JIM ENGSTER: Bonus Time for Bertman and Dean

LSU athletic director Scott Woodward FILE PHOTO: Jonathan Mailhes

Congrats to LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward for reaping his harvest with another national title. Women’s gymnastics in 2024 joins LSU baseball and women’s basketball in 2023 to secure highest honors with coaches hired by Woodward in Jay Clark, Jay Johnson and Kim Mulkey.

Woodward received a one-million-dollar bonus from the LSU Board for the 2023 championships, double the amount stated in the AD’s contract for winning one or multiple national titles. The Board of Supervisors opted to reward the Great Scott double the amount for two titles in the same year at TigerTown. And this columnist whole-heartedly agrees with that decision.

Woodward will pocket another bonus of at least $500,000 for this year’s gymnastics crown. In six years at his post, Woodward counts five national titles to his credit. He ranks third in modern time among LSU athletic directors and national championships.

In 13 years of the Joe Dean regime, LSU captured 27 of its 52 national titles. His successor, Skip Bertman, won ten championships in eight years as AD. Since LSU has lavished departed coaches with enormous rewards not to work, including a $17-million parting gift to Ed Orgeron, the university should do the right thing and reward the estate of Joe Dean and the very much alive Skip Bertman for their magnificent accomplishments while directing the LSU ship.

Employing the LSU Board’s current bonus structure for athletic directors of a half million dollars per national title, the estate of Dean is entitled to $13.5 million for the 27 titles racked up during his era. Bertman is also due $5 million for his enormous success as athletic director. Most notably, LSU conquered the college football world in 2003 and in 2007 with Skip leading the department.

It is the right thing to do. Coach O left LSU under a cloud. Dean and Bertman did not. If the school hierarchy can pay off Orgeron with $17 million for not working, it can surely reward Dean and Bertman for their exemplary service. Dean has a family that will be most appreciative while Bertman and wife Sandy deserve to log their golden years in comfort.

The Next Great Scandal

Despite a state-of-the-art dining facility and a weight room of Olympian standards, LSU will field a team this season with several footballers above 300 pounds. The rest of the SEC also reveals no intention to cut the fat from rosters.

Forty-four seasons ago, it was the muscular Jerry Stovall who envisioned the current game in which linemen are rewarded for taking up space while running backs are obviously quicker out of their stances and harder to hit if they have short legs. Today we have a bevy of beefy linemen and scat back runners.

It is fabulous that rushers like Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith are in demand, and the Jim Brown bulldozer prototype has dulled, so college backfields are superb. But no athlete should be encouraged to pack on the pounds to provide human shields and run interference for their better conditioned cohorts.

If makes sense strategically, but obesity is a killer, and many of the linemen, who do not slim down after their playing days, will be prone to cardiac crises in their 30s and 40s. There are not many men like LSU’s Alan Faneca, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who shed more than 100-pounds after he retired.

Heart disease will soon exceed head trauma as the biggest risk to playing college football. And there is a solution.

The NCAA should make it mandatory for players to suit up for the entire game on offense and defense with a few breathers in the mix. This will reward true athletes and de-emphasize specialists, who are carrying spare tires under their uniforms. It is impossible to stay on the field for 90-percent of the action for a man who is carrying more than 300-pounds.

The change would provide an enhancement competitively and for the future health of the participants. Girth control is a necessity to advance the reputation of football as a sport for chiseled physical specimens. If there is no adjustment, the next decade will produce an array of 400-pound guards and tackles.

There is no valid reason for the NCAA to reign as a farm league for the NFL and allow teenagers to have body fat account for more than one-third of their total weight.

It would also be wise to require all coaches to be in top-flight physical condition. It is impossible for a coach with a pronounced gut to be a convincing leader of men.

Remember the glory days of 1958 when LSU featured America’s best athlete in Billy Cannon and its leading man was Coach Paul Dietzel, the square-jawed pilot from WWII who stood tall in his custom suits. Never was the LSU image so distinct.

For the sake of the LSU brand, the alumni should demand that LSU be a pacesetter in physical fitness and make Louisiana great again with buff players and coaches sporting waistlines comparable to their inseams.

Is Jayden Daniels No. 5?

It was noted in this space last year just five LSU runners have produced 1,000-yard seasons in college and the NFL. Those players are Stevan Ridley, Jeremy Hill, Dalton Hilliard, Leonard Fournette and Harvey Williams. The list does not include Charles Alexander, Billy Cannon, Kevin Faulk or Jimmy Taylor.

Just four Tiger passers have produced LSU seasons with more than 1,000 yards passing and also passed for 1,000 yards in an NFL season.  This list does not include Y.A. Tittle, who tossed for 3,224 yards in a 14-game season for the New York Giants in 1962. Also not on the list is David Woodley, who passed for more than 1,000 yards four times in the NFL, and peaked at 995 yards for LSU in 1978.

Jayden Daniels is likely to expand the quartet this season, but these are the four Tiger quarterbacks to exceed 1,000 yards at both levels (Best totals are listed).

  1. Joe Burrow: 4,611 yards with Cincinnati in 2021 and 5,671 yards at LSU in 2019.
  2. Bert Jones: 3,104 yards with Baltimore in 1976 and 1,446 yards with LSU in 1972.
  3. JaMarcus Russell: 2,423 yards with Oakland in 2009 and 3,129 yards with LSU in 2006.
  4. Matt Flynn: 1,392 yards with Green Bay and Oakland in 2013, and 2,407 yards with LSU in 2007.
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Jim Engster | President, Tiger Rag

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