ENGSTER: Ranking the coaches since Cholly Mac

Jerry Lane Stovall turns 65 this month.

On April 30, the pride of West Monroe observes a milestone on his calendar and reminds us all that more than a quarter-century has gone since Stovall became the LSU football coach on Jan. 12, 1980.


He was only 38 when he succeeded Bo Rein, and Stovall endured a series of highs and lows in his four years on the sidelines. It was the job he had coveted his adult life, but Stovall did not expect to take the assignment one day after his predecessor perished in a plane crash. To make matters even more problematic, Stovall inherited the dead man's staff, a group of men shaken by the loss of the leader who brought them to TigerTown.


The Stovall Era featured two of the most unlikely years a coach has logged at Death Valley. In year three with a new athletic director poised to pounce on every defeat, Stovall turned the tables on Bob Brodhead and was named national coach of the year. He is the only LSU mentor to defeat Alabama, Florida and Florida State in the same season, and the games were not close. Stovall and Co. whipped the Tide, Gators and Seminoles by a combined margin of 99 to 44.


A season later, Stovall's troops lost to the same trio by a count of 103-78. LSU went 4-7 in 1983 and was winless in the SEC. Brodhead pulled the plug on Stovall and brought in Bill Arnsparger, who prospered for three years with Stovall recruits and crumbled in three bowl games in which LSU was outscored 79-32 by Nebraska and Baylor.


Counting Hal Hunter, LSU has employed eight head coaches since Charles McClendon was dismissed in 1979. Hunter was 1-0 with a 35-10 victory over Arkansas in 1999. He is the answer to the trivia question concerning the identity of the LSU coach who closed the millennium for the Tigers.


The time has come to rank the post-McClendon LSU football coaches. Hunter is given a pass while the others are ranked on their records, recruiting and the shape of their programs when they left as opposed to the status of their programs when they arrived.


1. Nick Saban: LSU went 32-24-1 in the five years before his arrival while posting a 48-16 mark under the diminutive West Virginian. Five years under Saban brought the Tigers a pair of SEC titles and the 2003 NCAA crown.


2. Jerry Stovall: Tigers enjoyed two fine seasons under Stovall and two terrible years. He missed the chance to win with his own recruits, but no coach has been a better ambassador for the Ole War Skule. He finishes second to Saban here in the same manner he was the runner-up to Terry Baker in the 1962 Heisman Trophy derby.


3. Les Miles: He showed remarkable potential in his first year. At 11-2, Miles is the winningest first-year coach in LSU history.


4.  Bill Arnsparger: The coach, who was called "The Grandfather" by former Tiger

Rag publisher Steve Myers, was 26-8-2 in three years. He departed as an SEC champion in 1986.


5. Mike Archer: LSU was 27-18-1 in his four years as head coach. Archer enjoyed a ten-win season in his 1987 debut and fielded an SEC title team in 1988.        


6. Gerry DiNardo: Three impressive years were followed by a pair of dismal seasons. DiNardo had it all: talent, charisma and support from the athletic director. In the end, it wasn't enough to withstand 15 losses in his last 18 games at LSU.


7. Hudson "Curley" Hallman: LSU was a woeful 16-28 in his four years at the helm. Hallman opened his tenure at TigerTown by appearing with basketball counterpart Dale Brown at an alumni meeting. When Hallman mused to the crowd about "sleeping with Dale," Brown was fighting mad. Hallman later explained that his wife at the time was named Dale. Hallman's offensive coordinator Lynn Amedee managed to offend others when he marveled at the physique of tight end David LaFleur by remarking, "I'm not queer for guys or anything, but LaFleur's pretty."




Basketball boss John Brady is jockeying for an increase in pay after leading his charges to the Final Four, and a case can be made for Brady. He earns less than half what Billy Donovan received in steering Florida to the national title.


Nonetheless, former LSU athletic director Joe Dean notes that Brady receives more than double what Dale Brown collected in his final season at LSU in 1996-97.


With Brady earning $715,000 per season, Dean is recommending an attendance clause for the coach. Under Dean's strategy, Brady would get a hefty pay hike if more customers are attracted to the PMAC. If not, Brady would stay where he is on the compensation scale.


Dean's proposal has merit and might result in more Tigers falling from the ceiling in addition to the high quality team that Brady assembled this season.




Jim Engster is a featured columnist in Tiger Rag, a longtime radio personality, station manager of WRKF-89.3 in Baton Rouge and the host of the "Jim Engster Show." Reach him at jim@wrkf.org.

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