Louisiana State said “wins and losses on the field” led to Coach Ed Orgeron’s dismissal, but he seemed determined to tempt fate in other ways.
It was less than two years ago, in the wee hours of the morning in New Orleans after the Louisiana State football team had capped a perfect season and the party had moved onto Bourbon Street, that Ed Orgeron walked alone with his wife, Kelly, across a Superdome field littered with confetti.
It made for a poignant scene: Orgeron, raised on the bayou, fired as coach by Mississippi and passed over by Southern California, returning to his roots for a most redemptive turn after his team vanquished Clemson to win a national championship that few saw coming.
It also turned out to be a mirage.
In a matter of weeks, Orgeron filed for divorce, which was the first jolt in a steady 20-month drumbeat of trouble — a raft of sexual assault charges against players, a rift with the team over the racial justice movement, disastrous coaching hires, unfortunate injuries and a stack of bad losses — that culminated Sunday with his firing, effective at the end of the season.
For his trouble, Orgeron will get $16.9 million to go away.
“I’m going to have enough money to buy me a hamburger,” Orgeron, 60, said Sunday night at an awkward news conference as he sat alongside Scott Woodward, the athletic director who fired him.
If there were forced smiles and eye-rolling proclamations that began with Woodward calling Orgeron a friend, there was also a kernel of truth: wins and losses did Orgeron in.
It is probably true that at most schools, you can’t show up drunk on the job — as Steve Sarkisian did at U.S.C. before he was fired. Or make calls to an escort service on your school-issued phone — as Hugh Freeze did at Mississippi. Or lead a program with 19 players accused of sexual assault — as Art Briles did at Baylor.
But at L.S.U., about the only unpardonable peccadillo is failing to win. And make sure you don’t lose to Auburn. Or Kentucky. Or U.C.L.A.
Still, Orgeron — who last year was seen in a photo shirtless in bed with a consenting woman — had much more working against him than defeats on the field. Sports Illustrated and The Athletic have published reports portraying the program in turmoil and stewing with resentment over his praise of Donald J. Trump on Fox News when he was president.
All this played out amid a series of reports by USA Today that have prompted a wide-ranging federal investigation into L.S.U.’s mishandling of sexual assault investigations. In the fallout of those reports, the university suspended two administrators, its former football coach Les Miles was forced out at Kansas and its former president F. King Alexander resigned from Oregon State. Two women have accused Orgeron of failing to report sexual assault accusations, which he has denied.
When Orgeron was asked Sunday night about the resentment Black players had expressed over his lack of support for last summer’s antiracism protests, Woodward cut him off.
“I can clear it up,” Woodward said. “It had nothing to do with this decision. It was wins and losses on the field and where the program was going.”
Orgeron did not offer much introspection. There were no mea culpas, as there were after he was fired at Mississippi, when he admitted that he couldn’t run a team like a defensive line coach — all fire and four-letter words. Nor was there any ruminating about a culture that seemed to have turned toxic.
“I’m not the one to evaluate myself,” he said, seeming to grit his teeth through a grin. “I’ll let you all do that. You all do it enough. I could care less about it.”
Asked what advice he would give the next coach, Orgeron said: “Not my job.”
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