LSU's Ed Orgeron moving from SEC penthouse to its outhouse at rapid speed | Toppmeyer
The trip from the SEC’s penthouse to its outhouse is a short one.
Gene Chizik could tell you all about it.
Auburn fired Chizik two seasons after he won a national championship. And no 74-year-old grandmother called Chizik a liar, and no state senator chastised him for declining to appear at a hearing at which he’d been asked to testify.
Chizik got fired for losing too many football games.
Orgeron did his share of that last season – LSU went 5-5 in its encore to winning a national championship – but his most pressing problem is that a grandmother says one of Orgeron’s former players, Derrius Guice, sexually harassed her, and Orgeron turned a blind eye to it.
This isn’t the only allegation involving Guice.
Two female students accused him of rape in separate incidents that are alleged to have occurred in 2016, while Orgeron was an LSU assistant. He had become LSU’s head coach by the time Guice was accused of sexually harassing Gloria Scott, 74, while she worked security at the Superdome for a high school football game.
Scott testified during a Louisiana Senate committee hearing in March that Guice sexually propositioned her at the Superdome. He was LSU’s star junior running back at the time. Guice made vulgar comments, she said, while rubbing his body and genitals.
Scott complained to LSU athletic department administrators, and she said she talked to Orgeron on the phone. She wanted LSU to suspend Guice from playing in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018.
Orgeron denies speaking with Scott. She says the LSU coach is lying.
In a statement to the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women & Children, Orgeron said he “did not speak directly to Ms. Scott” but that what happened to her “is unequivocally wrong” and “heartbreaking.”
Whether Orgeron spoke with Scott is a subplot. The overarching issue is what Guice is accused of saying to Scott and what LSU and Orgeron did about it: Nothing. Just like the school did nothing after Guice was twice accused of rape.
Orgeron issued his statement in lieu of appearing in person Thursday before the Senate Select Committee to answer questions related to its probe of sexual misconduct by LSU football players. Louisiana Sen. Regina Barrow, in a statement, called Orgeron’s decision to not appear “troubling.”
There’s enough blame to go around at LSU for its years-long failure to adequately address accusations of sexual assault and harassment, and Orgeron doesn’t top the list.
But Orgeron is the most public figure at the state’s most visible institution, and he isn’t sending a message that the buck stops here. Rather, he’s in pass-the-buck mode.
Orgeron said in his statement that an athletic department official briefed him about an incident involving Guice and “an older woman” in December 2017, but he “was not given the details.”
Not given the details, or didn’t care to know the details?
Orgeron still enjoys support from LSU’s fan base. In 2019, he led the Tigers to an undefeated season and their first national championship since 2007. Moreover, LSU fans can tout that their coach, a Louisiana native with a thick Cajun accent, is “one of us.”
But it’s a quick pivot from lovable local to blundering buffoon. All it takes is a few bad seasons and a handful of off-the-field missteps.
After Auburn won its national championship under Chizik, questions arose about whether he orchestrated the success or reaped the rewards of his Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton and innovative offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
Newton departed, and then Malzahn followed a year later, and Chizik went 3-9 in 2012, his second season after the national championship. He was toast.
Similar questions apply to Orgeron.
Can Orgeron position LSU for long-term success, or was 2019 more a byproduct of Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, the bright offensive mind of Joe Brady and the defensive coaching prowess of Dave Aranda, all of whom bid farewell after that championship season?
Orgeron hired Bo Pelini to replace Aranda as defensive coordinator and extolled the genius of the former Nebraska coach. LSU fired Pelini after one season, and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger retired in December.
Their replacements, Jake Peetz on offense and Daronte Jones on defense, are unproven.
If Orgeron hopes to stay out of the outhouse, he needs those young coordinators to prove he made smart hires. And he must get a better handle on off-the-field incidents rather than pleading ignorance. The danger of pleading ignorance is that you come off looking ignorant.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.