ENGSTER: Observations from week one

LSU's 45-3 rout of UL-Lafayette sparked a few observations: JaMarcus Russell possesses the finest arm for an LSU quarterback since Bert Jones was tossing missiles in 1972. Russell, at 21, is the same age Jones was when he was named a consensus All America at the position. Jones turns 55 on Sept. 7, thirty years removed from his NFL MVP season with the Baltimore Colts.

Kickoffs at 7 p.m. this time of year amount to afternoon starts for LSU. Let's consider pushing the starting times back to 8 p.m. so fans will enjoy true night football at Tiger Stadium. LSU led 28-3 before it got dark against the Ragin' Cajuns.


LSU chancellor Sean O'Keefe should urge the Board of Supervisors to permit sale of alcoholic beverages in areas of Tiger Stadium where most ticket holders are above 21. It's unfair to allow consumption of alcohol in Tiger suites and not have beer and other libations available to the remainder of the drinking age partisans.


LSU has outscored ULL 487-3 in the last eleven meetings between the schools on the gridiron. Why is there such opposition to playing Southern University in football when LSU feasts on its rival from Lafayette and provides the ULL program a payday that Southern would relish?


More time has now elapsed since Charles McClendon coached LSU than time passed during the combined tenures of McClendon and Paul Dietzel. In the quarter-century of McClendon and Dietzel, the Tigers won three SEC titles and one national championship in football. In the 26 years since McClendon exited, LSU has captured four conference crowns and one national championship.


Saturday's results indicate LSU will have a much more challenging foe in November at Knoxville than in Little Rock. Tennessee, the Tigers' Nov 4 opponent at Knoxville, whipped ninth ranked California 35-18 in the opener for the Volunteers. Arkansas, the Nov. 25 opponent for LSU, dropped a 50-14 decision to USC in the opener for the Hogs.


The LSU victory over ULL was the first Tiger night game to be played since the death of John Ferguson, the longtime Voice of the Tigers. Ferguson was alive for every LSU date since the Tigers began teeing it up under the lights at Death Valley in 1931. No man raised more dollars for LSU than did Ferguson, whose legendary fundraising has resulted in scholarships for students and stipends for professors at the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication.


LSU Board of Supervisors Chairman Rod West played on Notre Dame's last NCAA title team in 1988. West, who has degrees from Notre Dame and Tulane, says he chose the Irish over LSU as a prepster at Brother Martin in New Orleans because Lou Holtz made a better pitch for his services than did Bill Arnsparger.


The 51-14 mark for the Tigers from 2001-2005 is among the best five-year record in LSU history.


Here are the best five-year records for LSU football:


1. 44-8-2                     1958-1962                   83.3 pct.


2. 41-7-6                     1933-1937                   81.5 pct.


3. 51-14-0                   2001-2005                   78.5 pct.


4. 45-12-1                   1969-1973                   78.4 pct.


5. 28-7-2                     1905-1909                   78.4 pct.


6. 42-11-2                   1961-1965                   78.2 pct.


7. 44-12-1                   1968-1972                   78.1 pct.


8. 36-8-7                     1932-1936                   77.5 pct.


9. 48-16-0                   2000-2004                   75.0 pct.


10.  42-15-1                1967-1971                   73.3 pct.


LSU's last three athletic directors have surrendered their thrones at the department at the ages of 65, 57 and 70, respectively. Those were the numbers that sent Carl Maddox, Paul Dietzel and Joe Dean out of TigerTown.


Skip Bertman is 68, so it would appear his years are limited as LSU's athletic czar. Chancellor Sean O'Keefe will likely launch a national campaign to find Bertman's successor.


O'Keefe has contacts at the highest levels of the Bush White House, having served as Secretary of the Navy under Pres. George H.W. Bush and as head of NASA under the current commander-in-chief.


O'Keefe might opt for an unconventional choice to replace Bertman, so here is a suggestion:


LSU's Chancellor should pursue Bush insider Condi Rice, the secretary of state, to succeed Bertman at LSU. Rice has long stated that her ultimate goal is to serve as commissioner of the NFL. What better way would there be to enhance Condi's stock in the sporting world than to become LSU's athletic director?


Rice is scheduled to depart as secretary of state on Jan. 20, 2009. On that date, Bertman will be 70 years old and could turn the keys of the Tiger kingdom over to Dr. Rice. Her appointment would make LSU the envy of the country with an accomplished African-American female poised to lead the Tiger athletic ship for a decade. At 52, Rice has many roads to travel in her career. It's a prudent time to court the Alabama native for a stint at the Ole War Skule.




Jim Engster is the general manager of Louisiana Network and a featured columnist in Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at jim@la-net.net.

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