Jim Engster: Mulkey makes history, but could she become a barrier breaker?

LSU coach Kim Mulkey, File Photo, Tiger Rag.

Nick Saban was hired as LSU football coach 21 years ago for the then-astronomical sum of $6 million for five years. It was reported in some places that Saban was becoming the highest paid coach in America to take over a program that had absorbed eight losing seasons in 11 years.

A couple of decades later, the Saban contract is chump change on college campuses where hundreds of head coaches and some assistants earn more than Nick commanded in 1999. When Saban received his record LSU deal, median annual income in the U.S. was $31,111. Today the figure has risen modestly to $35,448.

Current Tigers’ football coach Ed Orgeron is paid about 600 percent more than Saban was in 2000 while average national wages have risen only 14 percent in 21 years.

The age of the imperial coach now filters down to non-revenue sports.

Kim Mulkey was hired to direct a women’s basketball program at LSU that is losing more than $4 million per year. Mulkey will be compensated at about $2 million more per year than her predecessor Nikki Fargas.

Based on the highest season ticket package for this season, LSU will need to sell out the PMAC to accommodate a fraction of the difference between the salaries of Fargas and Mulkey.

Kim Mulkey won national championships three times at Baylor, but her hire is not based on revenue. It is based on goodwill created by luring the top women’s coach in America to change the subject of LSU’s cloud of sexual misconduct and the Husch Blackwell report.

The Louisiana Tech legend from Tangipahoa Parish becomes the second coach hired at LSU to have led another university to a national crown. She joins men’s tennis co-head coach Andi Brandi who coached Florida to three outdoor and six indoor NCAA titles.

Mulkey was quick to downplay Final Four banners hanging from the PMAC. She promises banners celebrating an NCAA national championship which have eluded LSU since Sparky Wade paced the men’s team to a mythical title in 1935.

Mulkey has the luxury of an eight-year agreement that will expire when she is 67 years old. She will win lots of games at LSU, and her hire could be the prelude for something really big.

With men’s coach Will Wade on the shakiest of ground with the NCAA, LSU could be searching for a men’s coach sometime soon. If this happens, look for Mulkey to be named coach of the men’s team.

Her contract exceeds the value of Wade’s deal even though Will’s bunch actually makes money each year. If Wade is implicated in wrongdoing, he can be fired for cause with no buyout. The best replacement for LSU would be Mulkey.

The university would gain favorable attention for naming a woman as coach of a men’s sport, and there is no way to legitimately argue that Mulkey is unqualified. Van Chancellor, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee like Mulkey, was a credible coach for the women’s team from 2007-11. Mulkey could become the first coach to capture NCAA basketball championships for women and men.

With LSU reeling over a Title IX investigation that produced shocking revelations of sexual misconduct of prominent athletes and former football coach Les Miles, the Ole War Skule has an opportunity to show it welcomes women in unprecedented places.

Mulkey is positioned to be a game changer at LSU in more ways than one. Athletics Director Scott Woodward is invested in her future financially and emotionally as his first big hire at Tigertown.

Woodward attended the NCAA men’s tournament in March as Wade guided his Bengals to the Big Dance. It is a likely possibility that Woodward will be present at every home game for Mulkey in 2021-22 and will follow her team wherever it appears in the postseason.

The hiring of Mulkey not only rejuvenates the women’s program, it could be the salvation of the men’s program when the NCAA hammer inevitably falls on Will Wade. Woodward is lauded for landing a remarkable insurance policy for LSU basketball.

No way to forget Derrius Guice played at LSU

Disgraced LSU running back Derrius Guice has emerged as a vicious villain exposed in the Husch Blackwell report.

The Baton Rouge Catholic product is accused of crude behavior and sexual assault as he faces charges in Virginia related to domestic violence levied against him while he was playing for the Washington in the NFL.

Guice, who at 23 is six months younger than Joe Burrow, is radioactive at LSU where he is banned from campus, and his statistics have been lifted from the record books.

It’s too late, but Guice should have been penalized when he was a member of the LSU team. Removing his numbers from the media guide does not change history.

If LSU was really serious about altering the official record, it would forfeit 26 victories in which Guice was a participant.

Guice was the first SEC player to have three career games of 250 or more rushing yards. His contributions on the field were exceptional with 3,074 rushing yards, a 6.5 yards per carry average and 32 touchdowns.

Superdome Security Guard Gloria Scott says she asked Ed Orgeron to suspend Guice for the Citrus Bowl, his final game at LSU. Orgeron played him in hopes of beating Notre Dame. That was the moment to take action against a player with a record off the field that was as repulsive as the glowing numbers he produced in uniform were impressive.

It is convenient to take aim at a fellow when he is gone. And the media are often complicit. Guice, Miles, Joe Alleva and Nikki Fargas are garbage in the eyes of some of the same scribes and sportscasters who praised them incessantly when they were affiliated with LSU.

Some of those covering the Tigers are as weak as the keyboard cowards who hide out under assumed names at internet sites. Here is a challenge for anonymous social media warriors to reveal their identities and for LSU beat writers to take aim at those in power with as much vigor as they castigate those who have skipped town.

Guice was a bad guy, but his records are not removable. Neither were the numbers produced by Heisman Trophy winners Billy Cannon and O.J. Simpson when they ran afoul of the law and served prison sentences.

Nobody suggested that LSU excise the records of Cannon and for USC to erase Simpson’s statistics. Cannon was jailed for printing money, but no soul had the audacity to say his Halloween run against Ole Miss in 1959 was counterfeit. A Heisman Trophy was removed from Reggie Bush at USC, but his numbers survived.

LSU cannot obliterate the playing career of Guice any more effectively than former LSU play-by-play announcer Jim Hawthorne was able to change his missed call of the 2002 Bluegrass Miracle or for this columnist to alter any errors that have appeared in this space over 36 years.


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