ENGSTER: Comparing apples and oranges for LSU football and basketball

By JIM ENGSTER | President, Tiger Rag Magazine

LSU has captured eleven SEC titles in both football and basketball, but the reality is that TigerTown is a football kingdom and a basketball afterthought. Three of the greatest athletes in Louisiana history played on the court at LSU in Pete Maravich, Bob Pettit and Shaquille O’Neal, and Dale Brown enjoyed a golden era from 1978 to 1993 in which his sport was king on campus, but the University must accept the truth. There is no alternative fact to change the belief that LSU basketball probably won its first and last national title in 1935 when Sparky Wade was running the show and Huey Long was calling the shots for the Ole War Skule.

In the first 17 years of the Twenty-first Century, it is obvious that football rules the roost at LSU when compared with its counterpart across the street at the PMAC. LSU started the new century with one of its best teams as John Brady directed the Bengals to a 28-6 record in 2000. Since then the program has been moribund with the exceptions of the 2006 Final Four unit and the 2009 SEC champions in Trent Johnson’s first season.

In the last 17 years, LSU is 139-153 in the SEC under John Brady, Butch Pierre, Trent Johnson and Johnny Jones.

Here are the 21st Century SEC records of the four LSU coaches in this century.

Coach                                                    Wins                      Losses                   Pct.

John Brady                                          68                           71                           48.9

Butch Pierre                                       5                              5                              50.0

Trent Johnson                                   25                           39                           39.1

Johnny Jones                                     41                           38                           51.9

Total                                                      139                         153                         47.6

By contrast, here are the SEC records of the four LSU football coaches in the 21st Century.

Coach                                                    Wins                      Losses                   Pct.

Nick Saban                                          28                           12                           70.0

Les Miles                                             62                           28                           68.9

Ed Orgeron                                         4                              2                              66.7

Total                                                      94                           42                           69.1       

The point is that LSU is legitimately a national championship contender every year in college football. The Tigers have the best conference mark in the toughest league in America in the 21st Century. LSU is 52 games above .500 in SEC competition in football and 14 games below .500 in basketball during the past 17 seasons.

Basketball is lagging and football is flourishing in a conference that is much more potent on the gridiron. Expectations for hoops are regularly based on what happened in the 16-season stretch between 1978 and 1993. During that span, Dale Brown piloted his teams to an SEC record of 186-98, winning more than 65-percent of LSU’s conference games. Only Kentucky with a 204-80 SEC record from 1978-93 under Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton and Rick Pitino was better than LSU in the SEC during Brown’s 16 best years.

Johnny Jones is likely a goner in a few weeks as LSU basketball coach, and this season has been a disaster. But Johnny has outperformed Trent Johnson and John Brady in winning percentage in the conference and received almost no plaudits for doing so.

It may be time for a change, but it would be a double standard for LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva to fire Jones and to not also dismiss women’s coach Nikki Fargas. Unlike Jones, Fargas has seen her program get worse, not better.

Here are the records of the last three LSU women’s basketball coaches.

Coach                                    Wins                                      Losses                   Pct.

Pokey Chatman                                94                                           15                           86.2

Van Chancellor                  90                                           40                           69.2

Nikki Fargas                        108                                         77                           58.4


The SEC records of the past three LSU women’s basketball coaches also show a significant decline in success.

Coach                                    Wins                                      Losses                   Pct.

Pokey Chatman                                37                                           5                              88.1

Van Chancellor                  41                                           19                           68.3

Nikki Fargas                        44                                           44                           50.0
Alleva will almost certainly fire Jones, and almost nobody will complain. Fargas will likely get a reprieve, and there will be a collective yawn. That may be the biggest challenge confronting the athletic director. Not only are the men’s and women’s teams not winning enough, they are playing in near total privacy. It will take innovation in both programs to restore the success and enthusiasm displayed during the Brown and Chatman Eras. An additional dilemma for the women is that the program is hemorrhaging red ink.

LSU primed to challenge Alabama for football supremacy

As Ed Orgeron completes his first recruiting campaign, LSU is expected to continue its streak of magnificent signing classes. The Tigers will be a Top-10 finisher in rankings of signees and may even crack the top five.

LSU is poised to compete toe to toe with Alabama in a few years, and Orgeron appears to be on the right track. Nick Saban turns 66 this year, and Alabama is a 3-1 favorite to win the NCAA title. LSU is listed at 12-1 by Las Vegas oddsmakers to take it all in 2017.

Look for the Tigers to give the Tide a tougher test this November in Tuscaloosa. Orgeron’s crew played superbly against Bama last year before bowing 10-0 in a game that was scoreless through three quarters.

Alabama is the bright red target in the sights of members with 26 league championships. Tennessee, Georgia and LSU have collectively won 36 SEC titles. The Big Four in Tuscaloosa, Knoxville, Athens and Baton Rouge has 62 SEC crowns compared to 33 for everyone else. Eight of those championships went to Georgia Tech and Tulane. The Yellow Jackets and Green Wave left the loop more than a half-century ago.

Here is the list of SEC football championships, and it is notable that five current members (Arkansas, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt) have never won a conference title.

School                   SEC football titles                             Last championship

Alabama              26                                                           2016

Tennessee          13                                                           1998

Georgia                12                                                           2005

LSU                        11                                                           2011

Florida                  8                                                              2008

Auburn                 8                                                              2013

Ole Miss               6                                                              1963

Georgia Tech     5                                                              1952

Tulane                  3                                                              1949

Kentucky             2                                                            1976

Miss. State          1                                                              1941

author avatar
James Moran
James Moran was Editor of Tiger Rag from August 2018 to October 2019. He previously served as the associate editor since 2014. He is a graduate of the LSU Manship School of Journalism.
About James Moran 1377 Articles
James Moran was Editor of Tiger Rag from August 2018 to October 2019. He previously served as the associate editor since 2014. He is a graduate of the LSU Manship School of Journalism.

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