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

Ed Orgeron, LSU coach, reflects on his time with Tigers and discusses his future. (1:38).
BATON ROUGE (La. TJ Ribs' waitstaff wore TJ Ribs' shirts that had "It's O Time" printed across the front. But there was no getting away from the fact Wednesday night that Ed Orgeron was leaving LSU. The embattled head coach arrived at his weekly radio show just before 7 p.m. He was met by a grim reaper in the lobby's Halloween decorations and received a golf clap.

He spoke for the next hour about overcoming the losses and all the bad breaks.

He said that "our fans are tired of hearing it," but "we've had great practice."

An elderly woman stood near the bar and shook her head.

She whispered, "Wait until next year," to a friend. She paused, then she said softly: "But there's probably going be a new coach."

Orgeron did not reveal his feelings, but conversations about Orgeron's resignation were already in progress. Scott Woodward, director of athletics at LSU, met Orgeron after the embarrassing 21-point defeat to Kentucky on October 9. LSU fell to 3-3. Both native Louisianans felt it was time to make a change. It was done by Sunday.

LSU announced that Orgeron had been fired after the team went undefeated for 21 months.

Joe Brady and quarterback Joe Burrow were long gone from the high-flying offense. The head coach had lost his way, making poor coordinator hires, mishandling social justice issues and making public outbursts that made administrators wonder if he was the right person to run the program.

Here's how Orgeron's life turned out: From a 2019 championship record to an athletic department offering him $17 million to leave, to a 2018 high.

After the 2019 season, Joe Burrow and 13 others left the team to join the NFL draft. This created a leadership vacuum. Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Orgeron talked to ESPN about his new identity during LSU's CHAMPIONSHIP run in 2019. He had gone from an interim coach that few believed qualified to lead the team to being the head of one of the most successful teams in college football history and would soon be rewarded by a six-year extension to his contract.

The control freak, who struggled to delegate, and the screaming screamer who would often consume energy drinks and work his staff until the bones are gone. He said that he "broke people" as well as the team.

Orgeron admitted that he had to be fired from Ole Miss in 2007, and he didn't get the job at USC until 2013.

He explained that it was a learning process in which he had to become a coach.

Orgeron stated that he had finally found the winning staff three years after he started at LSU. Dave Aranda was a respected defensive coordinator, who was originally hired to replace Les Miles. Orgeron convinced him to keep his job. He had found the perfect match in New Orleans Saints assistant Joe Brady, who was now the passing game coordinator. This allowed him to finally implement the type of up-tempo, spread offense Orgeron wanted.

Orgeron stated that it took some effort. "I had no choice but to be lucky. Joe Burrow was our lucky charm. Joe Brady was our choice. It was a lot of things that happened."

It all came together quickly, and Orgeron was presented with a trophy of the championship. But it all started to unravel behind closed doors.

Two years later, the Zen-like CEO with Midas touches was gone.

Orgeron was devastated to lose his brilliant coordinator Brady to the NFL's Carolina Panthers. He inexplicably hired Scott Linehan, a veteran pro-style coordinator. He hired the notoriously charismatic Bo Pelini, without even conducting an interview, after he lost Aranda, his defense leader, to Baylor. After allowing 492 yards per match, the Tigers were fourth in the FBS. Pelini was fired after only one season and received a $4 million buyout.

The NFL draft created a leadership vacuum that was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the nationwide protests against police brutality. Sources claim that Orgeron was not equipped to fill the void and lead, unable to handle difficult conversations or in diplomacy required to bring together a team with diverse backgrounds and experience.

For example, Orgeron didn't know his players planned to march through LSU's campus in support of social justice protests. Soni Fonua, a linebacker, said that they had "said no practice today". Woodward and Orgeron later met with the players at Woodward's office. Orgeron claimed he was preparing for a practice his players had never attended. He said that he didn't know the players were doing it.

A source close to the program stated that it is easy to remain calm and even-keeled when you're 15-0. Orgeron was forced to be more than a coach for the X's or O's when the chips were low. "You had terrible leadership across the board."

Star receiver Ja'Marr Chase left, while others transferred. LSU lost the 2020 season opener against Mississippi State. The team needed to win back-to-back games at the end to finish at.500. Arik Gilbert (a tight end of freshman All-American caliber) and quarterback TJ Finley, both left the team due to personal issues.

Sources claim Orgeron did not stop the bleeding in 2020 which continued into this season.

This was clear in Orgeron's confrontation with a Bruins fan on Sept. 4 as Orgeron walked into the Rose Bowl. Orgeron was captured telling the man to bring his little blue shirt and "Bring your arse on!" Although it was a joke, the fact that the LSU's face made a rude comment to a fan alarm Woodward and William Tate IV (who had just arrived from South Carolina)

In a 38-27 win, the Bruins defeated the Tigers. They racked up 470 yards of offense including 210 rushes while keeping LSU to 48 yards on the ground.

Orgeron began throwing chairs, cursing at players, and throwing tantrums as the Tigers' on field struggles continued. Sources claim Orgeron lost respect from the team.

One source claimed that there are "men who will run through walls for their coach." They wouldn't go to the toilet for him."

Although the national championship was held, it is easy to look back and see what it was.

It was described succinctly by the source: "He caught lightning from a bottle."

LSU won the 2019 national championship by winning 15-0. Ed Orgeron's Tigers are now 8-8 in 16 games. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Even though LSU was celebrating the win against Clemson with 42-25 in the Big Easy, Jan. 13, 2020 to claim its national title, Orgeron's problems off the field were hard to ignore.

Video shows Odell Beckham Jr., a former LSU star receiver, giving cash to Tigers players after the game. This prompted an investigation by NCAA who already had an inquiry into improper benefits in the men's and football programs.

The administration announced a one year bowl ban in December after the Tigers had a record of 3-5 during the delayed 2020 season due to coronavirus. This was in addition to self-imposed sanctions, which included eight scholarships being withdrawn over two years, reduced recruitment visits, evaluations, and communication, and a two year ban from LSU football facilities for Beckham Jr. (now a star with Cleveland Browns). Beckham's actions were a Level II violation by the NCAA enforcement staff.

On June 2, LSU fired James Cregg, the offensive line coach at LSU. Cregg's unit won the Joe Moore Award for the best in the country during the championship season 2019. Cregg sued LSU in August alleging that it fired him due to the fact that he visited a prospect and gave him gear during a COVID-19 dead time. Cregg sued the school for breaching contract, claiming it terminated him prematurely before the NCAA had determined whether he had "committed a level I or level II violation or repeated Level III or IV violations."

Worse, Orgeron was twice accused in the last eight months of improperly handling sexual misconduct allegations by a player. Derrius Guice, a former star running back, was the subject of both allegations. A 74-year old woman testified before a Louisiana Senate Select Committee in March that Guice approached her when she was working as a security officer at the New Orleans Superdome in Dec 2017. Guice said to her that she liked having sex in public with older women like her and that she wanted her body.

Gloria Scott, a woman who told lawmakers Orgeron called her to apologize for Guice's behavior and said, "Please forgive [Guice] since he's troubled child."

Orgeron, who was unable to testify in person, submitted a written statement to committee. Scott denied ever having spoken to Orgeron directly about the matter. Scott claimed that Orgeron told her she wanted Guice to be banned from the Citrus Bowl starting January 1, 2018. He was allowed to continue playing.

Orgeron stated in a letter to the committee that he did not speak to Scott directly, but that it does not alter the fact that Ms. Scott's 2017 events were unambiguously wrong.

Orgeron wrote, "As a leader and as a father and son and grandson, it is heartbreaking that Ms. Scott was subjected so crude remarks by Mr. Guiice. She should be respected for the bravery and determination to present her statements to Committee." She, like this Committee, has my promise that I will be vigilant in ensuring the LSU football team maintains an environment of integrity and compliance.

Orgeron was twice accused of inappropriately handling sexual misconduct allegations by a player. Both accusations involved Derrius Guice, a former star running back. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

In June Orgeron was named as a defendant in a Title IX amended lawsuit against LSU. He was accused of not properly reporting an allegation that Guice had raped him. According to the complaint, Ashlyn told her boyfriend who was recruited to play for LSU that Guice had raped them in the fall 2016.

According to the lawsuit Robertson's boyfriend told Orgeron about the alleged rape. Orgeron allegedly responded by telling Robertson not to get upset that "everybody sleeps with another person".

According to Husch Blackwell's investigation into university handling of sexual misconduct cases, Orgeron made a statement at the time, denying that he had said it and "credibly denied” being told about it. According to the amended lawsuit, Orgeron did not report the rape either to Title IX or any other LSU office.

USA Today's November investigation found that nine LSU football players were reported to police by the FBI for allegations of dating violence and sexual misconduct since Orgeron was appointed interim coach in 2016. According to the report, two of the university's football players had been disciplined. Drake Davis, a former wide receiver, was not expelled from school until four months after being convicted of physical abuse of his ex-girlfriend, an LSU tennis player.

When ESPN asked for a description of the current culture, a source close told ESPN that it was "broken."

TY DAVIS PRICE, father of LSU's running back Tyrion, sat in a corner of the bar as the radio program started. He was proud that his son ran for 147 yards against Kentucky, a record-breaking feat. The Tigers lost 42-21, and it was difficult to feel good about anything with a record like 3-3.

Davis-Price stated that he tried to keep his son focused and upbeat during the commercial break. It was becoming more difficult.

Orgeron announced Monday that Kayshon Boutte would be out of action for the remainder of the season due to a leg injury. He was the star receiver and lone light on the team. Orgeron announced Wednesday morning that All-American cornerback Eli Ricks would need season-ending shoulder surgery.

As well as defensive back Derek Stingley Jr. and defensive tackle Joseph Evans respectively, Jared Small, linebacker Jared Small, and defensive ends Andre Anthony, Ali Gaye, were also out with injuries.

Davis-Price stated, "It's just a thing after another after another,"

Long-time coach of the conference, LSU, said that despite the injuries, LSU was still one of the best teams in the SEC. An LSU source claimed that the problem was the finger-pointing behind the scenes.

Orgeron attempted to navigate the delicate line of trying to make sense of the team's struggles while not being seen as making excuses. However, he was not always successful. On Wednesday's radio show, Orgeron ended up interviewing Jake Peetz, the offensive coordinator, on two occasions.

Orgeron, however, wanted younger, more flexible assistants and replaced Pelini with Daronte Jones (42 years old) and Linehan with Peetz (38 years). Both had never worked as college coordinators, and that showed. Peetz struggled to call plays on time, which was a problem in particular.

Sometimes Orgeron's criticism has been so bitter that it has bled into the radio program, where screeners try to filter out abusive callers.

Charlie from Lafayette called Orgeron earlier in the season with a wicked compliment. He said, "For first time since January 2020 when you walked out the Superdome, you are actually above.500." That's a great accomplishment.

Two weeks later, J-Boy called Orgeron and said that he had a little sister. He asked Orgeron not to make fun of her. "Come on man. Are you serious? Orgeron replied to the caller.

Chris Blair, the host, tried to change it but Orgeron was not finished.

He said, "You know, down the bayou we have a nice little fish hole for people like this."

For a while tensions have been high.

Fritzy, a woman identified by Fritzy, called in to offer some advice during the latest show. Fritzy had three points and presented them one by one before leaving Orgeron with a clear message.

"Let's get the W and make everybody shut up!" She said.

Orgeron grinned.

LSU defeated Florida 49-42 three days later. Orgeron proudly spoke afterwards about his team's victory. Orgeron said that it was a reflection their motto, "One day at the time." One game at the time.

However, with the rumors swirling around, he did not call it a personal win. He did not hesitate to respond to the chorus calling for his firing.

It was too late.


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