Baton Rouge, La. — LSU is sticking with Ed Orgeron, giving the interim football coach his dream job on a permanent basis.
The announcement by athletic director Joe Alleva on Saturday comes two days after the No. 25 Tigers defeated No. 22 Texas A&M 54-39. Following Thursday night’s game, chants of “Keep coach O” could be heard from LSU’s locker room.
Alleva said LSU knows Orgeron’s heart is with LSU and “his strengths are going to be tremendous” at the school.
Orgeron has gone 5-2 since taking over for Les Miles, who was fired in late September after LSU started 2-2. LSU’s two losses since Orgeron was promoted came against No. 1 Alabama and 13 Florida, the SEC East Division champion.
It was the second winning interim stint at a major program for Orgeron, a 55-year-old Louisianan who went 6-2 at USC after Lane Kiffin was fired in 2013.
Now Orgeron has his second full-time head coaching job at the Division I, FBS level. The first also was in the SEC — at Mississippi from 2005 to 2007. But he never had a winning season with the Rebels, going 10-25.
“My plan is to take my time and assemble the best staff in America,” Orgeron said, adding that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has committed to remaining at LSU.
On the other side of the ball, Orgeron said he expects to lure an elite offensive coordinator who will be adept at running a spread offense, which he sees as a requirement in the modern college game. He declined to mention candidates, even when specifically asked about Kiffin, an old friend who is currently the offensive coordinator at Alabama.
Since then, however, he has gone 11-4 in two interim posts combined and now that he has the LSU job on a permanent basis he will prepare the Tigers for a bowl game that has yet to be determined.
Orgeron’s popularity among fans was instant and evident from his first walk into Tiger Stadium after he’d received the interim job. He’s been a household name in his home state for decades, and his grass-roots support was hardly unexpected.
“We’re proud to be a part of Louisiana and we understand LSU, what it means,” Orgeron said. “This is a great day in my life, obviously, but it’s not about me.”
It is about his home state and its 123-year-old flagship college football program. Moments after he uttered those words, he began to thank his parents, and had to pause briefly to keep from sobbing.
Orgeron was recruited to play for LSU after winning a state championship at South Lafourche High School, where he was teammates with quarterback Bobby Hebert, who would go on to an NFL career, notably with the New Orleans Saints. After initially signing with the Tigers, however, Orgeron decided to play at Northwestern State with Hebert.
He has coached as an assistant, often serving as a defensive line coach and leading recruiter, with several major programs, including Miami, Syracuse and Tennessee. He also spent a season as a defensive line coach with the Saints.
Orgeron arrived at LSU as a defensive line coach under Miles in 2015. As the interim at LSU this season, he began with three lopsided victories, which elevated him into a legitimate candidate to keep the job.
Players began touting his credentials, and their calls built to a crescendo Thursday night. They posted videos on social media of a locker-room celebration following the big win over Texas A&M to cap the regular season. In interviews after the game, players renewed their calls to keep Orgeron.
Orgeron was similarly adored by players during his stint at USC, but the Trojans hired then-Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who has since been fired.
LSU viewed USC’s experience as something of a cautionary tale. The school also figures to save money because it won’t have to buy out another coach’s contract. The university already is paying a $9.6 million buyout of Miles because of the firing.