By JIM ENGSTER
President, Tiger Rag Magazine
LSU President King Alexander, dressed appropriately in black, was hopping on an airplane Sunday in Baton Rouge on his way to Atlanta to huddle with SEC brass about the postponed game with Florida. The campus leader has dealt with budget cuts, epic flooding in his community, faculty defections and the reduction of TOPS. But the state of LSU football trumps all other challenges at the Ole War Skule.
Alexander is valiantly striving to save a game in which the outcome could determine conference and national honors. Despite two losses, LSU could conceivably capture a national championship if the Tigers win ten games in a row. The problem created by the unfulfilled potential threat of Hurricane Matthew and mostly by a stubborn University of Florida administration is that LSU just lost a game it must win to get back in the title picture. A cancellation is akin to a loss in the conference standings.
Alexander’s preference is for LSU and Florida to play on Dec. 3 in the Georgia Dome and delay the SEC Championship Game by one week in the same arena in Atlanta. That would be the best scenario for LSU and Florida, but Alabama’s Nick Saban would probably have a meltdown cataclysmic enough to shake the ground in Tuscaloosa if that move was accepted. It will take ample power of persuasion and will for league Commissioner Greg Sankey to find a palatable answer to this dilemma.
There is no easy solution as there was in 1964 when LSU postponed an October date at home against Florida because of the approach of Hurricane Hilda. The Gators led by 19-year-old sophomore sensation Steve Spurrier beat a Sugar Bowl winning LSU team 20-6 at Tiger Stadium in a rescheduled contest on Dec. 5, 1964.
President Alexander is adamant about the negative consequences of LSU losing a home game and adding Florida to the murderer’s row of opponents in November. If the Tigers gave up a home game vs. South Alabama and traveled to Florida on Nov. 19, LSU would host Alabama on Nov. 5, then play three consecutive road games at Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M in a span of 12 days.
Alexander does not want LSU to be a loser financially and competitively because of an errant decision from a rival.
Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, who succeeded a fellow named Bill Arnsparger in 1992 as AD at Gainesville, misfired by pushing for the postponement of the clash against LSU. The Tigers were ready to play on Saturday, Sunday or Monday in Gainesville, but Foley fumbled by making a knee-jerk decision to scrap the game.
The weather was adequate Saturday as Foley was locked down in his bunker. North Carolina State faced Notre Dame in torrential conditions in Raleigh while the Florida athletic director lurked alone in the darkness of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The 63-year-old Foley is an avid runner who has participated in the Boston Marathon, but the record will show that on Oct. 8, 2016, Foley directed his troops to stay home on a great day for football. He was able to nudge Arnsparger from the AD’s perch at Gainesville nearly a quarter century ago, but Foley retreated from Hurricane Matthew when it was unnecessary to postpone a game that potentially affects every member of the conference.
College football becoming large landscape
LSU has 21 players on its football roster at least 300 pounds and another at 299 pounds. The Tigers are the beefiest team in Tiger history and rank as one of the largest units in the annals of LSU.
Here is a list of SEC Schools and the number of 300-pounders on their football rosters.
[table]School , No. of 300 pounders
There were just 23 players above 200 pounds on the 1958 LSU national championship team with the heaviest player weighing in at 218 pounds. Today LSU has one athlete, Travonte Valentine, listed at 356 pounds.
The hazards of teenagers carrying so much girth are as significant as the dangers of players from yesteryear having dementia in middle age due to consistent blows to the head.
If something is not done quickly to address obesity in football, there will be a legion of athletes battling heart disease and strokes in middle age.
It is time to require starters to play on both sides of the ball. This will quickly elicit girth control in college football. Fat guys will be unable to play a full game without collapsing.
Athletic Director Joe Alleva, who is fit at 63, should lead the charge for a leaner, healthier brand of football. When the celebrated writer John Ed Bradley reflected on his LSU teammates from 1976-79, Bradley proudly noted, “We didn’t have any fat guys.”
A team in better shape would encourage lard butt coaches to streamline their physiques and perhaps even cause media types to get in better shape. It is inappropriate for those of us who make our livings reporting about well-conditioned athletes to not make an honest effort to be in shape ourselves.
It would be a good idea for all scribes and broadcasters covering LSU sports to be required to bench press their weight. Certainly all coaches should be able to lift their own body weight from a flat bench.
Ed Orgeron looks to be in better condition than his predecessor. This is an important step to showcasing a svelte staff at LSU.