DEVILLE: Let the debate begin
Russell_Miles
Editor
Posted May 1, 2007
Matt_Deville


Let the speculation begin. Actually, it already has.

It’s early Sunday morning, the day after one of the most historic days in LSU football. And the chatter is as lively as ever on Internet message boards around Tiger Town.

 

On Saturday, a record four Tigers were drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft with quarterback JaMarcus Russell being taken No. 1 overall by the Oakland Raiders.

 

Many expected LSU to get three in the first round, with the Tigers claiming two high profile draft prospects in Russell and free safety LaRon Landry. Wideout Dwayne Bowe was also expected to go within the first 32 picks.

 

But things didn’t stop after Russell (1st), Landry (6th) and Bowe (23rd) were taken in the first round. Wide receiver Craig Davis was selected as the 30th pick giving LSU a record four first round picks, surpassing the 1951 draft, in which the Tigers had three players picked in the first round.

 

“This is a great day for LSU and a great day for these young men and their families,” said LSU coach Les Miles on Saturday. “We are very happy for these guys. They are very deserving of being picked in the first round and we are very proud of them. All four of these guys have worked extremely hard to get to this point in their careers. They all played a major role in the success of our football program and LSU athletics in general over the past four years.”

 

Speaking of the past four years, that is where the debate begins.

 

This class of seniors departing LSU is the most successful group of players in Tiger football history. Over the past four seasons, LSU has compiled a sparkling 44-8 record, including a victory in the 2003 BCS national championship game.

 

That level of success was evident by the quartet of players selected in the draft on Sunday. Heading into the 2006 season, pundits and prognosticators nationwide said LSU had the most talent in all of college football, but in the end, a demanding road schedule could hold back Miles’ team.

 

That did prove to be the case as LSU dropped early season games at Auburn and at eventual national champion Florida to erase the Tigers from the national championship picture. After watching four LSU players have their names called in the first round Saturday, one has to wonder (and plenty are right now) if the Tigers missed a golden opportunity in 2006 to fly another national championship flag over Tiger Stadium.

 

Hindsight is 20/20 and it seems useless to debate the past. However, while LSU fans were celebrating the Tigers’ place in the sun on Saturday, they did so with a sour feeling in their collective bellies. The sting of a missed opportunity still leaves Tiger fanatics a little miffed.

 

Since nothing can be done about the past, it is time to look toward the future. Sure enough, Russell, Landry, Bowe and Davis are gone. That chapter at LSU is closed. The question that now remains is, “What’s next?”

 

Since Miles’ arrival at LSU, he has been scrutinized and second-guessed on virtually every decision he has made. Constantly compared to his predecessor Nick Saban, Miles hasn’t been and never will be given full credit for the 22 wins he compiled in his first two seasons as LSU.

 

Why?

 

While Miles did coach all four of the aforementioned players the past two seasons, Saban recruited and brought them to Baton Rouge. Many of Miles’ detractors have said he can’t fully be judged as the Tigers’ coach until he has the majority of his recruited talent on the field.

 

Well, that seems to be the case heading into the 2007 season. That, of course, brings about the next question.

 

Is this a turning point for the LSU football program? Can Miles sustain the level of success in the post Russell-Landry-Bowe era?

 

Make no mistake; Miles does two things as well as anyone in the country. He can recruit and hire good assistant coaches. As long as he does that, he will be successful. But can he mesh it all together with his talent and keep the Tigers at a championship caliber level?

 

We shall see come September.

 

---

 

Even though she is no longer the head coach of the Lady Tigers, LSU hasn’t heard the last of Pokey Chatman.

 

It has been almost two months since Chatman resigned her position as head coach of the LSU women’s basketball program, but most everyone figured Chatman wasn’t about the fade into the shadows.

 

Forced out because of alleged inappropriate sexual contact with former players, Chatman stepped down just before LSU began play in the NCAA Tournament. Associate head coach Bob Starkey stepped in as acting head coach and led the Lady Tigers to the program’s fourth consecutive NCAA Final Four.

 

Chatman was nowhere to be found.

 

In the wake of the Lady Tigers tournament run, Starkey said he wasn’t interested in the job permanently so LSU turned to former Ole Miss and Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor. The legendary coach, who won four straight WNBA crowns after a 19-year career with the Lady Rebels, signed on and was a slam dunk hire. Chancellor brought immediate credibility and stability to a program that could have floundered in scandal in the wake of Chatman’s resignation.

 

Chancellor met with his team, with the media and all seemed well in the world of LSU’s women’s’ basketball program.

 

Re-enter Chatman.

 

You didn’t think Chatman was going to go quietly without having her day in court, did you?

 

Chatman is set to walk away from LSU with $66,000 in salary for the months of March and April. She is also set to receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $160,000 in the form of a bonus for the Lady Tigers’ appearance in the Final Four, in which she never coached. Not bad for two months of “non-work.”

 

But that is not enough.

 

Chatman is saying she was forced to resign her position after she technically didn’t break any laws or university regulations. Chatman retained the services of Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson and is actively seeking a great deal more money than the aforementioned amounts.

 

Pierson is asking LSU to honor the last two year’s of Chatman’s contract at $400,000 per season ($800,000 total) as well possibly more than $100,000 in damages. Basically, Chatman wants $1 million and she’ll go quietly.

 

LSU System general counsel Ray Lamonica is saying “no way” is LSU going to pay the settlement in which Chatman and Pierson are requesting. He went even further in saying if Chatman presses for the money, she will not be paid the Final Four bonus and will then be asked to re-pay the $33,000 in salary for the month of April.

 

Pierson responded to Lamonica’s stance by saying the postseason money was already promised and non-payment would be a breach of contract.

 

No lawsuit has been filed, but Pierson claims Chatman was pressured to resign with inadequate and false information provided to the university. LSU claims they have solid evidence that Chatman was behaving inappropriately, but a story in the Baton Rouge Advocate on Saturday centers around comments made by former LSU all-American Seimone Augustus. In the story written by Scott Rabalais, Augustus says she didn’t know of any inappropriate contact by Chatman, but that she “went to practice and left. She (Chatman) always conducted herself as a coach in front of me. Other than that, I don’t know what happened with other people.”

 

What this all boils down to is basically a big game of chicken.

 

Who will flinch first?

 

Pierson and Chatman want to settle, but the LSU administration is refusing to pay. It is pretty obvious neither side wants this matter to go to court. From Chatman’s perspective, if the case does reach the courtroom, LSU could provide damaging evidence that could affect any future she may have in coaching.

 

It also could cost her dearly monetarily. For LSU, the university will stand strong on its promise of non-payment, but it cannot afford to go to court with Chatman and further blacken the eye for the university and its women’s basketball program.

 

It will be interesting to see who flinches first.

 

---

 

Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.



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