LSU and coach Ed Orgeron have agreed to part ways after this season, 21 months after he led the Tigers to a national championship with what is considered one of the greatest teams in college football history.
“We have very high standards for all of our sports programs at LSU, and we will stand proudly behind our expectations of competing for SEC and national championships year in and year out,” athletic director Scott Woodward said Sunday night. “Our last two seasons have simply not met that standard, and based on our on-field results and our evaluation of the potential for future immediate success, it is time for a new direction.”
Sports Illustrated was first to report that Orgeron would not return to LSU in 2022.
While the timing of the announcement — the day after the Tigers (4-3) upset Florida — came as a surprise, the end for Coach O at LSU seemed to be approaching after a blowout loss to Kentucky last week.
The win over Florida at home Saturday made LSU 9-8 since beating Clemson in New Orleans for the national championship on Jan. 13, 2020.
“I have loved LSU since I first touched a football in Lafourche Parish in the late 1960s,” Orgeron, who grew up in Larose, Louisiana, said in a written statement posted by LSU. “I loved them every step of my professional journey — even from far away — as my career took me across America.
“I always understood the expectations at LSU, and they are the same expectations I have for myself and our staff,” Orgeron’s statement said. “I am disappointed that we have not met these expectations over the past two years.”
Orgeron is 49-17 with the Tigers in six seasons, including 15-0 in 2019 when Joe Burrow won a Heisman Trophy and LSU earned its third national championship in 17 seasons — coming with three different coaches.
Orgeron received a six-year contract extension after the 2019 season. According to USA Today, he is scheduled to make $9 million this season, the second-highest salary in major college football behind Alabama’s Nick Saban.
His buyout, according to USA Today, was more than $17 million if he was let go before Dec. 1.
LSU slipped to 5-5 during the pandemic-altered 2020 season, but expectations were still high that the Tigers would be back among the top teams in the Southeastern Conference this year after Orgeron overhauled his coaching staff.
Instead, LSU suffered a high-profile loss at UCLA in September and the season slid from there.
Orgeron becomes the second SEC coach to be let go two years removed from a national title, joining Gene Chizik of Auburn. The Auburn Tigers won the BCS championship with Cam Newton in 2010 but went winless in SEC play in 2012 and Chizik was out.
Orgeron’s coaching stops as an assistant included stints with national title winning teams at Miami and USC. His first head coaching job came at Mississippi, where he was fired after going 10-25 from 2005 to 2007.
After another stint as an assistant at USC, he briefly served as interim head coach for the Trojans following the firing of Lane Kiffin, and went 6-2. But he was passed over for the permanent position there and later joined Les Miles’ staff at LSU.
Orgeron became LSU’s head coach after being named interim four games into the 2016 season following the midseason firing of Miles, who had also won a national title with the Tigers in the 2007 season.
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Orgeron went 6-2 as interim coach and was given a long-term contract by then-athletic director Joe Alleva.
Woodward, previously the AD at Washington and Texas A&M, replaced Alleva at LSU in 2019.
LSU won nine games in 2017 and 10 in 2018 before everything came together in 2019, with Burrow and a slew of players who went on to become first-round NFL draft picks. That team was quickly stripped down of many of its key parts, with players entering the draft and key coaches leaving for other jobs.
Co-offensive coordinator Joe Brady, credited with being the architect of a record-setting offense in 2019, left for an NFL gig with the Carolina Panthers and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda become the head coach at Baylor.