By Ed Daniels, Clarion Herald Sports
If only his running backs could sidestep defenders like the LSU football coach did with reporters on the final question of his post-Spring Game press conference.
“Coach, is backing a Democrat going to affect recruiting at all?” asked a reporter.
“Let me tell you something,” said Orgeron. “I love Louisiana! See you guys.”
Ed Orgeron quickly hustled behind closed doors.
Perhaps Orgeron was surprised by the level of attention his comments in support of Gov. John Bel Edwards received.
“The state of Louisiana believes in (Edwards) just like a championship quarterback,” said Orgeron, according to The Times-Picayune.
Republican Ralph Abraham, a U.S. congressman and a candidate for governor, reacted: “He just put the flagship university into another PR nightmare and isolated half the fan base.”
Maybe so. But, let’s jog back to October 2011. Gov. Bobby Jindal won re-election, and there to congratulate him was none other than LSU football coach Les Miles.
Where was the outcry then about a mix of politics and football?
There was none.
Jog back four years earlier, the fall of 2007. Many vehicles in the parking lot at Tiger Stadium were awash with purple-and-gold bumper stickers that read, “Tigers for Jindal.”
It made me uncomfortable then and does now. Politics and LSU football should not mix.
The reason why is simple. The LSU football coach is hired ultimately by the LSU Board of Supervisors. His compensation is also set by that group. And, the board consists of political appointees by the governor. By last June, John Bel Edwards had appointed 10 of the 15 board members.
The sudden, and somewhat unexpected, firestorm over Orgeron’s comments partially obscured this fact. He has a pretty good football team. A year ago, after spring football, Orgeron had three quarterbacks but none he felt he could win with immediately.
LSU picked up Joe Burrow as a transfer from Ohio State, and he is back after leading the Tigers to a 10-win season.
Backup Myles Brennan looks far more comfortable after another year of being the understudy.
Cornerback Derek Stingley, a January enrollee, looks as talented as advertised. He had an interception in the spring game, covered well and, according to LSU sources, will be an explosive punt returner.
LSU’s secondary and wide receivers could be among the best in the nation. And, much of a ballyhooed recruiting class will be on campus in June.
The arrow for LSU football is pointed up, perhaps more than at any time since the undefeated regular season of 2011.
Back then, few, if any, expressed outrage that the LSU football coach was chummy with the governor.
And, if Orgeron guides LSU to the CFP playoffs this season, this current controversy will blow over like a Louisiana summer rain shower.
Ed Daniels is sports director at ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.