‘Coach O’ a serious candidate for LSU coach after meeting with AD

LSU coach Ed Orgeron looks up at the scoreboard after a Texas A&M touchdown during the first quarter of the Tigers’ 54-39 victory Thursday night in College Station.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron looks up at the scoreboard after a Texas A&M touchdown during the first quarter of the Tigers’ 54-39 victory Thursday night in College Station. AP

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva and interim coach Ed Orgeron met Friday morning to discuss Orgeron’s candidacy as the program’s full-time coach.

Multiple sources confirmed that, as expected and previously reported, the meeting took place, coming less than 12 hours after the team returned to Baton Rouge from a 54-39 victory at Texas A&M. Details of the meeting were not shared, but Orgeron remains a serious candidate to replace Les Miles in a full-time role.

LSU’s search is winding down, and leaders expect to make a decision by Sunday, a source told The Advocate. Houston coach Tom Herman and Orgeron have emerged as the leading candidates.

In the meeting with Alleva, Orgeron was expected to have laid out a long-term plan that likely includes hiring an offensive coordinator with a proven and successful track record. It’s no secret who’s at the top of his list: Lane Kiffin, the offensive coordinator at Alabama and a good friend and former co-worker of Orgeron.

It’s a sticking point with university leaders – hiring a guru to run the offensive side of the game. Leaders feel confident that LSU will keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda with the hiring of Orgeron, another key component in hiring the 55-year-old gravelly voiced Cajun coach.

I just wish we would have beaten Florida. Came up short there. That’s the only thing I’d like to take back.

Ed Orgeron, LSU interim head coach

Orgeron’s contract — unlike other candidates — would be more economical for LSU, allowing the school to pay more than $1.5 million to its coordinators. Aranda signed a three-year contract in January paying him $1.2 million a year, and the first-year assistant reciprocated LSU’s interest in him remaining with the program.

Reports surfaced Thursday night,during LSU’s rousing win that the Tigers were strongly courting Herman after a run at Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. The status of the situation with Herman is unclear, but a source confirmed LSU’s strong interest in the 41-year-old offense-minded coach.

Herman on Friday shot down the reports before his team played at Memphis, which went on to upset the 18th-ranked Cougars 48-44 when Riley Ferguson threw a game-winning 10-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left in a wild fourth quarter.

Orgeron was considered the favorite to land the full-time job if the 25th-ranked Tigers (7-4, 5-3 Southeastern) were to have beaten Florida and Texas A&M, a result that would have sent them to the Sugar Bowl. After Thursday’s game, Orgeron indicated his missed opportunity to lock up the job. The Gators stuffed running back Derrius Guice on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line on the final play of LSU’s six-point loss last week.

“I just wish we would have beaten Florida,” he said. “Came up short there. That’s the only thing I’d like to take back.”

Orgeron would not confirm his meeting with Alleva after the game Thursday, and he declined comment on what he might say to Alleva.

“Joe asked me to do my best on a daily basis,” Orgeron said. “That’s all been discussed. That’s all I’ve done. I’m sure things are coming up. I’ll take it one game at a time.

“I’ve been treated like the head coach here on a daily basis. I’ve not been treated like an interim coach. I couldn’t be more appreciative of him and the president. It was a great opportunity for me.”

Players have made their feelings known about Orgeron. They chanted, “Keep Coach O” in the locker room after the win, and they insisted during post-game interview that LSU leader need to hire him full time.

“We want Coach O,” center Ethan Pocic said Thursday night. “At the end of the day, we can’t go burn LSU down if that doesn’t happen, but we want Coach O. We were playing tonight for Coach O.”

The Tigers rolled up 622 yards and at one point led 41-17 against the Aggies (8-4, 4-4) at Kyle Field, an exclamation point on a disappointing season. LSU began in the preseason top 5 and finished with four regular-season losses for just the fifth time in the last 17 years.

LSU fired Miles on Sept. 26, just four games into the season, before promoting Orgeron as interim coach. He’s led the program to a 5-2 record, with narrow losses to Alabama, which beat the Tigers 10-0, and Florida, which won 16-10.