BATON ROUGE, La. — In the course of one summer week, college football’s black hat was placed on the head of LSU coach Ed Orgeron.
It started with Sports Illustrated’s report that LSU worked to block a scheduled satellite camp hosted by Division III Belhaven University, which was to feature a noteworthy appearance by Texas coach Tom Herman.
By itself, this is not a very newsworthy matter. But being mid-June, the definition of newsworthy has a tendency to be more fluid than it is during the school year.
The SI.com story does raise one valid point: When camps such as Belhaven’s are cancelled, it hurts players who are not blue-chip prospects.
But it fails to mention the counterpoint: LSU is already doing plenty to help those student-athletes get discovered. It’s just that Orgeron’s concerted effort is to make sure they are seen by other schools in Louisiana.
Louisiana Strong!!!!! pic.twitter.com/FwL86hKfQX
— Coach Ed Orgeron (@Coach_EdOrgeron) June 3, 2017
They aren’t in the Power 5, but Tulane, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe are all FBS programs with as many scholarship opportunities as anyone. There also are a boatload of in-state FCS schools for players who might be a couple inches shorter or a step behind their peers. Since the blue-chippers have already been established, it’s the second tier that benefits from the exposure and the chance to compete with LSU-caliber recruits.
It’s also worth noting that Belhaven obviously was used as a pawn by Texas to work its way into Louisiana through the back door.
Some national media outlets, such as Deadspin, have incorrectly reported that Belhaven is a Baton Rouge school. It’s actually located in Jackson, Miss., and likely wouldn’t have given the Longhorns any reason to partner up had its camp been anywhere near its own campus.
Belhaven coach Hal Mumme has good reason to be upset with how things went down, even though his request to report LSU to the NCAA will amount to absolutely nothing. It puts a big financial dent in his small program’s budget. But that was a risk he had to have known he was taking when he showed up to the high-roller table with a crumpled $50 bill.
If Herman didn’t clearly explain the possibility that things would go sideways, he’s no less culpable than Orgeron for Belhaven’s tough luck.
The Willie Allen transfer mess
Satellite camp politics weren’t the only issue facing Orgeron last week.
A day after Mumme said he was going to the NCAA to report LSU, another volley was lobbed at the Tigers from Fort Worth, Texas.
A column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram indicated that LSU was blocking offensive lineman Willie Allen’s request to transfer to TCU. The storyline? The Tigers were sore that the Horned Frogs picked up a commitment from Shreveport quarterback Justin Rogers and were exacting revenge on a hapless backup lineman.
This played right into the wheelhouse of anyone wanting to take a swing at Orgeron. The subject of blocked transfers is one that almost universally ends badly for the coach who does the blocking.
Just last month, Pittsburgh basketball coach Kevin Stallings attempted to block graduate Cameron Johnson from going to North Carolina. The popular uproar was so fierce that it was only a matter of time before Pitt relented.
TCU is no doubt hoping for the same result with Allen. Anyone who knows only the basic details will take up his cause for the usual reasons — why should it be fair that coaches can move around at their own desire but student-athletes cannot?
ESPN baskeball analyst Jay Bilas, a noted NCAA critic, even chimed in on the matter.
Seriously LSU?! Seriously? You don't even play TCU! Let the unpaid amateur student go. This is flat-out WRONG. https://t.co/lALoJa9trI
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) June 16, 2017
Considering that Bilas has a platform of 1.8 million Twitter followers, that’s not the kind of attention LSU needs.
But it also isn’t the whole story.
Yes, LSU is blocking TCU as a transfer destination for Allen. But it is not to spite the Horned Frogs for picking up a verbal commitment that could change in the next nine months.
A source with the LSU football program told SEC Country that there is “zero question” TCU tampered with Allen by reaching out to him while he was still enrolled at LSU. Tampering is even a no-no in the NFL, where players can become free agents and sign as they please. Needless to say, it’s even more frowned upon in college. LSU is trying to teach TCU a lesson, not Allen.
Is it fair that a freshman lineman is the one paying the price? Absolutely not. If Allen realized LSU wasn’t the right fit for him, he shouldn’t be stopped from finding a place that suits him. But if LSU’s allegations are correct, the adults at TCU did Allen no favors to that end.
In a slow news week in college football, Orgeron got the lion’s share of national attention. And none of that attention reflected particularly well on him. But in both cases, those portrayals were distorted versions of reality.
For LSU fans, none of it should be cause for alarm. If other coaches weren’t worried about Ed Orgeron, they wouldn’t be talking about him.