Not even an upset of No. 20 Florida could help Ed Orgeron keep his job. According to a report from Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger — and later confirmed by LSU — the sixth-year Tigers coach has reached a separation agreement with the school, officially ending his tenure just two seasons after going 15-0 with one of the top college football teams of all time.
Orgeron will continue coaching the team through the 2021 season after starting the year 4-3. The move makes sense, allowing the team to have some semblance of stability as the school conducts what will likely be a high-profile coaching search.
The move is somewhat surprising in that Orgeron is not even two calendar years removed from his team’s 2019 national championship season. However, there is a precedent of coaches leaving their programs following championships: Former Auburn coach Gene Chizik was fired at Auburn following a 3-9 season in 2012 two years after leading the Tigers to a BCS championship.
Regardless, reports indicate the move isn’t one-sided, and that both Orgeron and LSU came to terms on the agreement before Saturday’s game against Florida kicked off. With that, Sporting News breaks down Orgeron’s separation from the Tigers, where they go from here and what it means for his contract:
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Why did LSU fire Ed Orgeron?
LSU has not technically fired Orgeron. The two parties have agreed to a separation. That said, that agreement did not occur out of the blue: LSU followed up its 2019 championship campaign with a dismal 5-5 record amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tigers have not fared much better in 2021, starting 3-3 before scoring an upset win over the Gators in Baton Rouge. The thinking at the time was that it would allow Orgeron to keep his job for at least another week, though Sunday’s news refutes that theory. The Tigers are 9-8 since 2019.
Orgeron in a statement seemed to acknowledge he did not meet expectations:
Per Dellenger, the agreement stems from a fractured relationship between Orgeron and the administration that includes “public and private behavior,” “distrust” and “outbursts.”
Orgeron is 49-17 at #LSU but is 9-8 since the championship. However, this goes beyond on-field results.
A strained relationship between coach & administration – rooted in team management & public/private behavior – has warped into an untenable situation, distrust & outbursts.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) October 17, 2021
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Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel provided additional background on the situation, reporting that coaches and players no longer wanted to follow Orgeron’s lead:
A source familiar with the situation at LSU: “It’s one of those things where no one wanted to be there anymore. The players didn’t want to play for him, the coaches didn’t want to coach for him.”
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) October 17, 2021
The Athletic also provided an in-depth investigation on the situation at LSU, reporting that myriad issues resulted in LSU’s decision to part ways with Orgeron. According to a source close to the situation, Orgeron “lost track of who he was” following his team’s 2019 championship season. He also reportedly became a distraction after divorcing his wife Kelly, with whom he had been married for 23 years. For example, photos of Orgeron in bed with a woman went viral in 2020; per The Athletic, there were no moral objections to his single lifestyle, though it did take away from him preparing for games.
The Athletic reports Orgeron also made advances on a woman at a gas station, who then told him she was married and pregnant. He then responded, “Why does that matter?” The woman ended up being the wife of a high-ranking LSU official.
Other issues that led to the decision include a high-profile Title IX investigation into the LSU program in which Orgeron was reportedly told about former running back Derrius Guice sexually assaulting a 74-year-old woman and doing nothing. Orgeron’s comments of support for former President Donald Trump — whom his Black players believed espoused racist ideologies and theories — contributed to him losing his team. So too did his lack of support for players’ demonstrations against racial inequality and injustice prior to the start of the 2020 season.
On the football field, the team’s lack of success — made worse by Orgeron’s admission he didn’t formally interview defensive coordinator Bo Pelini or offensive coordinator Scott Linehan — made it impossible for LSU athletic director Scott Woodward, who did not hire Orgeron and had no loyalty to him, to overlook the off-field issues.
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Why Ed Orgeron will still coach Tigers for rest of 2021
Despite Orgeron’s on- and off-field failings, he still has put together what is on paper one of the nation’s most talented teams. That and the fact he is two years removed from a national championship season likely contributed to LSU’s decision to allow him to stay on through the season. At 4-3, the Tigers are only two wins away from attaining bowl eligibility, though they do face ranked opponents in Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M in the final five games. It’s also possible Arkansas could re-enter the top 25 as well.
There’s also a pragmatic approach to allowing Orgeron to finish his tenure in Baton Rouge: It provides stability for a program that is otherwise in flux while the school performs a coaching search. The Tigers will need some semblance of success this season to retain any players who have committed to them in the class of 2022. LSU’s class currently ranks ninth nationally and third in the SEC, per 247Sports’ Composite rankings.
Woodward’s statement also touched on the recruiting implications of allowing Orgeron to stay through the end of the year:
Ed Orgeron contract
The Athletic reported on Sunday that Orgeron is expected to be paid the entirety of his buyout at the end of the season. Dellenger corroborated that report, citing an LSU official who said the coach’s contract would be terminated without cause and that the school would pay a $16.95 million buyout in 18 installments.
Orgeron on Jan. 24, 2020 received a six-year, $42 million contract extension that paid an average of $7 million a year. The move came just 11 days following LSU’s defeat of Clemson in the 2020 College Football Playoff championship game.