The 2021 college football coaching cycle has its second huge shot in the arm now that Ed Orgeron is out at LSU. It is not a secret in the industry that LSU is expected to take a big swing in any attempt to replace Orgeron 21 months after one of the more impressive title runs in the history of the sport.
"Everyone is fair game," an industry source tells Sports Illustrated. “No coach is too big for his courtship except for Nick Saban or Kirby Smart."
If you thought the last coaching search had unexpected twists and turns regarding Tom Herman and Jimbo Fisher before the school arrived at Orgeron, you may want to buckle up—although the decision-makers are different this time. Any search can swing due to the sensibilities of those involved. For LSU, there are two names to know.
The first is athletic director Scott Woodward, who has a track record of courting big names. He hired Fisher and Chris Petersen at previous stops at Texas A&M and Washington, respectively. Hot names of sitting head coaches like Ole Miss’s Lane Kiffin, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell and Oregon’s Mario Cristobal could be in play. There are certainly other coaches to consider, including Billy Napier, who is an hour down the road in Lafayette. All would likely come with a buyout that could be varying degrees of palatable to the school depending on what the terms are of the negotiated settlement between the Tigers and Orgeron, whose buyout is about $17 million.
Woodward has also pursued controversial names while in Baton Rouge. He recently hired Kim Mulkey to lead LSU’s women’s basketball program, a coach who has drawn criticism for defending Baylor amid the football program’s sexual assault scandal, and courted Pat Casey for the baseball team’s recent opening despite the fact that Casey kept a player on his Oregon State team who pleaded guilty to molesting a family member. Attempts to hire anyone with such a history may be difficult at LSU due to the ongoing Title IX investigation in addition to the NCAA and FBI investigations into the men’s basketball program. Those things will be at play if LSU targets someone like Liberty’s Hugh Freeze or Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer.
Another name to note potentially leading the search is William Tate IV, the first Black president in LSU’s history, who was hired in 2021. If he becomes heavily involved, prominent Black coaches like Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan State’s Mel Tucker or perhaps Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy may come to the forefront (Franklin and Bieniemy’s respective issues in their own pasts could factor in there as well, and LSU could see competition from USC if it pursues Franklin or any other big name).
Orgeron is expected to finish out the season, but who the next LSU coach is could have serious domino effects throughout the sport.
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