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Rumblings from Red Stick (too bad I’m not there)

So much for posting every day this year. I missed yesterday. I’m a bad boy. However, given my lack of posts over the last two and a half months of 2019, 9 out of 10 ain’t bad, to paraphrase Mr. Meat Loaf.

If Matt Rhule has his way, Joe Brady will be a one-year wonder with LSU. The new Panthers coach has targeted Brady, the wunderkind who turned Joe Burrow from a former Ohio State backup into this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, to be his offensive coordinator. Ed Orgeron and LSU athletic director Scott Woodward are going to give Brady a significant pay raise if he remains in Baton Rouge, but LSU can’t match the resources of an NFL team, especially considering Rhule will make more than $8 million per season.

LSU plays Clemson for the national championship Monday in New Orleans, and the casinos are worried Burrow, Brady, Orgeron and the team in purple and gold take the golden trophy west on Interstate 10.

Sports books across the nation are reporting heavy action on LSU, by far the most one-sided action for a championship game since the first College Football Playoff in January 2015. For every nine dollars bet on money lines, eight is on LSU, while the spread action is 4-to-1 in favor of the Bayou Bengals.

It’s hard to believe Alabama did not receive anywhere near the action in its three national championship games vs. Clemson, two of which the Crimson Tide lost. However, the public is betting LSU is more battle-tested by playing in the SEC than Clemson is in the ACC, although the South Carolina Tigers had a much tougher semifinal vs. Ohio State than the Bayou Bengals did vs. Oklahoma.

If LSU wins, the casinos will take a bath. If Clemson wins, the bettors will take the bath.

This is a disturbing trend for the Bayou Bengals.

Sports books are reporting they have not seen this much one-sided action on a championship football game since Super Bowl XLVIII, when most of the betting public put their money on the Broncos, believing Peyton Manning would cap a record setting season by winning his second championship.

Instead, the Seahawks demolished Denver 43-8, and the books made almost $20 million, a Super Bowl record.

Yesterday’s Baton Rouge Advocate had a wide-ranging interview with former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who was forced out of the job last year after 11 years in Baton Rouge. Two things Alleva said were of particular note.

First, Alleva did not want to hire Jimbo Fisher, then at Florida State, to be LSU’s football coach. Alleva, who had ties to the ACC during his days as Duke’s athletic director, did not want to give in to Fisher’s exorbitant demands, demands which were similar to those Nick Saban made at LSU and Alabama before taking each of those jobs. The most exorbitant of which was a fully guaranteed contract, which would have to run at least eight years and pay Fisher at least $7 million per season.

Late in the 2015 season, it was rumored LSU would fire Les Miles, who led the Bayou Bengals to the 2007 national championship but whose teams had slipped following the 2011 BCS championship game loss to Saban’s Crimson Tide. Most thought Fisher would be the successor, but Alleva now says it wasn’t so.

Alleva didn’t want to fire Miles in 2015, and when LSU defeated Texas A&M 19-7 in the regular season finale, Alleva went to the locker room after the game and told the media Miles would be back in 2016.

Four games into 2016, Alleva fired Miles following losses to Wisconsin and Auburn. Orgeron was named interim coach, then got the full-time position two months later, angering many LSU fans at that time. Of course, it has all worked out.

Ironically, Woodward hired Fisher at A&M, giving in to Jimbo’s demands with a 10-year, $75 million contract which is fully guaranteed. Not even Saban had that at LSU, nor does he have that at Alabama. Like Saban, Fisher does not owe a buyout if he leaves College Station.

The second nugget from Alleva’s interview which struck me was regret over hiring men’s basketball coach Will Wade.

Wade came to LSU from VCU after Johnny Jones was fired following a disastrous 2016-17 season. Wade was suspended in March 2019 when the NCAA announced LSU was under investigation for numerous violations, and did not coach the team in its last regular season game or in the SEC and NCAA tournaments, where LSU lost in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State. Wade was reinstated following the season, but the NCAA is still investigating.

Alleva told Advocate sports columnist Scott Rabalais “he got bad information” about Wade. Hmm.

What wasn’t discussed was hiring the awful Nikki Caldwell-Fargas to coach LSU’s women’s basketball team.

LSU went to five consecutive women’s Final Fours between 2004-08, but hasn’t been close since. LSU has slipped to an SEC afterthought under Caldwell-Fargas, while former league doormats Mississippi State and South Carolina have become powerhouses, with the Gamecocks defeating the Bulldogs in the 2017 national championship game after State ended Connecticut’s record 110-game winning streak in the semifinals.

LSU women’s basketball has fallen into gross disrepair since the glory days of Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles. It was never going to eclipse football, baseball or men’s basketball in importance, but now it is far behind gymnastics, softball, and track and field, and even men’s golf has won a national championship recently.

Someone, either the UCLA, where Caldwell-Fargas coached before leaving for LSU, or the late Pat Summitt, who coached Caldwell at Tennessee, sold Alleva a bill of goods. This was a terrible hire, one which Woodward must rectify switfly, or the PMAC will again become a tomb for women’s games the way it was in the mid-1990s before Sue Gunter got it back on track.

Alleva blundered big time by not going after Kim Mulkey when there was a vacancy in 2011. Mulkey, who has coached Baylor to three national championships, grew up 45 minutes from LSU’s campus in Hammond, then went on to become an All-American at Louisiana Tech and a gold medalist on the 1984 United States Olympic team. Alleva should have taken a blank check to Mulkey and asked her to fill it in. Even if she stayed in Waco, Alleva would have won fans for going for it. Instead, he copped out and hired someone who is getting circles run around her by Dawn Staley and Vic Shaffer.

The only good things I can say about Caldwell-Fargas is (a) she’s a woman coaching women’s basketball, and (b) she is nowhere near as inept as the men leading Power Five women’s basketball teams in my current home state. Kansas State hiring Jeff Mittie and Kansas hiring Brandon Schneider were only eclipsed by the Wildcats hiring Ron Prince and the Jayhawks hiring Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and David Beatty.

It’s a good thing I was in Kansas City last weekend. This weekend is promising snow and ice, plus the myriad of travel problems it causes.