FEINSWOG: Reflecting on lessons learned in 06

Some things I learned or thought about LSU athletics in 2006, and things I think about for 2007 …

In about 15 years, if he stays healthy, JaMarcus Russell will retire from the NFL as one of the greatest quarterbacks who ever lived.


LSU fans are so jealous and petty sometimes, especially when a player or coach from another team gets praised by the national media. You heard nonstop leading up to the Sugar Bowl, "How dare someone say something nice about Notre Dame?"


Well, Notre Dame's Brady Quinn is the real deal, a heck of a quarterback who also will do well in the NFL. Wish him well. But he'll be nothing like Russell, who has physical skills passers dream of and a track record few in college have ever earned.


The Oakland Raiders fired their head coach last week. They'd better hire a QB-friendly guy who had best convince Russell the time to leave LSU is now and become the first pick in the draft.


Speaking of jealous and petty, and this ties in in more ways than one, LSU was abuzz last week when Nick Saban went to Alabama – as if he had jilted LSU and not the Miami Dolphins. Understand this: Saban never thought about LSU ever again the day he saw it in his rear-view mirror. He never thought about LSU again as he struggled through two NFL seasons or as he moved to Tuscaloosa. What LSU thinks is irrelevant to him. He's that single-minded.


So what do I think about the whole thing? Good for Alabama. Good for LSU. Good for the SEC. Good for college football. Bad for Wayne Huizenga, who owns the Dolphins.

In 2006, LSU went to the Final Four in both men's and women's basketball. It can happen again.


The men are 11-3, which includes an unlucky tough loss to Texas in a game that LSU could have – should have – won and a defeat at Washington when the Huskies played out of their minds. Note that Washington lost its first three Pac-10 games, two on the road, where the Huskies won't win many this season. But playing them at home will end up being a good thing for LSU, as evidenced by the butt-kicking it gave to visiting UConn on Saturday.   


Last year was one in which LSU fired its baseball coach, the first time that happened in more than 20 years, and hired Paul Mainieri away from Notre Dame. Don't forget that his hiring wasn't unlike Alabama's in football, in that it appeared LSU was spurned by a handful of candidates before getting its guy.


Mainieri jumps into an Alex Box full of unrealistic baseball dreams, put into the fans' heads by the man who hired him, athletic director Skip Bertman, who won five national titles in 10 years. That won't happen again. For that matter, Laval, who turned off his fan base and former players in too many ways, advanced to the College World Series his first two years and was criticized terribly by the fans for not winning in Omaha.


Maybe 2007 will be the year that D-D Breaux finally wins it all. The grand ol' lady of the LSU athletic department starts her 30th year as gymnastics coach. She's outlasted them all – just think of all the athletic directors and football coaches she's seen come and go – but has yet to win the big one. LSU has finished in the top 10 19 times.


The good news for her is that fans don't call radio shows or get on chat boards to complain about her not winning the NCAA titles.


And speaking of which, now we enter year three of winter and spring track after the reign of Pat Henry, who left LSU in a huff for Texas A&M. Have you ever heard an LSU fan complain that the Tigers haven't won a national title in track since then?


A new year.


Not a new school year, but still a time to reflect and ponder and look ahead.


Here's to both basketball teams making it back to their Final Fours.


And here's to wishing JaMarcus Russell well at the next level.


So let the quarterback controversy begin.


Here's to Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux. The spotlight will be all yours come spring practice. Well we'll see about you Ryan Perrilloux.




Lee Feinswog is a Baton Rouge sportswriter and host of the television show "Sports Monday." Reach him at (225) 926-3256 or lee@sportsbatonrouge.com. His book "HoopDaddy" is available at www.HoopDaddy.net.

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