Inside the unraveling of Ed Orgeron’s LSU tenure in just 21 months

Despite the optimism of new coach Ed Orgeron, LSU football is in shambles. It has now become common knowledge that Les Miles was fired for cause and not because he had an alleged affair with a subordinate’s wife. The Louisiana Board Of Regents said it would investigate what led to his termination after being one of the most successful coaches in college history. Meanwhile, Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich called on bylaw 12-A to investigate whether or not there were any irregularities involving payments made from Adidas before they signed their 10-year contract worth $160 million with UM

Ed Orgeron’s tenure at LSU has been a roller coaster ride in the past 2 years. His teams have gone through 7 coaches, and things just keep getting worse for him. Though he may not stay that way much longer if the current trend continues..

The “ed orgeron” is the head coach of the LSU Tigers football team. He was hired in December 2016, but his tenure has been short-lived with him being fired just 21 months later.

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  • Scarborough, Alex


    Mark-Stoops-has-brought-winningESPN Contributor

    • The SEC is covered.
    • In 2012, he joined ESPN.
    • Auburn University graduate.
  • Schlabach, Mark


    1627011072_539_Big-12-officials-meet-to-discuss-possible-departures-of-OklahomaSenior Writer for ESPN

    • Senior writer for college football
    • Author of seven college football books
    • The University of Georgia has awarded me a bachelor’s degree.

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Some of the waitstaff at TJ Ribs sported shirts that said “It’s O time,” but there was no denying that Ed Orgeron’s tenure at LSU was coming to an end on Wednesday night. When the besieged head coach arrived into the lobby for his monthly radio appearance a few minutes before 7 p.m., he passed a grim reaper amid the Halloween decorations and got a golf clap.

For the next hour, he spoke about struggling through the defeats, the many injuries, and the never-ending bad luck.

“I know our supporters are sick of hearing it,” he remarked, “but we’ve had some outstanding practices.”

Shaking her head, a middle-aged lady stood near the bar.

She murmured to a pal, “Wait till next year.” “But there’ll probably be a new coach,” she said after pausing and lowering her voice.

Orgeron didn’t say anything, but talks about his stepping down were already in the works. He met with director of athletics Scott Woodward after an ugly 21-point defeat to Kentucky on Oct. 9 lowered LSU to 3-3. Both Louisiana natives felt it was time for a change, and it was official by Sunday.

LSU stated that it has struck a deal with Orgeron to split ways at the conclusion of this season, twenty-one months after being undefeated, capturing a national title, and putting together probably the greatest single season in college football history.

Joe Burrow’s high-flying offense and coordinator Joe Brady’s high-flying offense were long gone. A once-close locker room had been shattered by a head coach who had lost his way — from poor coordinator hires to fumbling social justice issues, allegedly mishandling legal allegations against his players, and making public outbursts that had administrators questioning whether he was the right man to lead the program.

Here’s how Orgeron’s career fell apart so swiftly, from a championship high in 2019 to the athletic department agreeing to pay him almost $17 million to go.

After Joe Burrow and 13 other players went for the NFL draft after the 2019 season, the club was left with a leadership vacuum. USA TODAY Sports/Matthew Emmons

DURING LSU’S CHAMPIONSHIP RUN IN 2019, Orgeron spoke to ESPN about his new identity, having gone from an interim coach few thought was qualified for the job to the head coach of one of the most successful teams in college football history, who would soon be rewarded with a lucrative six-year contract extension.

Gone were the screamer and the control freak who struggled to delegate and would often consume cans of energy drinks while working his workers to the bone. He said that this individual “broke individuals” and “broke the team.”

Orgeron claimed he’d learned the hard way to lessen his hold after being dismissed at Ole Miss in 2007 and not being hired at USC in 2013.

He added that “I had to learn to be a head coach” as part of the process.

Orgeron stated he finally had the staff to win three years into his tenure at LSU. Dave Aranda, a well-respected defensive coordinator who had been recruited by Les Miles, had agreed to continue on. And he’d discovered a gem in the rough in New Orleans Saints assistant Joe Brady, who would take over as passing game coordinator, allowing Orgeron to finally implement the new-age, up-tempo, spread offense he’d always desired.

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Orgeron stated at the time, “It required some effort.” “I had to be fortunate. Joe Burrow was found. Joe Brady has been found. There were a number of things that came together.”

But, almost as fast as everything came together and Orgeron raised the championship trophy, everything started to fall apart behind the scenes.

The zen-like CEO with the Midas touch was nowhere to be found less than two years later.

When Orgeron’s wunderkind coordinator, Brady, was traded to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, he replaced him with Scott Linehan, an experienced pro-style coordinator. He ended up hiring the famously erratic Bo Pelini without even completing an interview after losing his meticulous defensive leader, Aranda, to Baylor. Pelini was dismissed after just one season, pocketing a $4 million buyout for his troubles. The Tigers allowed 492 yards per game, which was fourth worst in the FBS.

The leadership gap on the squad was worsened by the COVID-19 outbreak and worldwide demonstrations against police brutality when Burrow and 13 other players departed for the NFL draft. Orgeron, according to insiders, was ill-equipped to fill that hole and lead, unable to manage uncomfortable talks and lacking in the diplomacy required to bring a locker room with a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences together.

For example, Orgeron had no idea his players were going to march across LSU’s campus as part of a global rally for social justice in late August 2020. Linebacker Soni Fonua remarked at the time, “We said no practice today.” Later, in the president’s office, Orgeron and Woodward spoke with the players. Orgeron said that he had been prepared for a practice that his players failed to attend. “I had no idea they were doing it,” he said at the time.

“When you’re 15-0, it’s easier to remain even-keeled and tranquil,” a person close to the show said. “You had poor leadership across the board,” Orgeron said when the chips were down and he had to do more than simply coach the Xs and Os.

Some players, such as top receiver Ja’Marr Chase, chose to leave the team, while others transferred. LSU’s 2020 season began with a loss against Mississippi State, and the Tigers needed back-to-back victories to finish at.500. Arik Gilbert, a rookie All-American tight end, and another excellent freshman, quarterback TJ Finley, both quit the team due to personal reasons.

Orgeron never stopped bleeding in 2020, according to sources, and it spilled over into this season.

Orgeron demonstrated this in the Tigers’ season opener against UCLA on Sept. 4, when he engaged a heckling Bruins supporter as he walked into the Rose Bowl. “Bring your ass on in your little sissy blue shirt,” he was captured on tape ordering the guy. It was probably just a remark, but the fact that the face of the LSU team was making a crude remark to a fan worried Woodward and incoming university president William Tate IV, who had just come from South Carolina.

In a 38-27 triumph, the Bruins piled up 470 yards of offense, including 210 yards running, while holding LSU to just 48 yards on the ground.

Orgeron grew prone to outbursts, throwing chairs, and yelling at players as the Tigers’ on-field difficulties worsened this season. According to accounts, he lost the team’s respect.

One insider claimed, “There are men that would run through a wall for their coach.” “They weren’t going to the restroom to help him.”

The national title was won, but it’s simple to recognize it for what it was in retrospect.

“He captured lightning in a bottle,” the insider said concisely.

LSU dominated in 2019, winning the national title with a 15-0 record. Ed Orgeron’s Tigers have gone 8-8 in their last 16 games. Getty Images/Andy Lyons

EVEN The off-field troubles for Orgeron’s squad were getting tough to overlook as LSU was celebrating its national championship after a 42-25 victory over Clemson in the Big Easy on Jan. 13, 2020.

The NCAA launched an inquiry when video surfaced of former LSU standout receiver Odell Beckham Jr., then an NFL player, giving out cash to Tigers players on the field after the game. The NCAA was already investigating inappropriate perks in the football and men’s basketball programs.

The administration declared a one-year bowl ban in December, with the Tigers struggling with a 3-5 record during the coronavirus-delayed 2020 season. This was on top of Beckham Jr.’s self-imposed punishments, which included the loss of eight scholarships over two years, decreased recruiting trips, assessments, and communication, and a two-year ban from LSU’s football facilities. Beckham’s conduct resulted in the NCAA charging the Tigers with a Level II violation.

Then, on June 2, LSU dismissed offensive line coach James Cregg, whose unit had earned the Joe Moore Award as the best in the NCAA during the 2019 championship season. In August, Cregg filed a lawsuit against the university, stating that he was sacked for reason after admitting to NCAA enforcement employees that he had visited a recruit and supplied him with gear during a COVID-19 dead time. He sued the university for breach of contract, claiming that he was fired too soon before the NCAA had determined whether he had “committed a Level I or Level II violation, or repeated Level III and/or Level IV infractions.”

Worse, Orgeron had been accused twice in the previous eight months of inadequately handling complaints of sexual misconduct by a player. Derrius Guice, a former standout running back, was engaged in both charges. Guice approached a 74-year-old lady when she was working as a security guard at the New Orleans Superdome in December 2017, according to a 74-year-old woman who testified to a Louisiana Senate select committee in March. “I adore having sex with older ladies like you,” Guice allegedly told the lady, adding “I want your body.”

Gloria Scott, the lady, told legislators that Orgeron contacted her and offered to have Guice apologize, saying, “Please forgive [Guice] because he’s a disturbed youngster.”

Instead of appearing in person, Orgeron provided a written testimony to the committee, in which he denied ever speaking to Scott personally about the topic. Scott said that she informed Orgeron that she wanted Guice to be banned from the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018. He was given permission to play.

Whether or whether Orgeron talked to Scott personally, he said in his statement to the committee, “does not alter the reality that what transpired to Ms. Scott in 2017 is absolutely unacceptable.”

“As a leader, as a father, son, and grandson, I want to underscore how painful it is that Ms. Scott has been exposed to such crass comments by Mr. Guice, and she should be commended for her fortitude and determination in providing her testimonies to the Committee,” Orgeron said. “She has my word, as does this Committee, that I will be attentive in ensuring that the LSU football program maintains a culture of integrity and compliance.”

Orgeron has been accused of mishandling complaints of sexual misconduct by a player on two occasions. Derrius Guice, a former standout running back, was engaged in both charges. File photo by AP photographer Rogelio V. Solis

Then, in June, Orgeron was included as a defendant in an updated Title IX complaint against LSU, accusing him of failing to disclose a rape accusation against Guice in a timely manner. According to the complaint, Ashlyn Robertson informed her new boyfriend, who had been recruited to play football at LSU, that Guice had raped her in the autumn of 2016.

According to the complaint, Robertson’s boyfriend informed Orgeron about the alleged rape, and Orgeron allegedly told Robertson’s boyfriend not to be concerned since “everyone’s girlfriend sleeps with other people.”

According to a legal firm’s examination of the university’s handling of sexual assault accusations, Orgeron filed a statement at the time denying he stated that and “credibly denied” being notified about the event. Orgeron never reported the rape to the Title IX office or any other agency at LSU, according to the updated claim.

Since Orgeron was appointed to interim coach in 2016, at least nine LSU football players have been cited to police for allegations of sexual assault and dating violence, according to a USA Today investigation published last November. According to the article, two of them were reprimanded by the university, while former wide receiver Drake Davis was not thrown out until four months after he was convicted of violently injuring his former fiancée, an LSU tennis player.

“It’s broken,” a person close to the program told ESPN on Sunday when asked to define the organization’s current atmosphere.

As the radio broadcast began, TY DAVIS-PRICE, the father of LSU running back Tyrion, sat in a corner of the bar nursing a drink. On the one hand, he was pleased with his son’s 147-yard running performance against Kentucky the previous Saturday. However, the Tigers were defeated 42-21, and with a 3-3 record, it was difficult to be optimistic about anything.

Davis-Price claimed he was attempting to keep his son’s emotions up and keep him engaged throughout the commercial break. But it was becoming more tough.

Orgeron said on Monday that top receiver Kayshon Boutte, the team’s lone bright light who matched for the most touchdowns in the FBS, will miss the remainder of the season due to a leg injury. Then, on Wednesday morning, Orgeron announced that All-American cornerback Eli Ricks will undergo shoulder surgery that would terminate his season.

Injuries sidelined defensive back Derek Stingley Jr., defensive lineman Joseph Evans, linebacker Jared Small, and defensive ends Andre Anthony and Ali Gaye.

Davis-Price said, “It’s simply one thing after another after another.”

LSU had one of the most talented teams in the SEC, despite the epidemic of injuries, according to a former SEC coach. The issue, according to one LSU insider, was all the finger-pointing that was going on behind the scenes.

Orgeron attempted to tread the fine line between explaining the team’s troubles and seeming to make excuses, but he wasn’t always successful. On Wednesday, he interrogated offensive coordinator Jake Peetz on two occasions during his radio broadcast.

But it was Orgeron who sought younger, more adaptable assistants, replacing Pelini with Daronte Jones, 42, and Linehan with Peetz, 38. It was clear that neither had any prior experience as coordinators in college. Peetz, in particular, had trouble keeping up with the simple responsibility of calling plays on time.

Orgeron’s detractors have been relentless at times, even spilling over into the radio broadcast, where screeners do their utmost to weed out hostile calls.

Charlie from Lafayette phoned in with a vicious backhanded compliment early this season, telling Orgeron, “You’ve been above.500 for the first time since you left the Superdome in January of 2020. So, thank you for that.”

Two weeks later, a caller named J-Boy informed Orgeron that he had a younger sister in the audience and requested that he not make a move at her. “Let’s face it, dude. Really?” The caller was answered by Orgeron.

Chris Blair, the host, sought to shift the subject, but Orgeron wasn’t done yet.

“We’ve got a beautiful little fishing place down on the bayou for individuals like that,” he remarked.

Tensions have been high for some time.

A lady named Fritzy phoned in with some advise during the most recent program. She had three points to make, which she laid out one by one before sending an unequivocal message to Orgeron.

“Let’s win that W and get everyone to shut up!” she said.

Orgeron chuckled.

LSU won a nail-biter against Florida three days later, 49-42. Following that, Orgeron boasted about his team’s victory. It was, he said, a reflection of their motto: “One day at a time, that’s what I’m going to do. At a time, one game at a time.”

With speculations circulating, he refrained from declaring the game a personal win. He made no mention of putting an end to the cacophony of demands for his dismissal.

Of course, it was already too late at that time.

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