It was an e-mail wrapped in purple and gold, sent to my Dad and I, personally, from new LSU head football coach Brian Kelly.
Well, the e-mail said it was from him. It had his signature.
So, it had to be from him, right?
Anyway, Coach Kelly was writing to let us know (I could hear the southern drawl in his words) he hopes we will renew our season tickets — the ones we have had close to 20 years.
Well, of course we will!
New ($95 million) coach. New (eligible to be paid) players.
It sure sounds like LSU is about to get back to the business of winning.
Which is exactly why Pops has slammed on the renewal brakes.
College football has become too much a business, and too little a game.
“I am embarrassed at what the school I have loved and supported has become,” Pops said. “I quit. I will not be renewing my season tickets.”
Pops uses our LSU tickets much more than me — and I am happy for him to do so. He’s 88 going on 58, and a life-long Tiger fan. Before the days of every game being on a big-screen TV, Pops would tune in John Ferguson, then Jim Hawthorne — their descriptions of Tiger Stadium crackling through the radio speaker sitting on the nightstand.
Now, Pops lives nine months for three months — the three months he steers his sporty-looking car, with a wind-whipped Tiger tail attached to the trunk — down I-49 toward Baton Rouge, for a weekend full of food, fun and football.
“There is something about when I step on campus off of Nicholson Drive that seems to give me a new high,” Pops said. “Rain, a blistering sun, it doesn’t matter, because it’s LSU, the flagship of our state.”
But the way Pops sees it, that “flag” is tattered and weather-beaten. From paying millions of dollars for coaches not to coach (see Ed Orgeron and his staff), to paying millions of dollars for coaches to coach (see Kelly and his staff), to sexual assault allegations and how they were handled (see a Google search), to businesses paying players for the player’s endorsement (see Name, Image, and Likeness).
It’s all become too much.
“The recent events have soured me on LSU football,” Pops said. “We are no longer a school of
student-athletes that compete for honors that elevate our state. We have become a school that values winning above anything else. If a guy is 6’5” and 300 pounds and can run a 4.5 40, recruit him no matter his morals. If he can play football, all else is overlooked…or not seen.”
Well, you certainly won’t find this breakdown in Phil Steele’s annual college football magazine.
“We can take a fellow from high school, give him an opportunity to get a $50,000 per year education, and watch him squander the opportunity to learn, while the plain students and their families work, sacrifice, pour over books to learn and raise their social and economic standards, and be proud alumni of LSU,” Pops concluded.
Yes, college football is a business. At times, an uncomfortable, ugly business. But when it’s 4th and 1, LSU needs a first down to seal the win, and Tiger Stadium is rocking, there is no place you would rather be.
Interested in some south end zone season tickets?