LSU and the post-Saban era
One week after coach Nick Saban
announced he was leaving
A 65-yard touchdown pass from
For the second time in less than a
week, the Tiger faithful was forced to stomach another bitter pill – the first
Saban's bid adieu to Bayou country, the second a 30-25 loss in the Capital One
Bowl to an underdog
The madness began 18 days earlier when Saban revealed his interest in the Miami Dolphins coaching vacancy. Rumors swirled and sides were chosen – will he go or won't he? Talk radio shows, Internet message boards and water coolers everywhere were buzzing with talk of will Saban abandon LSU for the money of the professional ranks. Plus, if Saban did bolt, who would stay behind, who will depart…. and most importantly who would be named the man to follow "The Man."
One familiar with LSU fans can only imagine the hoopla. And while a media firestorm ensued over the following days and weeks, Saban – as expected – refused to comment on the situation. At a Dec. 15 press conference, he informed the local media of his intentions to further explore the Dolphins situation, then stated he wished from that point on to comment only on bowl preparations concerning Iowa.
Yeah right, like that was going to happen.
All that was discussed from that
point on was anything but the Tigers' New Year's Day showdown with the Hawkeyes,
co-champions of the Big 10. If the mere mention of the NFL and Saban's decision
surfaced the feisty field marshal would bristle in a way he made famous (er…
infamous) during his half-decade stay in
And the more quiet Saban remained, the more the rumors grew. Let's just say, if one more person approaches this writer with the questions, "what is Nick going to do?" or "who is going to be the Tigers' next coach?" pool together some money for bail because there will most probably be assault charges filed.
Let's just say, rumors and questions have weighed heavy on the nerves of sports scribes over the past half-month.
With anticipation growing as Christmas approached, most everyone hunkered down and waited for what would be one of the most historic press conferences in LSU history. The media camped out around the LSU Athletic Administration building. Fans stayed glued to radios and television sets in anticipation of what would be the fate of the Tiger Football program.
The Tigers went through their final workout on Dec. 21 and were to be released for four days to celebrate the Christmas holidays. Surely Saban would come forth with some sort of decision to break the tension so everyone could relax and enjoy the holidays in peace, knowing one way or another.
But heavens no, that would be too routine – or far too easy for an announcement of this magnitude.
So the Saban hostage crisis began.
With LSU administrators hanging on Saban's everyone word, fans dangling on the end of a string and Saban in no way bound the university in terms of no buyout clause in his contract, he waited. Even as several of LSU's top notch recruiting commitments began dropping like flies, Saban would not crack.
The local media held a vigil in
20-degree temperature in the athletic building parking lot. Three days everyone
waited. Following every possible rumor or semblance of a lead, including Miami
Dolphins' owner Wayne Huizenga's plan parked on the runway at the
As the team returned on Christmas Day, a decision had not come. And fans, who should have been a home enjoying Christmas with their families, sat through a day which is supposed to be filled with joy nervously waiting for Saban's decision.
The buses pulled to the front of the building that Christmas afternoon ready to whisk Saban and Co. off to the airport for their trek to Orlando and the Capital One Bowl. As Saban emerged from the side door of the building dressed to a T, he trotted swiftly to the the sanctuary and safety of the charter surrounded by an armed escort of Louisiana State Troopers.
After the buses sped away, LSU
administrators announced Saban would hold a press conference at 6:30 CST in
After a brief statement, a quick Q&A session and the announcement of his intentions to remain with the team to coach the bowl game, Saban then again stressed he did not wish to discuss the matter for the remainder of the team's stay in Orlando saying he did not want it to serve as a distraction for his team as they prepped for the Hawkeyes.
No problem! How in the world would something of this magnitude possibly distract the team? (sarcasm) In no way should the team be deterred from its preparations for its fourth straight New Year's day bowl game by the hoopla surrounding the future of the head coach. Hmmmmm…..
And Saban's plan worked masterfully.
In no way did the team look
distracted in the game, a game in which LSU suffered numerous breakdowns in
special teams, including two blocked punts. In no way did the team look
distracted with blown blocking and coverage assignments, not to mention
turnovers. No way did the team seem distracted when it failed to abide by the
golden rule of the Nick Saban era at LSU – a credo that was hammered home on a
daily basis by Saban himself – "play every game for 60 minutes." The Tigers
forgot the most important Sabanism of all when leading 25-24 with just seconds
left and allowed an
At any rate, I digress.
The 2004 football season, one that
began on such a bizarre note in the mud versus Oregon State, a season that
encountered more bumps in the road than a south Louisiana interstate, has
mercifully came to an end. It is in the books – LSU, 9-3 overall, 6-2 in the SEC
and on the cusp of the newest chapter in the annals of Tiger lore.
While we lament on one of the more zany, more controversial, more trying seasons in LSU history, there are two questions that have (need) to be asked.
1. With the events of Saban's departure, what will be the legacy of arguably the most successful (and popular) coaches in LSU history?
2. And the obvious, who will have the unenviable role of being LSU's next coach? Saban has left some mighty big shoes to fill.
First, Saban's legacy.
While many Tiger fans are not happy with the fact Saban departed the program for greener ($$) pastures in the NFL, Saban is possibly the most beloved coaches in LSU history. When the jilted lover syndrome wears off, the Tiger faithful will look at Saban as the person who resurrected the program to the highest level.
Two league crowns, a national title, five bowls game, four of which were played consecutively on New Year's Day, facility upgrades, Saban will be remembered for all of these.
However, Saban's most lasting
Saban lashed out at the fans when
they booed his team during a loss to Ole Miss in 2001. But by the national
championship season of 2003, it was clear The Tiger nation had bought into
Saban's way of thinking and it was never more obvious when LSU fans chanted
L-S-U repeatedly showing their support even after
And as the fans' mentality changed
over the past five years, Saban grew as well. When he arrived in December of
1999 steely gaze and icy demeanor was one some predicted would not jive with the
laid back attitude of south
No one can think of day-old coffee or Little Debbie oatmeal cookies without having a Saban flashback. And not a day will go by in Baton Rouge that the terms "wolf mentality" or "brook trout look" will not be uttered.
Ironically, Saban's departure from
While Saban isn't too high on many people's lists around town today, there will come a time when folks will reflect back on his days on the sidelines in Tiger Stadium and those memories will evoke a warm feeling inside.
With Saban on his way out, who is poised to take over as the next LSU head coach?
While their were swirling about the fate of LSU and Nick Saban, there might have been even more in the post-Saban fallout as to who would be the Tigers next mentor.
Then news concerning Bobby Petrino
LSU passed out a few token
While this decision might not sit
particularly well with Tiger fans, Miles is a capable coach who brought a once
downtrodden OSU program from the ranks of obscurity to national prominence. For
the naysayers who questions Miles' 28-21 record, remember Saban brought a
34-24-1 record after five years at
While this all seems to be simply arithmetic, only time will if LSU has made the right decision on who will follow the Saban legend.
So in closing, so long Nick, it has been a hell of a run. Welcome coach Miles. If you are to be the Tigers' next coach, buckle your seatbelt because you are in for the ride of your life.
Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.