GRAY: Winds of change blowing

Change is most definitely in the air at LSU and around the Athletic Administration building.

On the day the Athletic Department said goodbye to three long-time employees who retired from the Ticket, Football and Gymnastics offices, Georgia Tech announced that LSU Senior Associate Athletic Director Dan Radakovich would become its new Athletic Director.

Radakovich's tenure at LSU is probably best defined by the very word "change." One the day he was hired for the LSU job, his former colleagues at the University of South Carolina phoned LSU to say, "get ready for change. It won't matter if your way of doing something is better or not, he will change the way you do it." One of Radakovich's first official acts at LSU was to cancel the oak trees ordered to be planted around the Athletic Administration Building and replace them with palm trees. Change for change's sake.

Perhaps the best known person to leave the LSU Athletic Department this month is Nancy Mann, a 23-year employee of the LSU Ticket Office. Nancy epitomizes hard work and loyalty and has a wonderful sense of humor sometimes hidden from the public, but enjoyed by those who knew her well. If you are given what seems like an impossible task to perform, Nancy is the person you want on your staff. She will never let you down. She is probably most fondly remembered by the diehard Baseball fans who came to the Box when very few others did during those early days when Skip Bertman was laying the groundwork for what would be a dynasty.

But in recent years, it stopped being fun, so Nancy has taken advantage of her ability to retire young enough to still have a second career. She's off to manage a new Sonic Drive-In that will open before football season in Gonzales, just off I-10. Nancy's location is already projected to be one of the most successful in the area, and she is laying out ways to capitalize on the gameday traffic that will pass close to her drive-in. It's a sure bet her place will be packed with the many friends she made and the many fans she helped during those 23 years. Change is good.

The abrupt announcement that Dr. William Jenkins will step down as President of the LSU System started a brush fire that continues to burn today. It is widely assumed that LSU Board Chairman Bernie Boudreaux orchestrated the move to help secure the President's spot for Dr. Sally Clausen, who by now the whole world calls "his girlfriend." It is no secret that Boudreaux began his moves a year ago when Clausen's name was floated out as a potential candidate for Chancellor and Jenkins recruited Sean O'Keefe for the job. Attention then turned to Clausen as a possible replacement for Jenkins, knowing that move had to be done before June 2006 when Governor Blanco, who respects Jenkins, will have a majority of her appointees on the LSU board -- more change. So Boudreaux made his move and LSU supporters and the news media have been in an uproar ever since.

If one can be objective, the facts seem to be this: 1) Sally Clausen is a capable and qualified higher education administrator; 2) Bernie Boudreaux seems to have overplayed his hand; 3) growing sentiment is that Clausen should salvage her reputation quickly by walking away from this job opening with dignity before she and LSU are further damaged.

Change is hard.

Now that the enormously popular Jenkins has been pushed aside, speculation has arisen that Skip Bertman's run as Athletic Director may be coming to a close, with him assuming a similar role in fundraising. With Radakovich no longer the heir apparent, those who felt Doug Moreau, the popular LSU football All-American, radio network analyst and District Attorney, was blocked by Mark Emmert from becoming AD, are already beginning to float his name out as a logical successor to Bertman.

Change is constant.

Here are my predictions: Dan Radakovich will be happier at Georgia Tech than he was in Baton Rouge. With his strong business background, likeable personality and disinterest in politics, he will be a better fit for that program than one where the game of politics is second only to those played by LSU teams.

When that new Sonic drive-in opens in Gonzales, I predict it will become a gameday tradition for fans driving up Interstate 10 to Tiger Stadium.

My guess is it will be hard for Sally Clausen to take herself out of the running for a job she has coveted for some time.

And after the dust settles on the search for a new LSU System President, I expect attention will turn to who will succeed Bertman as Athletic Director and that buzz will heat up.

For a change, the debate around LSU isn't about whether to fire or keep a coach. Things are surprisingly quiet on that front. But the administration seems only too happy to pick up the slack and cause controversy.

The winds of change blow steadily around LSU sports. And it's a sure bet there's plenty more to come.

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