How the Joe Alleva resignation will impact Ed Orgeron in the short and long term
I know that there were plenty of LSU fans who considered the resignation of Joe Alleva good news.
The LSU athletic director was criticized for his hiring decisions, as well as the decision to suspend Will Wade following Yahoo’s report that the FBI had wiretaps of Wade making a recruit a “strong — offer.” For plenty of LSU fans, it was probably ideal that Alleva’s resignation came 3 days after Wade was reinstated.
But while some might have rejoiced in Wednesday’s development, I can guarantee there was at least one person who didn’t — Ed Orgeron.
Alleva made the controversial decision to hire Orgeron after the negotiations with Tom Herman fell apart at the conclusion of the 2016 regular season. Alleva just negotiated a new contract for Orgeron, which yielded a raise and a couple more years of security.
And now, Orgeron will have a new boss with a new set of expectations. As we found out on Wednesday, that new boss is Scott Woodward, who we know hasn’t been shy about making big-time hires.
What does that mean for Orgeron’s short- and long-term future? That’s an interesting question.
Obviously Alleva’s departure didn’t help Orgeron. After all, Alleva stuck his neck out for Orgeron. That was the hire that was supposed to determine Alleva’s future in Baton Rouge.
Don’t forget that Alleva got to LSU after Les Miles. Perhaps that in itself explained the awkward nature of Alleva’s process in firing Miles. It’s still fresh on the minds of many the way that all went down with Miles looking like he was gone at the end of 2015, only to keep his job until his 2-2 start in 2016.
Miles wasn’t Alleva’s guy. Orgeron became Alleva’s guy.
It was the against-the-grain move that people were waiting on to fail. At this time a year ago, Orgeron was on every hot-seat list in America. That was despite the fact that you’d talk to people around the program who said how committed Alleva was to giving Orgeron time because he needed to be able to do what he did best first — recruit. Orgeron then rewarded Alleva with LSU’s best season in 7 years.
Woodward wouldn’t step in and fire a coach fresh off a New Year’s 6 Bowl win and double-digit victories. That’s not the issue with Orgeron. Even if LSU takes a slight step back and is merely a Top 25 team instead of a Top 10 team — something I don’t think will happen — there probably isn’t any immediate need for Woodward to make a switch.
That’s the good news for Orgeron. By negotiating that new deal, Woodward can wait another couple years before revisiting that conversation (it also probably helps that Orgeron is only making $4 million, which is a little more than half of what other New Year’s 6 Bowl winners are making).
But long term, yeah, this isn’t ideal for Orgeron. Let’s paint a little scenario here.
Hypothetically, let’s say that LSU wins 8-9 games each of the next 2 seasons. Neither season includes a win against Alabama or a New Year’s 6 Bowl. The way these things work now with recruiting, that’s the key point when athletic directors have to go one way or the other.
The odds don’t seem great that Woodward is going to look at that and say, “yep, here’s your raise and extension, Coach.” Ask Kevin Sumlin about that. Before the 2017 season, Woodward even came out and said that Sumlin’s string of 8-win seasons wasn’t good enough.
If it were still Alleva, that’s a different story. But as I always say, athletic directors don’t want to be judged on someone else’s work.
What do I mean by that? Look no further than the SEC college basketball turnover in the past 14 months (which Woodward was a part of):
And keep in mind, that’s just for basketball. Football, AKA the sport that brings in the most revenue for SEC schools, puts even more pressure on athletic directors to get it right. Not everybody is Greg Byrne walking into a situation with Nick Saban. Rare is it to see someone like Phillip Fulmer go to such extreme lengths to keep someone like Rick Barnes, who was hired by a different athletic director.
More common is the situation like what’s now taking place at LSU. You have someone who has had success, but not enough to earn a lifetime contract regardless of who his boss is.
But at the same time, this situation is a bit atypical for an incoming athletic director, and not just because Wade is still at the forefront of this FBI investigation. Every LSU coach who has walked the Tiger Stadium sidelines during the 21st century has won at least 8 games in a given season. Granted, that list is only 3 people (Saban, Miles and Orgeron). Maybe there’s still this belief that it’s not that impressive to win 8-9 games at LSU, and that plenty of people could do it.
I mean, LSU has great resources, it pays coordinators handsomely and it has a great state to recruit in. Big-name coaches would be lining up for that job if it became available. If a Woodward decided that Orgeron took the program as far as he could, the idea of sifting through the potential candidates would be extremely enticing.
The only thing Orgeron can do to avoid that thought from creeping into his Woodward’s mind is simple — win. Keep beating ranked teams and getting to New Year’s 6 bowls — he’s 7-2 vs. ranked teams that aren’t Alabama since he shed the interim tag — and end the Alabama streak. Basically, just get back to the 2011 standard and job security won’t be an issue.
I say that a bit tongue in cheek because that’s a ridiculously high bar to live up to. It’s a bar that’s been raised with Wednesday’s news. That’s reality for Orgeron.
Whether he lives up to it, well, that’s for Woodward to decide.