By Lyles Martin
Rumors are flying that there are serious problems everywhere in the LSU athletic department, not just the football program.
Staffers in LSU Sports Information allege the problems have been created by athletic director Joe Alleva.
Since the departure of Herb Vincent, the associate vice chancellor for university relations, LSU Athletics has been in a state of flux. Vincent was hired by the Southeastern Conference in May, 2013, as associate commissioner for communications.
His replacement was not named until September of this year. Robert Munson, a Baton Rouge native and businessman with no experience in college sports information, assumed the duties of senior associate athletics director after serving in a consulting capacity for Alleva over the last several months.
Alleva’s job is squarely on the line. At a school like LSU, hiring football coaches is an athletic director’s greatest legacy. Former LSU AD Skip Bertman told former head football coach Les Miles that Miles’ hire would be how he would be remembered at LSU.
Ed Orgeron got the job he said he always wanted when he was named long-term head coach in November of last year. Orgeron was a divisive hire, without a doubt.
There are those fans and supporters who will gravitate to his down-home Louisiana bloodlines; who see him as one of the state’s native people. Then there are those who won’t forget he won just 10 games in three seasons at Ole Miss. It’s a huge part of his history, and questions were raised as to whether he’s a long-term coach or better suited to being a short-term fix.
After the embarrassing loss to Troy, the competency of Ed Orgeron as head coach comes more into focus. Orgeron looks every bit the coach who was fired after three seasons at Ole Miss a decade ago. His team looks unfocused, uninterested, unorganized, poorly coached and outplayed each week. After the huge loss to Mississippi State in Starkville, State coaches said it was the same old undisciplined team Orgeron coached in Oxford.
LSU fans are already clamoring for Orgeron’s firing. However, it’s important to keep this in mind: the last thing you’d want to do is to pay Orgeron a $12 million buyout — compounded with Miles’ buyout, which would bring the total to over $21 million. And who included that buyout in Orgeron’s and Miles’ contracts? None other than athletic director Joe Alleva.
LSU had all the leverage it needed when it hired Orgeron. No one else in the Power 5 conferences was ever going to offer a head coaching job to Orgeron. There’s no doubt Orgeron would have taken the job with no buyout whatsoever. Alleva made the mistake of offering the job to Orgeron with the same contract — and a lower salary — than it offered Tom Herman, who took the head coach position at Texas State instead.
Alleva said he was the search committee in selecting a replacement for Miles last season. He not only targeted Herman, but also considered Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher. But Alleva said he never lost sight of what Orgeron did during his seven-game audition as interim head coach.
Alleva said he learned things during his coaching search. LSU fans concerned by some of his past hires are worried he has made another failed decision, and has apparently learned nothing.
Alleva’s hiring of head coaches has always come under scrutiny. There were five seasons of head basketball coach Johnny Jones, who was 90-71 with only one NCAA Tournament appearance, and four seasons of head basketball coach Trent Johnson, from 2008-12, when he went 67-64.
When Alleva was hired in July, 2008, as LSU’s athletic director, his first order of business was to hire a head basketball coach to replace fired head coach John Brady. His choice was Stanford head coach Trent Johnson.
Johnson was not offered a contract extension at Stanford following a 27-win season. His team was largely successful because of two seven-foot twins, the Lopez brothers, who came to Stanford because their mother worked in the school’s admission office. Both would depart for the NBA.
Johnson had recruited very little around them. Stanford’s athletic director saw that Johnson had failed miserably in recruiting a team for the future and quickly realized a contract extension was not in the best interest of the school.
Along came Joe Alleva, who bailed Stanford out of a possible firing by hiring Johnson at triple the salary he was making at Stanford.
And Alleva’s poor decisions continue.
Sports Information at LSU is in turmoil.
As reported by The Hayride:
“This spring, Clyde Verdin, who was an assistant sports information director working with the LSU softball team, informed Alleva at a department meeting that he was leaving for a job at Terrebonne General Medical Center in Houma as soon as the softball season ended.
“Verdin’s announced departure came immediately following the announcement by another staffer that she was leaving for a job at Alabama, and that set Alleva off. He fired Verdin on the spot, which meant there was no one from LSU’s Sports Information Dept. to cover softball as it entered the postseason — so LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette had to drop everything and travel with the team to its regional in Tallahassee. Apparently, Bonnette and Alleva have been at odds ever since, and it’s a matter of time before Bonnette is out.”
Oh yeah, and that hiring of senior associate athletic director Robert Munson in September was the hire that Alleva made to clean up the LSU Sports Information Dept. and eventually get rid of Bonnette.
The problems reach into all areas of the LSU athletic programs.
In May, 2007, after the Duke Lacrosse team fiasco, for which then-Duke athletic director Joe Alleva orchestrated the upheaval, Washington Post feature writer John Feinstein penned this about Alleva and Duke:
“Here’s what’s wrong with all this: No one at Duke is ever wrong. Duke’s last president, Nan Keohane, made a terrible choice when she selected Alleva as athletics director in 1998. Everyone at Duke knew that Alleva was a pleasant man whose next original idea would be his first; someone whose main asset when applying for the job was the fact that his racquetball partner was Mike Krzyzewski.
“Five years later, Alleva had lived down to everything expected of him, taking a bad football program and making it worse; hiring a crony as baseball coach who had to be fired because the team was awful and former players came forward to say he had encouraged them to use steroids; and looking foolish almost every time he opened his mouth to the public.
“Alleva did what everyone else at Duke has done for years and rode the coattails of Krzyzewski’s successful basketball team. Keohane looked at this record and gave Alleva a new contract.”
Alleva’s job history, going back to his time at Duke, suggests he’s nothing more than a careerist “who refuses to put his job on the line for his convictions.”
The publisher of The Hayride, Scott McKay shared this information on how Joe Alleva was hired as AD at LSU:
“It turns out that Jack Weiss, who was the dean of the LSU Law School at the time, and who had been put in charge of the search committee for an athletic director to replace Skip Bertman, had been roommates at Yale with Richard Brodhead, then president at Duke. Brodhead sold Alleva to Weiss as a star AD who was ready to move because of a bad rap he was getting in the aftermath of the lacrosse case.
“Somehow, Brodhead’s sales job worked on Weiss, and a rigged hiring practice was put in place to make the hire. Weiss touted the necessity of ‘transparency,’ and said specifically that the applicants should sit for a panel interview streaming live on the internet. No other sitting athletic director, save the one at Florida Atlantic, agreed to that, and Alleva got the job.
“LSU hired the athletic director, who shut down a national-championship-quality program based on a lie, and did so in a brother-in-law-rigged process.”
Make no mistake about it: There’s a groundswell of LSU fans, both inside and outside the university, who say the time has come to fire an incompetent athletic director and bring in someone who bleeds purple and gold, which Alleva has never done.
As The Hayride suggested, “a lot can be done with a majority on the Board of Supervisors and with big-money people in the Tiger Athletic Foundation. If a movement of disgusted LSU fans makes enough noise, this goal is achievable.”