LSU football a hair behind Alabama
By JIM ENGSTER
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
As Les Miles ramps up for his ninth year at LSU, he presides over the second best program in the nation, the SEC and the SEC West. Only Alabama, with possession of three of the last four BCS crystal trophies, is ahead of LSU. The margin between the Tide and the Tigers is not insurmountable for Miles and co.
Should Miles win at Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9, he will be 4-4 vs. Saban. It is remarkable that two titans of the college game have remained at championship levels for the last six years simultaneously. Alabama has won 62 of its last 69 games with two of its seven defeats (28.6 percent) since 2007 coming to LSU. Two other Alabama victories over LSU during the span have been narrow escapes at Tiger Stadium (27-21 in overtime in 2008 and 21-17 on Nov. 3 of last year).
For those who discount LSU’s chances of winning this November at Bryant-Denny, it should be noted that Miles is 3-1 in the fabled stadium, including a 2-1 advantage over Saban. Miles is 85-21 at LSU, the best eight-year record in school history. Saban in his final two years at LSU and first six at Alabama is 90-17. Removing the games in which they have faced each other, Miles is 82-17 (82.8 percent) and Saban is 86-14 (86 percent) over the past eight years.
The best eight-season period for Alabama’s Bear Bryant came between 1972 and 1979. During those years, the Tide was 86-10 with three national championships and seven SEC titles. Unlike the present reign of Alabama, LSU was not competitive with the Bear from 1971 to 1981 as the Tigers dropped eleven straight games to the Red Elephants by a combined score of 261-89.
The inability to beat Alabama cost Charlie McClendon his job in 1979. He closed a 2-14 record vs. Bryant by losing 3-0 at Tiger Stadium to the last national title team for his fellow Arkansan and his college mentor at Kentucky. In a few days on Jan. 26, thirty years will have passed since the Bear’s death at the age of 69. LSU did have the satisfaction of beating him in his last assignment against the Tigers, but Bryant was 20-5-1 vs. LSU as coach at Alabama, Kentucky and Texas A&M.
As great as Saban is in the contemporary world of college football, he will never enjoy the superior position over LSU that Bryant commanded for decades. Since Bryant’s departure, LSU is 14-16-1 vs. ‘Bama, and that includes the eight out of eleven losing seasons from 1989-99 when the Tigers were 2-9 against the Tide.
The rivalry between Miles and Saban is thriving, and LSU is not inclined to bow in deference to the BCS champs. The fun is only beginning in the annual hate-fest between the Hat and his artfully coiffed colleague. A nine-foot bronze statue of Saban with enhanced hair is positioned outside the stadium gates at 920 Paul W. Bryant Drive along with those of four other Alabama coaches. LSU should copy its SEC brother and place statues of its championship coaches (Miles, Paul Dietzel and Saban) outside Tiger Stadium.
The Miles sculpture would appropriately showcase his cap while the Saban piece would not include the hairpiece that his Alabama statute features. Instead, it would accurately reflect the thinning thatch on the 61-year-old Tide leader, and it would stand five-foot-eight inches high.
Truth elusive for Notre Dame and Media
Alabama’s 42-14 rout of Notre Dame has been eclipsed with the revelation that Irish linebacker Manti Te’o’s claim that he is the victim of a hoax that lured him into an online relationship with a nonexistent woman. Deadspin has revealed the existence and death of the Heisman Trophy runner-up’s girlfriend is a fraud.
Many of the most prestigious media outlets gave momentum to the bogus account of love and death. The Te’o tragic back-story was reported frequently during the past season. On Sept. 11, 2012, Te’o informed the media that he suffered the loss of his grandmother and his girlfriend on the same day.
Last week, Deadspin published an article stating there was no record of the girlfriend ever attending Stanford University where the nonexistent Lennay Kekua was alleged to have been a student.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said that Te’o informed the school about the hoax on Dec. 26 after receiving a call on Dec. 6 from the woman he thought to be Kekua, claiming she was alive. The linebacker still brazenly reflected on Kekua’s death in several interviews leading up the BCS Championship Game. And Notre Dame did nothing to correct the record of Kekua and her death.
Te’o has revealed that the name of a man he says is the perpetrator of the fraud, but much remains to be sorted. The truth appears to be as elusive as Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon were to the Irish on Jan. 7.
There is a taint on the sanctimonious reputation of Notre Dame and on media entities such as Sports Illustrate, which repeatedly advanced the lies with zeal and without corroboration.
It is time for all journalists who cover sports to examine their own pasts. How many broadcasters and scribes have misled the public about their own credentials and not refrained from reporting on Te’o and the steroid revelations of Lance Armstrong?
Twelve years ago, Notre Dame hired Georgia Tech football coach George O’Leary to lead the Irish. He lasted at South Bend for only a few days because O’Leary had lied about earning a master’s degree. He acknowledged padding his resume on his way up the college coaching ladder. LSU lost an assistant basketball coach earlier this year for the same offense.
For any journalist who has lied about receiving a college degree, this is the time to come clean. The penalty will be harsh for any media member who has advanced a trail of deceptions in his own life and then comments on the veracity of Te’o and Armstrong.