-A-DAYS. Yikes. And many of those two-a-days were in full pads. It took LSU firing Hallman and Gerry DiNardo to find a coach who knew having all of those practices in full gear was silly. I wonder how that Nick Saban fellow is doing.

Third, Hallman hired the worst assistants. Period. Of all of his assistants, I would rate only Phil Bennett, George Haffner and Larry Zierlein worthy of being part of a Power Five staff. Maybe Lynn Amedee had been at one time or another, but his two years under Hallman were a complete waste.

Bennett was the only reason Hallman wasn’t totally screwed. The Texas A&M alum was articulate. He could relate to players. He wasn’t afraid to try new things. He always said the right thing to the media. Today, most head coaches don’t allow assistants to talk to the media. Hallman would have been better off shutting up and letting Bennett do all the talking.

Bennett was the defensive coordinator in 1994 when LSU led the SEC in total defense. It’s too bad his only head coaching gig at SMU didn’t turn out well. He certainly deserved much better.

Haffner was Georgia’s offensive coordinator when Herschel Walker ran roughshod over the SEC, but he had zero talent at LSU. Hallman made Haffner the scapegoat for the 1992 season by firing him and hiring Amedee.

Zierlein was a solid offensive line coach and had professional experience in the World League of American Football. His arrival in 1993 helped Kevin Mawae immeasurably before he embarked on a Hall of Fame NFL Career.

As for Hallman’s other assistants.:

  • Thielen Smith was a standout for McClendon in the mid-1970s. Too bad Hallman scapegoated him, too, after 1992.
  • Mike Bugar was not cut out to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC. He may have done a fine job in Hattiesburg, but matching wits with Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer was a recipe for disaster in Baton Rouge. Bugar mercifully left for Baylor after the 1993 season.
  • Pete Fredenburg, who was basically traded for Bugar for 1994 and coached the defensive tackles, was the victim of timing. He came one year too early, because Anthony “Booger” McFarland came along in 1995.
  • Lee Fobbs, who coached the defensive ends in 1994, was hired by Hallman to help with recruiting New Orleans, specifically the Catholic League, where his son, Jamaal, was a standout running back for St. Augustine. One year wasn’t enough to evaluate.
  • Buddy King, who was Zierlein’s predecessor, had Mawae and little else on the offensive line. He jumped at the chance to join Danny Ford in Arkansas in early 1993.
  • Then we have the three stooges. In what universe did Larry Edmonson, Rick Villareal and Steve Buckley qualify to coach in the SEC, other than being with Hallman in Hattiesburg? Buckley never even played college football. He was a cheerleader at USM! At least Edmonson played at Texas A&M.
  • The strength and conditioning program was a flat-out joke under Chris Seroka. I wish Seroka could come back to LSU so Tommy Moffitt could kick him in the nuts and show him what real strength and conditioning is.
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  • Back to 12 August 1994.
  • I was asked by Herb Vincent, LSU’s associate athletic director for media relations, to come to Baton Rouge that day to help with football media day. I had yet to attend classes, and I could not move into the dorm until 21 August (more on that next Wednesday).
  • I met Herb in July 1993 on a visit to campus. I hoped he would have a position available as a student worker in his office, and in June 1994, he gave me the good news.
  • My dad and I drove to Baton Rouge on a Friday morning. I drove up in casual clothes, but I brought dress clothes just in case. I needed them.

    Shortly after arriving in the office, I met the other student assistants: Corey Walsh, Adam Young and Shelby Holmes. Walsh, a Texan, and Young, an Alexandria native, had worked in the sports information office as students for three years, while Holms, who went to McKinley High, less than two miles north of the campus, was entering his second year working with Herb.

    Next up, I met Kent Lowe, whom I knew as LSU’s men’s basketball publicity director, having seen his name in Bruce Hunter’s book about the 1988-89 team, Don’t Count Me Out. I also recognized his face, since he was the statistician for LSU football radio broadcasts in 1992 and ’93; his picture was in the game programs with Jim Hawthorne, Doug Moreau, spotter Patrick Wright (also the voice of LSU women’s basketball) and Tom Stevens, the network engineer who tragically passed away in the Tiger Stadium press box prior to LSU’s 2000 game vs. Kentucky.

    About 20 minutes after meeting Kent, Bill Franques came into the office. I heard Bill’s voice plenty from LSU baseball broadcasts, both as the public address announcer for home games and Hawthorne’s color analyst for road games.

    Little did I know William Paul Franques would hold such a position of importance in my life. There are days I wish I could go back to that morning and call Herb to tell him I would be turning down his offer to work in the athletic department. Lord knows what I’ve done to Bill over the years. I wake up some nights in a very cold sweat thinking about it.

    After Hallman, Amedee and Bennett met the media in LSU’s athletic administration building, the media moved to the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse for player interviews.

    It was there I met another man who became entangled in my weird world.

    It took three-tenths of a second after shaking hands with Dan Borne to realize I had heard his voice plenty as the public address announcer for LSU football and men’s basketball games.

    Standing next to Dan was one of my new colleagues in Herb’s office.

    Rebecca Borne was three months removed from graduating as the valedictorian of the St. Joseph’s Academy Class of 1994. She scored 34 out of a possible 36 on the ACT test. The only reason she was at LSU and not Yale or Harvard was because of her dad.

    I don’t know why the hell Dan still wants to call me a friend. Lord knows I hurt Rebecca, his wife Lisette, his other daughter Elizabeth, and (to a lesser extent), sons Jason and David, more than one human should be allowed to hurt another human.

    Rebecca hasn’t talked to me since 2002. She hates me. And I hate myself even more for the hurt I caused her. She made it to New Haven, graduating from Yale Law School in 2006 and starting a family in Connecticut.

    **********************************************************************************

    LSU was 2-7 when Dean fired Hallman on 15 November 1994. Hallman had the class to finish the season, and the Bayou Bengals defeated Tulane and Arkansas.

    I’m sorry, but I’m about to cry. This is painful.

    Red Sox, it’s yours to lose; Saban vs. Snyder is a pipe dream; I can’t advocate freeing Devin White

    Boston won again last night. The Red Sox are now halfway home to their fourth World Series title this millennium following a 4-2 victory.

    The Red Sox are, as Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic said often during the NFL season, a Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock.

    The last five teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series have won in either four or five games. The roll call: 2004 and ’07 Red Sox, 2010 and ’12 Giants, 2015 Royals. Only the 2010 Rangers and 2015 Mets managed to win a game in their home park.

    The 2001 Yankees are the most recent team to fall behind 2-0 (to the Diamondbacks in Phoenix) and at least get the series back to where it started. That year, the home team won EVERY game, the same way it occurred in ’87 (Twins over Cardinals) and ’91 (Twins over Braves).

    In 1998, ’99 and 2000, the Yankees won the first two games of the series and it never returned to where it started. In ’98 and 2000, the series began in the Bronx; in ’99, the Yankees won the first two in Atlanta, then the next two at Yankee Stadium II.

    Only three times has a team lost the first two games at home and come back to win: 1985 Royals, ’86 Mets, ’96 Yankees.

    The Dodgers are down 2-0 for the fourth time since making their first World Series appearance representing Los Angeles. In 1965 (vs. Minnesota) and ’81 (vs. Yankees), the Dodgers won all three games at Chavez Ravine, then won the series on the road (Game 7 in ’65, Game 6 in ’81). In 1966, the Dodgers lost twice at home to Baltimore and were cooked; the Orioles won a pair of 1-0 games in Maryland. Shortly thereafter, Sandy Koufax, who beat the Twins in Game 7 of ’65 on two days rest, retired.

    In 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers were behind 2-0 after losing twice in the Bronx. The Bums won all three at Ebbets Field, only to lose Game 6 back in the Bronx. Fortunately for the Brooklynites, Johnny Podres pitched the game of his life to give the Dodgers their first world title.

    The next year, the Dodgers took a 2-0 lead at Ebbets Field. To nobody’s surprise, the Yankees won all three in the Bronx, with the last of those three being Don Larsen’s perfect game. Brooklyn won Game 6 back at home, but the Yankees pummeled the Dodgers 9-0 in Game 7 in the last World Series game in Flatbush.

    The Red Sox swept the Cardinals in 2004 and the Rockies in ’07, but they were up 2-0 on the Mets in ’86 going back to Fenway. The denizens of Queens won Games 3 and 4 before Boston won Game 5. Then you know what happened next…Bill Buckner.

    The Dodgers won’t be going back to Fenway. Not this season at least. It’s over. Boston will have a long flight to celebrate its latest World Series championship, much the same way the Bruins had a transcontinental journey from Vancouver when they won the Stanley Cup in 2011, or the Celtics after vanquishing the Lakers in 1962, ’68 and ’69.

    The Patriots have never played in a Super Bowl in California. Three in New Orleans, two each in Houston and Phoenix (technically Glendale), one each in Minneapolis, Jacksonville and Indianapolis. I would have loved to be on the flight back from Tempe after the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. I’m sure it was tons of fun. If that were the case, I’ve got a beachfront house under construction in Russell.

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    Speaking of Bill Belichick, I’m sure I would pee in my pants if I were anywhere near him or Nick Saban. Actually, I got pretty close physically to Saban during media day at the Sugar Bowl 15 years ago when LSU played Oklahoma for the national championship. People say Belichick and Saban are different people away from football. I don’t know either man personally, so I can’t tell.

    If I did meet Saban, I would love to ask him about how he game planned at Michigan State for facing Iowa. When Saban was the defensive coordinator in East Lansing (1983-87), the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator was none other than Bill Snyder. Saban went to the NFL in 1988, Snyder’s last year in Iowa City, and ’89, when Snyder took over at K-State. Their paths last crossed in 1987, when Michigan State went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965. Iowa went to Pasadena in 1985.

    Of course, you cannot convince anyone in Kansas (minus Jayhawk fanatics) that there is a college football coach greater than Bill Snyder. I’m not denying Snyder has done great things at Kansas State. However, I am not buying into the narrative of him being the best coach ever.

    I will say one thing: Saban and Snyder are 180 degrees apart when it comes to scheduling.

    Saban wants to play all Power Five teams and nine conference games instead of eight. He would rather not play the ‘buy games’ to give the fans much more bang for their buck, but it isn’t feasible if nobody else wants to do it. Until every other SEC school agrees to play only Power Five teams, Saban simply is stuck.

    The SEC and ACC should have to play nine conference games. If the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 are doing it, the other two should have to as well. I honestly think the College Football Playoff committee should seriously penalize SEC and ACC schools until (a) they play nine conference games or (b) cut the crappy teams and play at least two Power Fives in non-conference.

    I’m not the biggest Saban fan, but I applaud the man for willing to put his considerable money where his mouth is, not backing down from the best.

    Snyder would rather load up his schedule with cupcakes and lesser lights, the fans be damned. He doesn’t mind feeding Wildcat faithful filler until Big 12 season goes along. I’m sure he was royally pissed when the Big 12 required a full round-robin schedule following the loss of Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M, and the addition of TCU and West Virginia. Snyder wanted two five-team divisions so he could schedule at least one, maybe two, more softies. At least the Big 12 had the foresight to ignore him.

    Because of that, Saban and Snyder will never face off unless they are matched in a bowl game. No chance Snyder wants to take the Wildcats to Tuscaloosa. None. And no way K-State gets into Alabama’s ionosphere for a bowl game, so the Saban vs. Snyder dream match will have to remain a relic of the old Big Ten, when the conference actually had 10 teams.

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    As for Saban’s current team, Alabama visits Baton Rouge a week from Saturday for another apocalyptic game, at least for LSU fans. Crimson Tide rooters really could care less, because as Bear Bryant famously said, he would rather beat the Cow College (Auburn) once than Notre Dame (or LSU or just about anyone else) ten times.

    LSU fans have been in a tizzy since about 2100 Saturday, when All-SEC linebacker Devin White was ejected for targeting on a hit against Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. With just under five minutes remaining and LSU leading 19-3, White was called by referee John McDaid for leading with his helmet and hitting Fitzgerald below the face mask, which is the definition of targeting.

    It appeared White attempted to hold up, and he led with a two-hand shove, not a launch with the helmet. It was a very, very questionable targeting. Yes, White should have been penalized, but ejecting him was probably over the top.

    The worst thing about a targeting call in the second half is that player is suspended for the first half of the next game. This means White will be a spectator or held in the locker room during the first minutes of the tussle between the Bayou Bengals and Crimson Tide.

    Had this been against the Alabama offense of two years ago, it might not have been so bad. LSU and Alabama were scoreless through three quarters before the Tide offense got going and won 10-0.

    Now, it is a major loss.

    Alabama has a more explosive offense than Joe Namath, Bart Starr or Kenny Stabler ever could have dreamed of. Tua Tagiviola, who came off the bench in the second half of last year’s national championship game vs. Georgia and rallied the Tide from a 13-0 deficit to win in overtime, is favored to win the Heisman. In fact, you cannot get even money odds on Tua at any Las Vegas sports book. Alabama has routed every opponent so far, and Tua has yet to see the fourth quarter of any game.

    The Twitter hashtag #freedevinwhite trended immediately after the game and most of Sunday. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was incensed and begged SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to overturn the suspension.

    It got so heated political guru James Carville, a Louisiana native and LSU graduate, wrote a letter to The Advocate in Baton Rouge claiming the officials of the SEC were in cahoots with Alabama. Carville claimed the directive to uphold the targeting call against White came from SEC Director of Officials Steve Shaw, an Alabama graduate and native of Birmingham.

    Carville wasn’t the only politically connected Bayou State resident who chimed in.

    Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, who also graduated from LSU, demanded to know from Shaw and Sankey why White was ejected and just how it was targeting.

    Edwards is the first governor to be this invested in LSU football since John McKeithen helped Charles McClendon recruit during his two terms (1964-72). John Bel, no relation to Edwin Edwards, has traveled with the Tigers and is very close to Ed Orgeron and his wife Kelly.

    It’s nice to see JBE loving LSU football. Edwin Edwards graduated from LSU, but really didn’t care about sports, although he was on the LSU plane to Philadelphia for the 1981 Final Four. Dave Treen graduated from Tulane, so he saw LSU as the enemy, at least in athletics. Mike Foster graduated from LSU, but only cared about hunting and fishing. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco hated LSU, having graduated from UL Lafayette. As for Buddy Roemer and Bobby Jindal, they didn’t give a you know what–both graduated from Harvard.

    As it turns out, neither Shaw nor Sankey has the power to vacate the suspension. That belongs to the NCAA and Director of Football Officiating Rogers Redding, who, like Shaw, was a longtime referee in the SEC. Redding said it’s not happening.

    Orgeron, to his credit, has moved on and is focusing on getting the Bayou Bengals ready for the Tide. Alleva is taking up the fight, which is what a good athletic director should do. Governor Edwards has bigger fish to fry, though. It’s nice to see him care about the state’s flagship school, but funding the academic side should be priority one, not the football team.

    I’m of the mind that if the officials–McDaid, Shaw, the replay official in the booth at Tiger Stadium and any other officials in Birmingham with Shaw at command central–did not see enough clear and convincing evidence to overturn the targeting call, it should stand. McDaid said the call was “confirmed” after replay, which meant there was clear and convincing evidence in their minds.

    Steve Shaw was the sine qua non of college football officials when he wore the white hat. Every time there was a huge game involving an SEC school during the regular season, Steve Shaw was the man announcing the penalties. If there was a major bowl game, there was a good chance Shaw was the man in charge. He only got to work two national championship games (Florida State vs. Virginia Tech in ’99, USC vs. Oklahoma in 2004) because the SEC almost always had a team in the title game, so by rule, Shaw and all SEC officials were barred from working. But three Rose Bowls isn’t a bad consolation, especially considering SEC officials never worked the Rose Bowl until the 1991 season.

    Shaw is one of the two greatest college football officials who ever lived. The other is Jimmy Harper, who was a referee in the SEC from the early 1970s through 1995. Harper had a Georgia drawl which made me laugh nearly every time. And Harper explained penalties so well you could understand even if you had never watched a football game before.

    My father loved Harper. My dad called Harper the ‘white-haired gentleman’. The good news is Harper was probably watching the LSU-Mississippi State game from his home in Atlanta. He’s still alive and kicking at 84.

    Shaw and Harper both could have been NFL referees. I’m sure they would have been as legendary as Jerry Markbreit, Ed Hochuli, Jim Tunney and Ben Dreith. But they chose to stay in college, which obviously was a great decision.

    I don’t believe for one nanosecond Steve Shaw has a biased cell in his body. He is a man of the utmost integrity. He doesn’t care the teams playing. He only cares that the game is played fairly, and that when someone violates the rules of the game, he is penalized accordingly. I will never buy LSU fans claiming Shaw is biased. No way.

    It’s a tough break for LSU, but it’s football. White will learn and be better for it.

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    I’m rambling yet again. Sorry. That’s all for now.