ENGSTER: O'Keefe Leaves LSU A Champion

Sean O'Keefe will leave his post as LSU chancellor as a champion, just as his predecessor did four years ago.

Even though both men savored NCAA conquests in their final days, Mark Emmert skipped town under blue skies with rose petals at his feet. O'Keefe will leave as he arrived; Hurricane Katrina has given way to the political winds of LSU. O'Keefe has been forced to resign at a time when similarly positioned chancellors would be leading their universities in victory parades.

Mark Emmert returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2004 to preside over a university with a much lesser football program. O'Keefe's thanks for guiding Les Miles and the Tigers to the BCS Championship on Jan. 7 was to be out of a job at Thomas Boyd Hall 10 days later.

When Emmert departed, he was the golden child who hired Nick Saban and presided over a gridiron Renaissance at the Ole War Skule. O'Keefe was pushed out by new LSU President John Vincent Lombardi. Unlike the more famous Vince Lombardi, who stated that "winning is the only thing," this modern-day Vince Lombardi has told O'Keefe in no uncertain terms that winning is nothing.

LSU's Lombardi hired Steve Spurrier at Florida – a move his cohorts in TigerTown rejected to their chagrin in 1986. Lombardi is deserving of a chance to get his team in place, and the results should determine the president's job stability. Nonetheless, the act of firing O'Keefe is sure to have repercussions for the iron-willed man who directs the LSU system.

Greater Baton Rouge Business Report publisher Rolfe McCollister is the first media mogul to suggest that Lombardi has worn out his welcome only a few months after his arrival in Baton Rouge. McCollister's ire is notable because the publisher led Gov. Bobby Jindal's transition team and was the campaign treasurer for the governor in his successful election quest (a Business Report poll indicates only 33 percent of the respondents support the move to oust O'Keefe).

McCollister, who is the former chairman of the LSU Board of Supervisors and was almost elected mayor in 2000, spoke for the governor when Jindal was a candidate. Thus, it's not a big leap to assume that Rolfe is in accord with Gov. Jindal on his sentiments regarding the resignation of O'Keefe. LSU's chancellor will officially depart his post at the end of the month and will be replaced for the moment by the man who hired him – popular former chancellor and ex-LSU President William Jenkins.

O'Keefe served as secretary of the Navy under the first President George Bush and was head of NASA under the second President Bush. He is a darling among the national Republican hierarchy and is apparently quite popular with state GOP stalwarts, including Gov. Jindal and McCollister.

The battle lines are drawn between a governor, who took office last week after winning 60 of 64 Louisiana parishes, and Lombardi, who is the new guy in town and unfamiliar with the intrigue of Louisiana politics. Make no mistake that the president of LSU occupies one of the most political positions in the state.

Lombardi serves at the pleasure of the LSU Board of Supervisors, and Gov. Jindal will soon start appointing new members to the LSU Board. At age 65, Lombardi may not have any delusions about a long-term stay in Baton Rouge. But his impact could be far-reaching.

Lombardi will have the final call on the next chancellor and athletic director, and he may soon be hiring a new basketball coach. His selections at Florida not only included Spurrier, but also Gators' athletic director Jeremy Foley and basketball coach Billy Donovan.

At Florida, Lombardi drove to work in an old, red pickup truck that would make Fred Sanford proud. At LSU, he may need some swifter wheels to stay ahead of the posse poised to nail him after his bloody sacking of Sean O'Keefe.


When LSU opens its 2008 season on Aug. 30 (Huey Long's 115th birthday) vs. North Texas, it is hoped that last month's double-murder on campus will be solved and the assailants will be in jail.

The victims, Kiran Kumar Allam, who lived at Edward Gay Apartments, and Chandraskehar Reddy Komma, who was visiting Allam, were Ph.D. students from India.

Allam was 33-years old and studying chemistry, and Komma was 31-years old and studying biology. They were among 332 LSU students from India, the country where Gov. Jindal was conceived and where Louisiana First Lady Supriya Jolly Jindal was born.

Indian students represent more than 1 percent of the LSU student body, and the murders have received more attention in the land of more than 1 billion people than they have in Louisiana, which has a population of slightly more than 4 million residents.

If the murders, which were the first ever on LSU's campus, are not solved by Aug. 30, the game program for the Tigers' opener should feature information about the crime in an effort to bring the killers to justice. The Crime Stoppers' number, (225) 344-STOP, should be placed on all game materials and displayed prominently in Tiger Stadium.

It is essential for LSU to recognize the deaths of these students in the same way that LSU paid tribute last year to the deaths of the 32 Virginia Tech students who were killed on their campus at Blacksburg in 2007.

The LSU Foundation has established a Komma & Allam Support Fund to assist the students' families. For information about making a contribution to the fund, call (225) 578-3811.


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

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