LSU’s magic season of 2019 will forever live as a four-month waltz through the state of Louisiana, no matter the outcome of the national championship game. Of course, in SEC country faltering at the finish line is rarely cause for celebration (remember it “just means more” around those parts). But from Joe Burrow’s record-setting Heisman season, to the road win at Tuscaloosa, and a league championship in Atlanta, the Bayou Bengals have had a few additions to the trophy case whether they beat Clemson or not (and plenty of oddsmakers are looking at this line for college football betting in Michigan and other states).
The man at the top of this run is Ed Orgeron, a guy cut from central casting in the swamps of Louisiana. His cajun drawl, his raspy voice, his larger-than-life persona, all fit the job so well. But as much as Coach O is LSU through and through, he actually can thank Syracuse for his life raft moment.
After being dismissed from the Miami coaching staff for a bar fight and off the field reasons, Paul Pasqualoni added him to his SU staff in 1995. Coach O took over the defensive line duties and poured his heart and soul into it. The team adored him, his players crying openly when he left for USC after three seasons in CNY.
Coach P was a great defensive mind, and saw something in Orgeron. He saw a passion that paralleled his own, a toughness that Pasqualoni always identified with. Coach O and Coach P, two initials with a hard-nosed edge, were kindred spirits, even if Paul was a much more reserved man in the public eye.
The mid-to-late ’90s were glory year at the Carrier Dome, as the team competed for the Big East title, was regularly ranked, filled up the stadium, and landed in top bowl games like the Orange and Fiesta. SU football was the hottest ticket in town, and NFL caliber talented marched through campus like Donovan McNabb, Tebucky Jones, Will Allen, Morlon Greenwood, Rob Konrad and others.
The USC job helped launch Orgeron into his next coaching life. He became the interim coach there, the head coach at Ole Miss, and now the head man at LSU. His dream job has led him to a national championship game, and perhaps more accurately, he has led the job there. But without his vindication at SU none of this may have happened. Baton Rouge is a long way from Syracuse, but Orange fans can take a small amount in pride in watching Coach O on the sideline tonight.