The LSU athletic department is in the upper echelon of the nation’s collegiate athletic programs. Since the turn of the century, football and baseball have set several records and have racked up numerous Southeastern Conference and National Championships.
On the women’s side, softball and gymnastics have had very successful campaigns over the last decade, consistently making it deep into NCAA postseason tournaments, and from 2004-08, the women’s basketball team made five straight Final Four appearances.
LSU fans have a reputation for being extremely critical and possess high expectations for all their athletic teams. Certainly, this is understandable, as LSU is the flagship university in a state filled with a deep pool of highly recruited student-athletes.
Most diehard LSU fans believe they know more than the coaches and athletic director (just go read threads on TigerDroppings.com).
So from a fan and sportswriter’s perspective, let’s dive into the way coaches should be graded on performance.
It goes without saying that the entire nation knew about the Les Miles coaching disaster toward the end of the 2015 football season. Ultimately, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva announced Miles would be retained as head coach after the Texas A&M game.
This came after several weeks of Alleva not backing Miles and speculation that Miles would be fired and replaced by Florida State’s head coach, Jimbo Fisher. This entire saga was a public relations nightmare, an embarrassment that cast a negative spotlight on LSU and its athletic department.
Quite frankly, after what happened at the end of the football season, one can only imagine that there will be no coaching changes in any sport following the 2015-16 school year.
It appeared as if LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones was on the hot seat after failing to make the NCAA Tournament. However, Alleva announced last week Jones would remain as LSU’s head basketball coach.
Jones and his predecessors’ teams have consistently underachieved, while the football and baseball programs, both of which have produced more successful seasons this century, are seemingly always heavily criticized, held to a higher standard and live under a microscope.
Granted, LSU basketball is not a powerhouse program in the same vein as football and baseball in terms of putting LSU on the athletic map, but shouldn’t there be a consistent grading scale across the board for all coaches?
The sport they are coaching shouldn’t matter, but a criteria consisting of a coach’s record, current season versus previous season and postseason success/appearances would be a good start.
Miles just finished his 11th season at the helm of LSU’s football program, and over those 11 years the football program has averaged 10 wins per year. With 112 victories during that timeframe, LSU has won more games than any other program in the SEC since 2005. In 11 years with the Tigers, Miles is the second-winningest coach in school history in both overall wins (112) and in SEC regular season victories (63).
In that same timespan, the men’s basketball program has been through three coaches: John Brady from 1997-08, Trent Jones from 2009-12 and currently Jones who just finished his fourth season.
To be fair and to match the Miles era, we will only look at the success, or lack thereof, from 2005 to present. In that 11-year span the men’s basketball program made the Final Four in 2006, won the SEC Championship in 2006 and 2009 and have appeared in a total of three NCAA Tournaments in 2006, 2009 and 2015. Jones record over his four seasons has been 80-51 while the program’s record since 2005 has a record of 204-157.
Look across the street at to the LSU football program, and one can see the football Tigers play in the hardest conference in the nation, a conference that won eight of the last ten national championships.
In basketball the SEC usually ranks near the bottom of the Power Five conferences in terms of conference strength, with Kentucky serving as the only consistent a powerhouse program.
It’s understandable to have a down season, but it’s time to get realistic. Because of the conference the LSU football team plays in and the grueling opponents on the schedule, a ten-win season is not bad. In fact, it usually guarantees the team a spot in the final top-25 rankings and a well-respected bowl game.
Until college football adopted the playoff format in 2014, the BCS Championship Game participants were decided by wacky computer formulas. With the College Football Playoff at least four teams are given the chance to win it all in January.
In college basketball 68 teams have made the NCAA Tournament since 2011. This is a much bigger pool of teams that has a chance to compete for the national championship. Essentially not making the Big Dance in this era of college basketball means you are not one of the top 68 teams in the nation.
With the talent in the state of Louisiana and the extremely weak SEC, there is no reason for the basketball program to be failing to make the NCAA Tournament.
Even with basketball taking a back seat to football and baseball, the lack of improvement from year to year and no consistency of appearing in the NCAA Tournaments cannot continue.
The LSU football team not competing for a SEC West title and ultimately a CFP spot, and the LSU baseball team not making it to a Super Regional and ultimately to the College World Series in Omaha are viewed as failed seasons by the majority of the Tiger fan base.
The LSU basketball team missing the NCAA Tournament in basketball should be viewed as a failure that cannot continue. It’s time for LSU to start being competitive in all the three major sports, not just two played in Death Valley and Alex Box Stadium.