THE TOP 10: Biggest Controversies

Today's installment of Tiger Rag's Top 10 focuses on the "Biggest Controversies" in LSU Football history. Tomorrow, we focus on the top "pro careers."

BIGGEST CONTROVERSIES

 

The most controversial topics in LSU history

 

1. Saban leaves LSU/arrives at Alabama

While it is one of the most recent controversies, it may also go down as the most bitter in the history of LSU football. Fans were nuts about Nick Saban when he led LSU to 48 victories, two SEC championships and a national title in his five-year stay at LSU. They were upset when he bid farewell for the NFL's Miami Dolphins following the 2004 season. Even when Les Miles went 22-4 in his first two seasons as LSU's new coach, fans still longed for Saban. However, that all changed when Saban returned to college football, most notably the SEC Western Division, as the new head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Now and forever, Saban's return will have LSU fans seeing red.

 

2. 2003 LSU & USC national championship debate – BCS vs. AP

One thing is for certain: LSU did everything it was supposed to do to reach the 2003 BCS National Championship Game. The only problem – the BCS got it wrong. Instead of sending Pac-10 champion USC to the Sugar Bowl to meet LSU, the BCS selected Oklahoma, who got blown out in its conference championship game 36-7 by Kansas State. Outraged, Trojan fans declared themselves national champions following a rout of Michigan in the Rose Bowl – and the AP obliged. LSU beat the Sooners in the Sugar and hoisted the crystal football, leading to an ongoing debate that still rages on today.

 

3. 1970 Cotton Bowl fiasco

Just how costly was LSU's 26-23 loss to Ole Miss in 1969? Well, 9-1 LSU was passed over by the Cotton Bowl, which took 8-1-1 Notre Dame, who lost to eventual national champion Texas. Arguably LSU's greatest team ever (allowed less than 400 yards rushing on the entire season), the 1969 Tigers did not go bowling and were left to wonder what if.

 

4. Officiating at Auburn

There always seems to be some sort of controversy surrounding the LSU-Auburn game. From earthquakes, to cigars, to interceptions, all the way to a burning barn, something always stands out. Lately, it's been the officiating – or lack thereof. Auburn's 10-9 win over LSU in 2004 snapped the Tigers' 10-game winning streak. That game was marred by a ridiculous leverage penalty against LSU on a missed Auburn extra point. The homestanding Tigers got to try again, and John Vaughn booted the game winner through the uprights. Two years later, officials picked up an obvious pass interference penalty flag late in the game which awarded Auburn the ball after an LSU fourth down. The visiting Tigers got the ball back with a chance to win the game, but they fell short 7-3.

 

5. Dietzel leaves LSU, comes back as South Carolina coach

"I'll never leave LSU," said coach Paul Dietzel following the Tigers' 1958 national title. But three years later, Dietzel packed his bags for Army following the 1961 season, and LSU fans were bitter. Things didn't work out for Dietzel at Army, and he landed at South Carolina. In 1966, Dietzel's Gamecocks visited Tiger Stadium for the season opener. Charles McClendon's Tigers downed South Carolina 28-12, much to the delight of the 67,000-plus in attendance. Dietzel and LSU mended fences, however, and he returned to LSU in 1978 and served as athletic director until 1982. Dietzel, now 82, still resides in Baton Rouge.

 

6. Biff Jones and Huey Long

It was no secret that former Louisiana Governor Huey Long loved his LSU Tigers. He attended every game, traveled with the team, and even led the band in parades. In the early 1930s, it was also apparent Long didn't have much love for coach Biff Jones. Jones was the coach at LSU for three seasons, from 1932-34. In those three years, Jones compiled a 20-5-6 record, which, however, did not please Long. At halftime of the 1934 season finale, LSU was losing to Oregon 13-0. Long approached Jones in the locker room, wanting to talk to the team. Jones said, "No," to which Long responded, "Who's going to stop me?" Jones again refused, and Long said, "I am sick and tired of losing and tying games." And he added, "You'd better win this one." Jones quipped, "Well Senator, get this: Win, lose, or draw, I quit!" Long bellowed, "What a bargain!" The Tigers won that day 14-13, but Jones stood by his word. Both admitted later they regretted the exchange and eventually split amicably.

 

7. Bo Rein's death

LSU had found the perfect guy to replace longtime coach Charles McClendon. North Carolina State coach Bo Rein was young, energetic, and one of the hottest names in the country. When he was announced head coach on Nov. 30, 1979, Rein hit the ground running. Unfortunately, no one will ever know what kind of impact Rein would have had at LSU. On Jan 10, 1980, Rein was returning from a recruiting trip in Shreveport. The plane in which he was flying apparently lost cabin pressure and climbed to some 40,000 feet. A flight that was supposed to last 40 minutes ended some 1,500 miles later when the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean just 41 days after Rein was introduced. Rein was only 34 years old. A mad scramble followed as LSU tried desperately to find a coach. Finally, Jerry Stovall was hired.

 

8. Bob Brodhead

No doubt Bob Brodhead left his mark on LSU. Brodhead hired some of the best coaches in LSU history including Skip Bertman, Sue Gunter, Pat Henry and Bill Arnsparger. However, controversy seemed to follow Brodhead at LSU and it eventually led to his resignation as LSU's athletic director. During his stint as AD from 1982-1986, Brodhead had historic feuds with coach Jerry Stovall, who he fired following the 1983 season. Brodhead's relationship with Stovall's replacement (Arnsparger) began well but ended ugly as well when Arnsparger eventually left after just three seasons. In 1983, Brodhead fired baseball coach Jack Lamabe but didn't bother telling him. Lamabe's wife read a classified ad in the Baton Rouge Advocate advertising the head coaching vacancy. But the most memorable occurrence during the Brodhead era was the infamous "bugging" scandal. Brodhead bugged university offices so he could eavesdrop on NCAA investigators. He later pled guilty to federal charges, was sentenced to community service, and later resigned in October 1988.

 

9. Charles McClendon's retirement/firing

Nick Saban was 53 years old when LSU won the national championship. In 1979 in his final season at LSU, Charles McClendon was 53 years old also. At 53, Saban was regarded as a genius. For McClendon, the game was said to have passed him by – a stark contrast to his heyday in the 1960s when LSU was consistently ranked in the top 10. As the 70s dragged on, LSU struggled 5-5-1 in 1974 and 5-6 in 1975. While McClendon's teams enjoyed back-to-back 8-4 seasons in 1977 and 78, there was a growing sentiment among administrators and fans that Mac needed to go. When Paul Dietzel returned to LSU as athletic director in 1978, it was rumored his first act of business was to fire his successor as LSU coach and long-time friend. McClendon was set to serve as president of the National Football Coaches Association in 1979, a great honor for a head coach. McClendon and Dietzel came to an agreement that Mac would retire following the 1979 season. While he went quietly, his staunchest supporters swear he was fired.

 

10. Tiger Stadium Expansion/Dormitories

Tiger Stadium's structure includes several dormitories which are no longer in use. These became part of the stadium because the state budget included money for dormitories but not the stadium expansion desired by Louisiana Governor Huey Long. In order to get around the budget restrictions, Long had the dorms built into Tiger Stadium and included seating for football games.

 

 

Honorable Mention:

 

1998-99 – Lou Tepper and the drop linebacker

2007 – Les Miles and the Alabama "F" Bomb

2002 – Saban and Dennis Franchione

2001 - Damon Duval and the LSU tuba player


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