LSU has hired and fired two
football coaches, suffered through losing gridiron campaigns in 1993, ’94, ’98
and ’99, has seen the end of two legendary coaching eras on the hardwood, and
the LSU basketball program has shouldered almost debilitating NCAA
On the flip side of those negative
occurrences, Tiger football has enjoyed eight winning seasons, eight postseason
bowl games – including four straight New Year’s Day bowl games, two SEC titles,
a BCS National Championship and the most successful five year stretch in the
history of the program. The basketball team has won an SEC title, overcame
scholarship limitations and NCAA probation while the Lady Tigers are currently
enjoying a No. 1 ranking, the first in over 25 years.
The baseball and softball teams
rose to national prominence with baseball maintaining its elite status in
college baseball winning national titles in 1993, ’96, ’97 and 2000. Softball
continues its meteoric rise to the top of collegiate softball capping off last
season with the program’s most successful year making it to the national
semifinals of the Women’s College World Series.
Since 1993, LSU has welcomed a new
athletic director, swapped chancellors twice and seen even the LSU system’s
president’s chair change occupants.
The Tigers have witnessed the
construction of a new administration building, major renovation projects to
Tiger and Alex Box Stadium, a new softball complex and a number of other
upgrades around the Ole War Skule.
Just one year ago, Tiger athletics
enjoyed its most successful year ever with LSU capturing three national titles
(football and track), the women’s basketball team reached the Final Four, the
baseball and softball teams each made trips to their respective college world
series’ and gymnastics finished seventh overall in the NCAA.
With that being said, throughout
all of the above mentioned, there has been one constant – that being Louisiana
For 11 years, Louisiana Network has
been the rights holder for the LSU Sports Network, as well as Gameday Programs.
For more than a decade, LN has become synonymous with Louisiana State University. CEO Bill Rigell has grown into
one of the most familiar faces around the LSU campus as his partnership with the
university has flourished over the years.
However, that partnership has come
to an end.
Last week, LSU announced it would
enter into a 10-year contract with Viacom Outdoor Sports Marketing Inc. It was
decided after a lengthy and competitive bid process, Viacom could better serve
LSU than Louisiana Network, which has dutifully and diligently catered to the
university for over a decade, through good times and bad.
The reasoning being that Viacom, a
national outfit, had more to offer and outbid the smaller corporation - LN – and
that this was a step that needed to be taken. As LSU grows into a national power
in the world of collegiate athletics, the powers-that-be felt the university’s
athletic department had outgrown its local “partner” LN and instead, chose big
While Viacom has promised glamorous
upgrades in terms of multimedia equipment, LSU seems to have been blinded by the
glitz of corporate America. While Viacom is a household
name, this is the first full-blown rights agreement ever obtained by VOSM. In
the past, it had only owned pieces of deals at other schools.
For the past 11 years, LN has held
the rights for radio, television, and print. This new multi-media rights
agreement included all those components plus corporate sponsorships, signage,
scoreboard, electronic billboards, internet, logo rights, etc. LN planned to use
Louisiana companies for support in those new
areas which would have brought about a trickle down effect with a Louisiana based business
winning the bid.
So the money must have been the
case right? That had to be it. LN, a local corporation, couldn’t possibly
compete with the big bucks of a national firm such as Viacom. However, when the
bids came in, LN did come up $950,000 short of Viacom’s proposal. But when you
take into consideration Louisiana Network bid $74 million to retain the rights
to the LSU Sports Network, $95,000 a year over a 10 year period doesn’t seem
like such a large figure at all.
When it appeared the bids were
going to be close, Baton Rouge Mayor-Elect Kip Holden penned a letter to LSU
chancellor William Jenkins and the rest of the administration urging LSU to keep
the rights in-state – to keep the business local.
They did just the
LSU chose big business over what
would be best for Baton Rouge, the state of
possibly in the long run – LSU itself.
After reviewing the Viacom Bid, at
first glance it has some dazzle and excitement but at the end of the day, when
removing the intangibles, what really matters is the guaranteed monetary bid. LN
bid $74 million to Viacom's $74.95 million. That is another contract given to an out
of state company for a mere $95,000 per year.
Let’s hope LSU’s dabbling with
another national outfit pans out a bit better than its previous endeavor -
remember the new logo and the fiasco surrounding its unveiling? The last time
LSU was feeling good about itself – in the wake of the 2001 SEC football title –
the higher-ups on campus felt as if the Tigers’ logo needed to be spruced up a
bit. And $55,000 later, the traditional, but plain, LSU Tigers logo was upgraded
to what now looks like “Toonces The Driving Cat” from NBC’s Saturday Night Live
peering over a snazzy new-look LSU Tigers font.
Oh, by the way, the new “Toonces”
logo was such a success that gift shops around the Baton Rouge area hardly
stock shirts or caps featuring the new-age likeness because fans spurned the
design so badly.
At any rate, I digress.
While anyone at LSU can describe
the move to Viacom as a business decision, a decision for the betterment of the
university, please explain why, after 11 years of service to the institution,
Bill Rigell did not even receive the courtesy of a telephone call from a single
administrator informing him of the decision. Instead, Rigell logged onto his
computer on Tuesday morning of Nov. 30 and was notified via e-mail. That’s
Just to push this point home, the
following is a copy of the e-mail Rigell received:
Attn: Mr. William H. Rigell,
President & CEO
Proposal No. B5RMW0131 – LSU Athletics Multi-Media Rights
This letter is to inform
you that Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College intends to enter into negotiations
with the firm Viacom Outdoor Sports Marketing, Inc. for the referenced
proposal. Their proposal has been
determined to be the most responsive to the needs of the University, taking into
consideration payment to the University and other evaluation factors set forth
in the RFP.
We thank you for your
proposal and the time and effort involved in its preparation. We also thank you for your interest in
Rose Mary Wilhelm,
Executive Director of
So much for partnership! Nice huh?
And the last sentence containing the phrase “thank you for your interest in the
university,” that has a nice ring to it as well. A sincere, heartfelt footnote
to 11 years of loyal service to the institution.
Let’s hope Viacom’s partnership
with LSU grows into the type of prosperous relationship that the university had
with Bill Rigell and LN. Eleven years ago, when LSU asked Rigell and his
operation to buy into a “partnership” with the university, Rigell did so – and
went the extra mile as well.
Aside from his relationship with
the LSU athletic department, Rigell is a member of the Tiger Athletic
Foundation, is a Top 100 Tiger and is an active member of the LSU Alumni
Association. Louisiana Network has given in excess of $100,000 to the LSU
Foundation, is a Star Partner and earned the President's Awards for Lifetime
It will be interesting to see if
Viacom can maintain THAT level of commitment to the university for the next
With that said, what is next for
While Rigell will lose 20-percent
of his assets with the loss of the rights to the LSU Sports Network, Louisiana
Network will move forward. Like it has for the past 30 years, LN will again
strive to maintain the highest level of success in statewide news and radio
having enjoyed five consecutive record years on the news side.
Since 1974, LN has served the state
Although the event’s of last week left an indelible mark, Rigell assures not one
employee at LN will be lost. Let’s hope those currently employed by the LSU
Sports Network can say the same once “big business” converges on
Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger
Rag Magazine. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.