ENGSTER: Alum Purvis not happy with prices

LSU's boost in football ticket prices didn't sit well with former Tiger star Don "Scooter" Purvis, who responded with a scathing letter printed in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

LSU Chancellor Sean O'Keefe answered by writing his own letter to the editor.


"My apologies to Mr. Purvis," O'Keefe began. "For leaving him with the impression that LSU is indifferent to the football event price impact on our supporters. Indeed, we are committed to supporting competitive academic and athletic programs, mindful that all our efforts must be affordable to the LSU family."


O'Keefe continued by saying "ticket prices are going up as a consequence of net cost increases after an exhaustive effort to pare expenses."


Costs of doing business in all areas of life and business have increased, but LSU is getting a bargain in head coach Les Miles, who is earning about half of what Nick Saban was pulling down prior to his defection to the Dolphins.


An appropriate move associated with the ticket price hike is to boost Miles' compensation by $1 million per year. Miles went 11-2 in his first season compared by an 8-4 mark for Saban in his rookie year at LSU. Miles has an 85-percent winning percentage at LSU compared to 75-percent for Saban in five years.


Miles directed a great recruiting effort this year. He is due a seven-figure pay hike with the unanimous approval of the LSU Board of Supervisors for a ticket increase. After all, the cost of doing business continues to rise.



Johnny Vaught died last week in Mississippi at the age of 96.


Vaught was the architect of the glory years of Ole Miss football, coaching the Rebels from 1947 to 1970 and again briefly in 1973. His tenure was marked by a bitter rivalry with LSU that started with Charlie Conerly and Y.A. Tittle and lasted until Archie Manning and Bert Jones were the quarterbacks for the Rebels and Tigers.


Vaught's time at Oxford was even more remarkable than Bear Bryant's tour in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels were 190-61-12 under Johnny V. Prior to his arrival, Ole Miss had endured four consecutive losing seasons. After his retirement, Mississippi posted only two winning football seasons in the next 15 years.


Vaught lost his last two assignments against LSU by scores of 61-17 and 51-14, but he was 15-8-3 against the Tigers and won five Sugar Bowls, including a 21-0 rout of LSU in the 1960 New Orleans classic. Earlier that season, Billy Cannon stopped an undefeated season for Mississippi as he raced 89 yards in the 7-3 Halloween triumph over the Johnny Rebs. Cannon's punt return accounted for one-third of the points scored on Ole Miss in the entire 1959 season.


In the ten-year span from 1954-63, Vaught directed Ole Miss to a 90-13-4 record. Vaught's 1959, '60 and '62 teams were recognized as national champions by at least one rating system. His teams finished in the top five of every major poll from 1959 to 1963.


The grand old man never won more than eight games in a season after the undefeated 1962 season. But Archie Manning cost LSU a shot at the 1969 national title by rallying the Rebs from a 23-12 deficit to a 26-23 victory at Jackson. Charles McClendon's best team closed at 9-1. Ole Miss won the SEC title and edged Arkansas 27-22 in the Sugar Bowl.


Vaught won ten games at Tiger Stadium in his stay at Ole Miss. That's just one less victory in Death Valley than Curley Hallman posted in four years as head coach at LSU. Hallman was 11-17 at Tiger Stadium from 1991-94. Vaught was 10-7-1 at Tiger Stadium in some of the most memorable clashes in the storied history of LSU-Ole Miss battles..

When the Ole War Skule was pelted with anti-LSU propaganda from an unidentified airplane prior to the 1959 contest with the Rebels, Tiger fans were angry at Ole Miss partisans. Vaught noted that Tiger boss Paul Dietzel had been a fighter pilot in World War II.


Vaught only coached a handful of African-American athletes in his tenure at Ole Miss. In the national championship season of 1962, a mob of segregationists tried to block James Meredith from becoming the first black student at the university. Vaught was encouraged by President Kennedy in an attempt to avert bloodshed in Oxford.


In a 2002 interview with the Oxford Eagle, Vaught recalled the turbulent times four decades earlier.


"I had a call from Washington to tell me Meredith was coming on campus that particular day, and they asked me if I would use my influence to quiet the group and keep them normal. I went over to the Student Union and got on the high steps and looked at the crowd that was there, and I didn't know anybody. They weren't dressed like they were students. They weren't our people. They were outsiders. They weren't going to listen to me, so I just moved on."


Two people died, and hundreds were injured in the violence that erupted over a black man enrolling and entering Ole Miss.


In the championship season of 1962, Ole Miss played only two games at its Oxford stadium, and the Rebels' practice facility was overtaken by United States soldiers. 


Vaught coached another eight years at Mississippi before retiring at age 60 due to a heart seizure. In a tribute to modern medicine, John Howard Vaught lived another 36 years. He will be remembered as the most successful SEC coach during the civil rights upheaval of the 1950's and 1960's. His teams appeared to be oblivious to the chaos around them, and certainly their coach was the catalyst for a series of conference and national crowns.




Jim Engster is the station manager for WRKF-FM in Baton Rouge and the host of "The Jim Engster Show." Contact him by e-mail at jim@wrkf.org.

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