Category Archives: LSU Fighting TIgers

Let them (LSU and Mizzou) play! MORE!

LSU and Missouri have been together in the Southeastern Conference since 2012.

Yesterday was the first time the Bayou Bengals visited Columbia, and only the second time the purple Tigers and black Tigers faced off as conference opponents.

Blame one man. He resides in Tuscaloosa.

Nicholas Lou Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, believes the world would stop spinning on its axis if the Crimson Tide did not play Tennessee every year.

Alabama and Tennessee have a rivalry which dates to 1901, less than two months after President William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo. The Tide and Volunteers have played every year since 1930 except 1943, when neither school fielded a team during the height of World War II.

General Robert Neyland wanted Tennessee to play Alabama every year, knowing if the Volunteers defeated the Tide, Tennessee would be the undisputed king of southern football.

Bear Bryant, who played on a broken leg when Alabama won 25-0 in 1935 at Birmingham, considered Tennessee a bigger rival than Auburn. It was his trainer, Jim Goostree, who began the tradition of handing out victory cigars to players and coaches following victory in the series. Tennessee soon copied the tradition.

It is a vile and disgusting tradition. The Birmingham News’ website, AL.com, posts hundreds of photos of players and fans smoking cigars after a Crimson Tide victory over the Volunteers. They are glorifying a product which has killed tens of millions of Americans (although cigars have killed fewer than cigarettes). Memo to the women who smoke cigars: it doesn’t make you prettier. It makes you repulsive.

Nick Saban loves the cigars, given he once chain-smoked cigarettes. Unlike Bryant, he had the guts to give them up, but he still chews Red Man.

Alabama fans shouldn’t be lighting up cigars anyway. Tennessee is as impotent against Alabama these days as I am with the disgusting little thing between my legs. No reason to bother.

No wonder Saban wants to keep Tennessee on Alabama’s schedule permanently. He beats them all the time.

On the other hand, the world will not end if the Crimson Tide and Volunteers don’t play every year.

Conference realignment has cost us Maryland-Virginia, Maryland-North Carolina, Penn State-Pittsburgh, Nebraska-Oklahoma, Nebraska-Colorado, Nebraska-Missouri, Missouri-Kansas, Missouri-Oklahoma, Colorado-Oklahoma, Texas A&M-Baylor, Texas A&M-TCU, Texas A&M-Texas Tech, Arkansas-Texas, and the biggest of all, Texas-Texas A&M.

LSU and Tulane haven’t played since 2009. That sucks. Tulane bears some of the blame for demanding every other game be played in New Orleans, but LSU has a point by not wanting to give up a home game and play in a stadium which seats 30,000. Tulane blundered massively by leaving the SEC in 1966, but it could make up somewhat for it by playing every year in Baton Rouge and accepting a generous check from LSU. It really angers me LSU will play McNeese, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, and now Southern and Grambling, but not Tulane.

Even within conferences, some rivalries aren’t played every year.

When the SEC split into divisions in 1992, it ended the yearly battle between Auburn and Tennessee. In 2002, Auburn’s yearly rivalry with Florida ended. LSU and Kentucky played every year from 1949 through 2001, but now don’t see each other but once every five or six years. Alabama and Georgia once played every year, but haven’t since Vince Dooley’s early days in Athens. LSU and Alabama was NOT a yearly rivalry until 1964. LSU and Auburn rarely played until they were thrown into the SEC West together. Same with Tennessee vs. Florida and Georgia in the East; Tennessee played Ole Miss every year before divisions.

The ACC stupidly divided the four North Carolina schools. This means North Carolina and Wake Forest don’t play every year, nor do Duke and North Carolina State. Last year, the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons played a game which didn’t count in the ACC standings just to play. Clemson also doesn’t play Duke, North Carolina and Virginia every year, while NC State and Wake Forest don’t see Virginia every year.

Before Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12, it stranded Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with the Texas schools, and refused to have even one cross-division rivalry which was played every year.

In the Big Ten, the Little Brown Jug isn’t contested between Minnesota and Michigan every year. Same with Illibuck, the turtle contested by Ohio State and Illinois. Fortunately, Iowa and Minnesota still battle every year for Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig which is bar none the best trophy in college sports.

Anyone who can read a map knows Missouri is farther west than 11 of the other 13 SEC schools. Only Arkansas and Texas A&M are west of Columbia.

Yet the SEC refused to consider moving one team out of the West to let the Big 12 expatriates join the same division.

Then-Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs repeatedly said he would gladly move to the East to allow Mizzou into the West, yet then-SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and league presidents refused.

The biggest reason was Saban’s bellyaching about the cherished Alabama-Tennessee rivalry. Such bellyaching was not as loud from Knoxville, although I’m certain some Volunteer fans want their team to play the Crimson Tide, even with the yearly slaughter.

If Auburn was moved to the East, the Tigers of the Plains would become the Crimson Tide’s permanent cross-division football opponent, meaning they couldn’t play the Volunteers every year. Tennessee probably would have picked up Mizzou or A&M as its permanent West rival.

There is no rule stating Alabama and Tennessee cannot play a game which wouldn’t count in the SEC standings. Bear Bryant did this vs. Ole Miss near the end of his tenure. Has nobody thought of this? I’m not just talking about the Crimson Tide and Volunteers. Everyone in the SEC could do this. It would be an easy way to schedule the required non-conference game vs. a Power Five team.

The above ideas are good, but definitely not the best.

I realize Tuscaloosa is farther west than Nashville, home to Vanderbilt. However, the SEC could fudge its geography just a little bit and make it all right.

Swap Mizzou and Vandy for Alabama and Auburn. There, problem solved. Alabama would have Auburn and Tennessee as division opponents, and playing Georgia and Florida would more than make up for not playing LSU every year.

Tennessee-Vanderbilt would become the lone cross-division game to be played every year, the same way Indiana-Purdue is the only one in the Big Ten. This would get teams into each stadium more frequently.

Your blogger would be pumped to see LSU and Mizzou play every year in football, baseball and softball, meaning the Bayou Bengals would be in Columbia every other year for those sports instead of once in a blue moon.

It just makes too much damned sense, so it will never happen.

Then again, Missouri sports teams have a history of being geographically misaligned.

The Cardinals played in the National League EAST from 1969-93, even though it was farther west than Atlanta and Cincinnati, which were in the West.

The Cardinals and Cubs raised holy hell when the National League wanted to align geographically when the two-divisiion format was approved for 1969. Both were afraid of (a) 27 games per year in California, which meant late start times for television, and (b) not playing in New York. NL president Bill Giles gave the Cardinals and Cubs what they wanted, giving the big “F YOU” to the Braves and Reds, which faced longer trips to California and later start times for their fans, since Atlanta and Cincinnati are on Eastern time.

Giles didn’t have the balls AL president Joe Cronin did. He told the White Sox flat out they were going into the West, and if they didn’t like it, tough shit. The Sox’ owners at the time wanted to be in the East, citing tradition, as five of the other six old-line AL teams were in that division (the exception was the second Senators franchise, the one which became the Rangers in 1972). The White Sox tried again to move to the East when the Senators’ relocation was approved, but the Brewers, who were originally the Seattle Pilots, were moved from West to East, trading places with the Senators/Rangers.

The AL should not have moved the Brewers. It short-circuited rivalries with the White Sox and Twins, and since the Cowboys were in the NFC East, and the Cardinals and Cubs were in the NL East, it wouldn’t have been too bad to keep the Rangers in the AL East.

Speaking of teams from Dallas and St. Louis, it was totally asinine the Cowboys and football Cardinals were in the NFC East. Those cities aren’t east of anything, except San Francisco and Los Angeles in the NFC.

Pete Rozelle wimped out when the AFL and NFL merged. Rather than unilaterally imposing an alignment on NFC owners, he allowed secretary Thelma Ekjer to blindly pick an alignment out of a vase. And wouldn’t you know, the only one with the Cowboys and Cardinals in the NFC East was picked.

Let’s see..the Cowboys in the East and the Falcons in the West. Brilliant.

Rozelle should have put the Cowboys in the West, then added either the Cardinals or Saints (probably the latter, since it would have preserved a Dallas-New Orleans rivalry, one Cowboys’ president Tex Schramm loved). The other should have gone into the Central with the Vikings, Bears and Packers, and the Lions would go into the East with the Falcons, Redskins, Eagles and Giants.

When the Rams moved to St. Louis, there was no problem for me with them staying in the West, although it would have been an ideal time to realign the NFC, with the 49ers, Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys and Saints in the West; the Falcons, Panthers, Redskins, Giants and Eagles in the East; and the Central staying the way it was. At the time, the AFC was too convoluted to try to redo the East and Central (the West was great the way it was).

I’m not giving up my hope LSU and Mizzou are more than occasional rivals. Sometimes the world actually works the way it should.

Until then, I’ll start saving up for tickets when the Bayou Bengals return to Columbia in 2023. And for LSU’s trip to Lexington next year.

LSU lost. I didn’t.

My first college football game as a fan in 25 years was unlike any college or professional sporting event I’ve attended.

I parked to the southeast of the stadium behind the Hearnes Center, Mizzou’s former basketball arena and current home for wrestling, gymnastics and many volleyball matches. The walk was not bad. My dad and I had longer walks when we went to LSU games in the 1990s.

Mobile ticketing has made life so much easier. I no longer have to worry about misplacing tickets. It also is much easier to guard against counterfeits tickets. I didn’t carry a bag, even though I bought a clear bag just in case. No metal detectors, which was surprising; they have been a way of life at big sporting events since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.

I made the mistake of attempting to walk up stairs to the upper deck. Of course, a fat ass like me is in no shape to be walking all those stairs. I needed to sit down for a few minutes near the top. Once I ascended the last flight and into the seating area, I was fine.

I had no trouble with my seats being at the very top of the upper deck. I had a little shade because of a light canopy which arched over the back row, although I could feel the sun on my neck starting late in the first half.

I hated sitting in upper levels of outdoor stadiums when I was younger. My dad bought tickets in the upper deck for a 1992 Cardinals game at the old Busch Stadium, and it scared me. I couldn’t sit in the stands. I just wandered the concourse the whole game while my brother sat in the seats. That fear of heights left my dad and brother sitting in the ridiculously hot bleachers for two games at the Rangers’ home stadium instead of the upper deck behind home plate.

I was okay in domed stadiums, sitting near the top of the Astrodome and Superdome. I also recall a 2003 Pelicans (then known as the Hornets) game where my dad and I were at the very top of what is now the Smoothie King Center. Talk about a steep climb. But with a roof over my head, I was okay.

I have been to the top of Kauffman Stadium a couple of times, although my seats were in the lower level. I might try sitting up there for a game if fans are allowed in 2021.

In the row and section where my seats were, there were blocks of two seats which were labeled “allowed”, with four empty seats between. Previously, 22 people could be seated on that row; now, it was eight.

As it turned out, row 16 of section of 305 had one occupant. That’s right, your blogger. It was a weird experience being alone in a large stadium, but I didn’t mind. Nobody walking in front of me trying to get to the stairs. No conversation distracting me. No crying babies. No drunks. I could get used to this.

I remembered all the Royals games I’ve been to by myself. I should not have worried about going alone today. I enjoyed it. I kept myself busy by taking photos and texting my dad, Bill and Larry, with occasional shoutouts to Frank, Gordy Rush and Brenda. I also did the most posting on social media I have in awhile.

The game itself was quite exciting, although I would have preferred to see more defense. Those who made it to Faurot Field won’t soon forget this one.

LSU fans might WANT to forget it.

Mizzou, which was a 14 1/2-point underdog when the game kicked off at 11:07, won 45-41. That line was over 20 points when the game was scheduled for Baton Rouge, which tells me LSU would have been a 17 or 18 point favorite on a neutral field, as the home team usually has a three-point advantage in the sports books.

It turned into the coming out party for Mizzou quarterback Connor Bazelak. Making his second start, the redshirt freshman completed 29 of 34 for 406 yards and four touchdowns. Mizzou gained 586 yards two weeks after Mississippi State’s K.J. Costello, a Stanford expatriate, threw for an SEC-record 623 in Baton Rouge.

LSU’s Myles Brennan had to carry his team with 430 yards passing. The Bayou Bengals gained a meager 49 yards rushing on 20 carries. The yardage was bad, but to attempt to run only 20 times is unacceptable. LSU would never have dared to run that little under Nick Saban and Les Miles, or even the earlier years of Ed Orgeron’s tenure.

Frankly, Mizzou was the better team today. LSU was only this close because Mizzou lost three fumbles, one on a punt and another at its own 5-yard line. Those led to 17 points. Take those out, and LSU fans would have been out of Columbia much earlier.

It was Eli Drinkwitz’ first victory as Mizzou coach. Drinkwitz has gone from Appalachian State assistant to Appalachian State head coach to Mizzou coach in three seasons. Drinkwitz succeeded Scott Satterfield after he went to Louisville in early 2019. Some thought Mizzou should hire Tulane’s Willie Fritz, but athletic director Jim Sterk went fishing in Boone, N.C., figuring if it worked for Louisville it would for Mizzou.

Drinkwitz faces an uphill climb having to play Georgia and Florida every year, but the SEC is no cakewalk, even for Nick Saban. He’s got to have some coaching chops to be one of the elite 14 leading SEC programs. Unless something catastrophic happens, I would expect him to be leading Mizzou when LSU returns to Faurot Field in three years.

That’s right, LSU isn’t back in CoMo for three years. That sucks. I’ll explain in another post very soon, but let me get back to Russell first.

This had to be the first sporting event where I did not leave the seating area. I admit I moved down a few seats on the row to get out of the sun on my back, but once I arrived at my seat at 10:10, did not leave the area until the game ended at 14:45. No concession run, no restroom run. Two 900 ml bottles of water was enough hydration.

I’m overjoyed the game started at 11:00, not at 20:00 as originally planned. If it had started at 20:00, it would have ended at 23:45, and I wouldn’t have been back at the hotel until after midnight. I would have had little chance to make it back to Russell before late afternoon.

I hate to disagree with most LSU fans, but I prefer morning kickoffs. Get the game done and have time to either enjoy the evening or get a good night’s sleep.

Other than the result, it was an enjoyable day. In less than 16 hours, I’ll be back in Russell barring something unforeseen.

Going out of town today allowed my parents to be alone for their 50th anniversary. They weren’t able to do much due to the pandemic. They married only three months after their first (blind) date.

Time to get ready for bed. 0500 will come quickly. I’ve got salmon waiting for me in Russell.

The infrequent spectator

I said I would be back in less than 24 hours after my last post. I kept my promise, although it’s because I’ve had a stream of consciousness moment, not anything dealing with LSU and Mizzou.

My memory is failing me.

When I went to Wentzville and Lake St. Louis earlier today, I forgot how bad traffic on Interstate 64 west is from Lake St. Louis to I-70. I witnessed it in May when I drove into Chesterfield for my week-long stay.

I shouldn’t be too worried. After all that’s happened between 11 May and 9 October, I should forgive myself for forgetting traffic patterns in western St. Charles County. It was my third trip that way in 13 months, more than I’ve been most places, but still not enough to rise to the status between tourist and resident.

Now if I had forgotten the traffic patterns on the other side of Missouri, I’d have to worry about the old brain.

I haven’t seen an LSU football game in person in almost 17 years.

Tomorrow will be the first time I will be observing an LSU football game as a regular spectator in 25 years.

Every LSU football game I witnessed from 1996 through 2003 was in a press box. Most of them were in the old press box of Tiger Stadium (Death Valley), which was torn down after the 2004 season to make way for a new upper deck on the west side of the stadium, as well as a new press box.

The old press box at LSU was an oven. No air conditioning, and worse, no circulation, period. Breezes barely blow in Louisiana on most nights, and even if it did, there was no way to get the air circulating in the press box, at least on the second level (print media) and third level (private booths). The first level, where the radio and television broadcasters worked, as did public address announcer Dan Borne, had air conditioning. I loved lingering in Dan’s booth as much as I could, because he turned the thermostat WAY down, the way I like it.

I also watched LSU play in the Sugar Bowl twice, defeating Illinois after the 2001 season, as well as the aforementioned game vs. Oklahoma two years later.

The last LSU football game I went to strictly as a fan was with my dad on 16 September 1995, when the Bayou Bengals defeated Auburn 12-6.

Our seats were terrible—ground level boxes at the southwest corner of the stadium. Naturally, most of the big plays occurred at the north end of the stadium, including James Gillyard’s sack of Patrick Nix for a safety and Troy Twillie’s interception on the game’s last play.

On the drive back to New Orleans, my dad remarked he could not hear LSU’s Golden Band from Tigerland because of the crowd noise. LSU’s band at the time was at the northwest corner of the stadium (now it’s near the top of the north end zone), but with so many members, the sound carried well across campus. Not that night.

Tiger Stadium was sold out (80,559), and the crowd had a big part in throwing Auburn off its game. That, and the revenge LSU sought after giving away the 1994 game in Auburn, made the Plainsmen’s task that much more difficult.

I’ve seen five games from the stands at Tiger Stadium—two in 1992 (Tennessee 20, LSU 0; LSU 24, Tulane 12), two in ‘93 (LSU 24, Tulane 10; Arkansas 42, LSU 24) and the aforementioned 1995 game. I also was in the Superdome stands for LSU’s wins vs. Tulane in 1991 (39-20) and ‘94 (49-25).

This will not be my first LSU road game.

That came 26 years ago, when I watched the Bayou Bengals get embarrassed 34-21 by a mediocre Ole Miss squad in Oxford. The game was nowhere near as close as the score; the Rebels led 31-0 before they relaxed and let the Tigers score a couple of cheap touchdowns.

I bought a ticket for $18 through LSU’s ticket office. I had a good seat, 40-yard line behind LSU’s bench about 15 rows up.

I had no idea how to get there and where I was going to stay. I had a car, but there was no way I was going to find a hotel room in Oxford. My dad’s original plan was for me to stay in Jackson, 360 km (170 miles) south of Oxford the night before the game, drive to the game, go back to Jackson, then return to Baton Rouge Sunday.

At this time, Baton Rouge was the farthest I had driven. I could drive back and forth on I-10 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but I had no confidence going out of state.

Lucky for me, LSU’s athletic photographer, Brad Messina, was going to drive to the game instead of flying with the team like he usually did. He and Steve Franz, who later became LSU’s athletic photographer, let me ride in the back seat of Brad’s Volvo and crash in their hotel room in Memphis where the team was staying.

The game was forgettable, but two incidents in the stands which stood out.

One was where I berated Adam Young, who I worked with in LSU’s sports information office. Adam told me at halftime the game was over, and I denounced him for not having faith in his school.

To be fair, Adam had to suffer through the first three seasons of Curley Hallman’s coaching tenure while working as a student in the sports information office. That, combined with the sudden freefall of LSU’s volleyball program (Adam was the volleyball team’s media relations director from 1992-94) had worn him thin.

Two female student assistants from the sports information office, Nikki Sontheimer (now Amberg) and Rebecca Borne (yes, that one) (now Brennan) found the exchange funny. Rebecca teased me about it quite a bit through the years before things went terribly south between us.

Adam and I patched things up. His wedding to former LSU volleyball standout Luciana Santana in July 1997 was the first I attended.

I had a crush on Nikki, who was four years older. I annoyed the hell out of her during the 1994-95 athletic season, but when I saw her again after the 1996 football season opener, she forgave me too.

Now if only Rebecca will…

The second incident in Oxford came after LSU scored its second touchdown on a blocked punt.

An inebriated Rebel rouser turned to the LSU fans cheering behind him and shot the finger. Lovely.

Oxford is my least favorite SEC location. If it isn’t, it’s in a dead heat with Gainesville and Tuscaloosa. I don’t have any desire to go back.

That’s it for tonight. No, really, it is.

Time to scratch the 17-year itch

In 16 hours, your lazy blogger will be in attendance at his first LSU football game in almost 17 years.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

LSU and Missouri were not originally scheduled to play each other in 2020. The schools are in opposite divisions of the Southeastern Conference (which is stupid; I’ll get into that in another post), which means they play once every five years, as is the case with every school in the opposite division except one.

LSU’s designated permanent Eastern opponent is Florida, something which has pissed off every LSU coach and administrator since the SEC expanded in 1992 and split into divisions. LSU played Kentucky every year from 1992 through 2001, but in 2002, the SEC elected to cut the number of permanent cross-division rivalries from two to one. That meant Florida and Auburn had to end their yearly series which had been played every year since the 1940s, while LSU and Kentucky played every year from 1949 through 2001.

Missouri and Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012 from the Big 12. At first, the Tigers and Aggies were paired as permanent foes, but in 2014, the SEC saw the opportunity for a border war, and made Arkansas Mizzou’s permanent opponent from the West. South Carolina, which played the Razorbacks every year since the two joined the SEC, got Texas A&M.

LSU and Mizzou first played 1 October 2016 in Baton Rouge. It turned out to be Ed Orgeron’s first game as Bayou Bengal coach after Les Miles was fired six days earlier, four games into Miles’ 12th season. Mizzou also had a new coach, Barry Odom, who succeeded Gary Pinkel, who resigned after the 2015 season due to a cancer diagnosis. Pinkel coached Mizzou for 15 years, rebuilding the Tigers from a bottom feeder in the Big 12 back into a respectable program, not quite what it was under Dan Devine in the 1960s, but certainly not as wretched as it was under Woody Wiedenhofer, Bob Stull and Larry Smith from the mid-1980s through 2000.

The Bayou Bengals won 42-7 in a game most notable for a melee as the teams were leaving the field for halftime. Every person in uniform was charged wtih a fighting penalty, meaning if they received another unsportsmanlike conduct/personal foul penalty, they would be ejected and suspended for the next game.

The new rotation began in 2017 with LSU playing Tennessee in Knoxville, followed by Georgia at home, at Vanderbilt, and this year, vs. South Carolina in Baton Rouge. It was scheduled to be Kentucky in Lexington, Tennessee at home, and then Mizzou in Columbia in 2023.

Mizzou’s scheduled Western road game this year was Mississippi State; the Tigers were going to move their home game vs. Arkansas from Columbia to Kansas City. The game is back in Columbia due to COVID.

In August, the SEC decided to have its team play a 10-game, conference-only schedule. Most believed the league would simply take the next two cross-division opponents in rotation and place them on the schedule. For LSU, that would have meant Kentucky in Lexington and Tennessee in Baton Rouge; for Mizzou, it would have been Ole Miss in Columbia and Texas A&M in College Station.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and his administrative team, which includes my mentor, Herb Vincent, didn’t take that route, instead trying to balance out the schedules.

LSU, which obviously won the national championship in 2019, thus got the sixth- and seventh-placed teams from the SEC, Mizzou and Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, Mizzou, sixth in the East, got the #1 and #3 (Alabama) from the West (Auburn was second).

Mizzou lost its opener to Alabama at home, 38-19. LSU won 41-7 at Vanderbilt last week.

When LSU’s plane landed in Baton Rouge after midnight Sunday, plans were already in place for Mizzou’s second visit to Death Valley in five seasons. It was going to kick off at 20:00, which was the regular start time for LSU home games from the late 1940s through 1965.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature had a cauldron brewing in the far southern Gulf of Mexico which would throw everything into chaos.

Tropical Storm Delta formed Sunday, and havenby Monday afternoon, the storm was upgraded to a hurricane.

Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center in Miami released a sobering forecast for Louisiana.

The “cone of error” for Delta encompassed the entire Louisiana, with landfall between Morgan City and Grand Isle.

On that track, it would be next to impossible to fly into Baton Rouge after Thursday evening, and by Friday morning, LSU’s campus would be facing winds of upwards of 170 km/h and flooding rain. Mizzou might be able to get into town Thursday, but would they be stranded until Sunday and not be able to play?

Wednesday morning, the game was moved to Columbia. I decided I would go.

I made it to Columbia yesterday. Yet i’ve spent a lot of time burning up Interstate 70 between here and western St. Charles County.

I was dismayed to discover Columbia’s White Castle was closed yesterday and today. I would have to find something else to eat.

No way Jose.

I blew past Columbia and kept on trucking 130 km (80 miles) to Wentzville, the western edge of the St. Louis metro, to get my White Castle fix. It wasn’t until 20:30 that I got to the hotel.

Today, more of the same. Not only did I get my White Castle fixes, but I found a lot of goodies I haven’t been able to find in Russell, Hays, Salina or Kansas City.

I have not witnessed LSU play football since the evening of 4 January 2004. On that ridiculously warm and humid Sunday, the Bayou Bengals defeated Oklahoma 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl, giving LSU the Bowl Championship Series national championship, its first since 1958. The Bayou Bengals had to share the title with Southern California, which won the AP poll, but finished third in the final BCS poll after the regular season behind Oklahoma, which was destroyed by Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, and LSU.

Since moving to Kansas, I’ve attended two forgettable college football games: Kansas 62, Southeastern Louisiana in Lawrence (8 September 2007) and Kansas State 45, North Texas 6 in Manhattan (30 August 2008). My dad and I went to the Jayhawk game; I was on assignment at the Wildcat game for the Smith County Pioneer, since former K-State All-American Mark Simoneau, a Smith Center native, was inducted into the Ring of Honor at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

It will be a very interesting experience attending a college football game during the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no more than 17,000 fans allowed into Memorial Stadium aka Faurot Field, masks must be worn, social distancing will be enforced, and LSU will not have its band, cheerleaders or radio broadcasters in attendance.

Lucky for me, I have plenty of yellow in my closet. I can wear something good and be completely neutral. It will be warm tomorrow, with an expected high of 29 Celsius (84 F), which will be close to the record for Columbia on 10 October.

I’ll report from CoMo in less than 24 hours. I promise. Have a good night and a better tomorrow.

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.