After Ed Orgeron's departure from LSU, college football's top coaching job is open
By RJ Young
FOX Sports College Football Writer
The best coaching job in the country is open to all comers.
According to reports Sunday, LSU and coach Ed Orgeron have agreed that this season will be his last running the program. The news comes less than two years after Orgeron led the Tigers to their third national title this century.
The news, first reported by Sports Illustrated, is unprecedented in the sport. Following the 2019 season, when LSU went 15-0 and won almost every major award in the sport — from the Heisman to the Joe Moore Award to the Thorpe Award to the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year — LSU rewarded Orgeron with the second-richest contract in college football history at a staggering average salary of $9 million per year.
Orgeron is the highest-paid state employee in Louisiana, and he was expected not just to win but also to win with class and consistency. He has proven to be short on both in Baton Rouge.
The Tigers are just 9-8 since beating Clemson for the national title, and the stench around the LSU program was becoming unbearable.
Former running back Derrius Guice was accused of sexual assault while at LSU in 2017, one year after Orgeron was hired. Guice is now suspended for the first six games of the 2021 NFL season after reports of multiple arrests for domestic violence in 2020. The LSU administration has been accused of mishandling the Title IX case involving Guice and has since expunged his name from the school's record book.
On the field, LSU has suffered a horrible rash of injuries, defections and other embarrassments the past two years.
Ja’Marr Chase, the 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner and 2021 NFL first-round selection, opted out in 2020. So did wideout Terrace Marshall, and 2020 No. 1 tight end and five-star recruit Arik Gilbert transferred to Georgia.
This season, defensive backs Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks, defensive tackle Ali Gaye and quarterback Myles Brennan have suffered significant injuries that will keep them out of the lineup indefinitely.
So why is LSU the best job in the country? Even with all the problems and now a lame-duck coach, LSU ranks No. 9 in 2022 team recruiting.
A close second reason? The institution and the people of Louisiana want to win football games as badly as any fan base in the country.
That's why a coach at Michigan State took an opening at LSU more than 20 years ago. His name is Nick Saban.
Saban won his first national title (2003) just three years into his stint at LSU because he figured out what no other coach had about Louisiana State: Everything you need is right there.
Saban just had to put all the pieces in place.
First, he fixed the facilities. He and his wife, Terry, donated $50,00 to a new student-athlete academic center and made sure The Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes was completed in two years.
He stayed on top of former LSU athletic director Skip Bertman to build a new football operation base. Before, football players had to change for practice at the stadium because LSU did not have locker rooms next to the practice fields. Saban was adamant that football operations be next to the practice fields.
Then Saban solved the most significant problem at LSU: He committed to keeping the in-state talent home.
In the 1990s, Louisiana high school talent such as Peyton Manning, Marshall Faulk, Warrick Dunn, Kordell Stewart and Travis Minor got away from LSU. Saban put in place a staff that knew its job was to "build a wall around the state of Louisiana." His 2001 recruiting class ranked No. 2 in the country and No. 1 in the SEC. Thirteen of the 26 signees in the class were from Louisiana.
The next head coach at LSU will have the opportunity to do the same, and the list of those who would listen to what LSU athletic director Scott Woodward has to say is longer than many would like to admit.
In fact, it’s easier to put together a list of coaches who would immediately say no. And that list begins and ends with Saban, who saw the rock at Baton Rouge and polished it into a diamond capable of cutting down any team in college football.
Everyone else? Form an orderly line because we all know you want a crack at this gig.
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young." Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young, and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.