LSU football coach Ed Orgeron is one loss to UCLA away from the hot seat | Toppmeyer
EDITOR'S NOTE: The original report cited Ed Orgeron's buyout as being five figures. His buyout from his LSU coaching contract is eight figures.
It’s not time to signal Mayday, but it would be wise to learn the whereabouts of the lifejackets in case the leaks cannot be plugged.
If the COVID-19 pandemic had not nixed media days last year, Orgeron would have discussed his program's national title and how LSU would handle the departures of wunderkind assistant Joe Brady and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.
A year later, the most noteworthy LSU storyline wasn’t its national title but rather a Title IX lawsuit in which Orgeron is named among the defendants.
The complaint alleges that Orgeron and others at LSU stymied “LSU’s entire Title IX Policy … by protecting certain athletes from viable Title IX claims and by stifling LSU’s Title IX policies as a whole.” Specifically, according to the lawsuit, Orgeron learned in 2016 about a rape allegation against then-star running back Derrius Guice, and the coach failed to properly report it to LSU’s Title IX office or any other LSU entity.
Asked Monday about the lawsuit and whether he’s evaluated how he’ll handle similar situations in the future, Orgeron declined to comment.
“That’s something I’m not going to comment on,” Orgeron said. “It’s an ongoing investigation, and I’m not going to comment on any of that.”
The lawsuit comes amid an offseason ripe with allegations that LSU, for years, failed to adequately address accusations of sexual assault and harassment.
Among the claims: a 74-year-old grandmother said Guice sexually harassed her in 2017 and that Orgeron turned a blind eye to it.
University administrators are often willing to take up for a coach who comes under fire for off-the-field failures – as long as that coach wins games. Losses and lawsuits are a bad combination, though.
Think a coach can’t be fired two years after winning a national championship? Ask Gene Chizik about that.
Think Orgeron’s eight-figure buyout offers ironclad protection? Ask Gus Malzahn or Will Muschamp about that.
Meanwhile, LSU athletics director Scott Woodward is reshaping the Tigers athletic department as he enters his third year on the job.
Earlier this year, Woodward hired Kim Mulkey, one of the nation’s top women’s basketball coaches, and he hired baseball coach Jay Johnson last month.
You know whom Woodward didn’t hire? Orgeron.
Working for a boss who didn’t hire you is often uneasy – more so after a 5-5 season and an offseason full of the type of headlines no AD wants to see.
Woodward hired Chris Petersen at Washington. He hired Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M. I think he’d embrace the opportunity to hire his own guy at LSU if the Tigers don’t accelerate following last year’s disappointment.
The SEC’s headline game in Week 1 is Clemson vs. Georgia in Charlotte.
The second-most interesting SEC season opener will occur at the Rose Bowl, where LSU will face UCLA.
Neither Orgeron nor UCLA coach Chip Kelly enter 2021 on firm footing. Both programs returned a swath of starters, though, and should be expected to improve on their 2020 showing.
Flawed as the Tigers were last season, they possess an abundance of talent, headlined by cornerbacks Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks and wide receiver Kayshon Boutte. They addressed a need by adding linebacker Mike Jones Jr., a Clemson transfer.
They have solid quarterback options in Max Johnson and Myles Brennan.
I expect LSU to beat the Bruins in Pasadena, perhaps even throttle them. In fact, the Tigers should be favored in each of their first six games, making it reasonable to think they’ll be undefeated entering their rivalry game against Florida.
It’s also reasonable to think LSU’s 2019 national championship grew out of a perfect confluence of Burrow and Brady in Baton Rouge and that Orgeron isn't the same coach without them.
Beating UCLA wouldn’t mean all is well for Orgeron’s tenure, but it would be a sign that 2020 was an aberration.
Lose that game, though, and Orgeron better bust out the lifeboat.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.