Pistol Pete warrants missing LSU distinction
Twenty-five years after his death, records established by Pete Maravich at LSU have lived longer than he did. Maravich died at 40 years old on Jan. 5, 1988, the victim of a congenital heart defect. Forty-three years after his last season on campus, Maravich retains first place status on the NCAA list for total points (3,667), career average (44.2) and season average (44.5).
Pistol Pete rewrote the record book despite not being eligible for varsity play as a freshman, not having a three-point play to benefit his long range shooting and not having a shot clock to speed up the tempo against opponents who slowed down the game.
Tennessee Coach Ray Mears made it his mission to curtail the scoring exploits of Maravich, and he succeeded. With the Volunteers playing a slow tempo offense and often having three players guarding Pete, Maravich scored 138 points in six games vs. Tennessee for a 23.0 per game average. In 77 other college outings, the Pistol racked up 3,529 points in 77 games for a 45.8 per game average.
The knocks against Maravich are his low career percentage from the field (43.8) and the fact that most of the teams he played against in his college days lacked African-American participants. These are valid observations, but most insiders conclude that Maravich would be every bit as much a game-breaker in today’s game as he was in 1970.
It is a sad commentary on backroom backbiting at LSU that the university opted to name the arena where the Tigers play in Pete’s honor, yet Maravich is not a member of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame. Pete’s prowess on the court was not matched in the classroom where he was an abysmal student and left LSU well short of obtaining a degree. Some administrators have balked at No. 23 getting a ticket to the school’s Hall of Fame even though the members are featured in a display at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Maravich’s legacy on college basketball and his impact on the sport at LSU should warrant posthumous recognition as a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. When Pete led LSU to a second place finish in the SEC In 1970 and a trip to the National Invitational Tournament, there were only 32 teams competing in the NCAA and NIT events combined, and LSU made only one post-season appearance on the court between 1954 and 1979.
The prestige that Maravich brought to LSU is remarkable. UCLA has captured eleven national championships at its arena, Edwin W. Pauley Pavilion, including one in 1970 with a team that beat LSU by 49 points in Los Angeles. Maravich was limited to 38 points against the Bruins, but his presence in the most historic structure in college basketball history is still felt. UCLA commemorates its contest against the Pistol with a display at Pauley Pavilion, the same reverence it bestows on the ten national title teams produced in 12 years by Coach John Wooden.
In the years since Maravich departed LSU, the Tigers have won six SEC championships in football and seven conference crowns in basketball. The Dale Brown Era was made possible by the Maravich magic at the Cow Palace and the construction of the Assembly Center.
Currently, the only members of the LSU athletic shrine who played basketball for the Tigers are Joe Dean, Sparky Wade, Bob Pettit, Rudy Macklin and Shaquille O’Neal. The football inductees outnumber basketball honorees in the hall by a 57-5 count despite the same number of SEC titles (11) won by each program.
The snubbing of Maravich shows again that there no politics that rival politics in academia.
Johnny Football to fill Tiger Stadium with passes and fans
When reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel makes his debut at Tiger Stadium on Nov. 23, it may be the hottest ticket at Death Valley in years. LSU was the only team in 2012 to corral the brilliant freshman who threw three of his nine interceptions against the Tigers and was limited to 27 yards rushing on 17 carries in a 24-19 loss.
Manziel was a less than spectacular 29 completions in 56 attempts for 276 yards and no touchdowns against LSU, the last defeat for the Aggies in their 11-2 season. A&M capped a superb campaign with a 41-13 rout of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Manziel passed for 287 yards and ran for 229 yards against the Sooners’ porous defense. Forty years ago, the totals produced by the Aggies’ quarterback against Oklahoma would have eclipsed records for both passing and rushing yards in a single game at LSU.
For the season, Johnny Football passed for 3,706 yards and 26 scores and rushed for another 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns. It must be less than comforting for Les Miles to ponder the prospect of a Manziel improvement in his sophomore season.
Bowl woes for LSU
The last two post-season efforts by LSU have left Tiger fans fondly recalling the years of 1995 and 1996 when the Bengals of Gerry DiNardo beat Nick Saban and Clemson in successive bowl games. LSU prevailed over Michigan State 45-26 in the 1995 Independence Bowl and trimmed Clemson 10-7 in the 1996 Peach Bowl.
In the past two years, LSU has lost to Saban’s BCS champions from Alabama and to Clemson in the post-season and has been outgained in yardage by a combined margin of 829-311 by the Tide and the Tigers.
LSU has not performed in such lackluster fashion in post-season since Bill Arnsparger left town 26 years ago. In three bowl appearances, Arnsparger was 0-3 as LSU was outpointed in two Sugar Bowl dates with Nebraska and one Liberty Bowl engagement with Baylor by a margin of 79-32. Despite the disappointments of the last two years, Miles is 5-3 in post-season clashes at LSU.