Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Salve for the Saban Wound

The annual sportsman’s lament is near. If you are not a fan of basketball, then what are you to do for the next few weeks? As surely as February is the shortest month of the year, so will I fall into some kind of dysthymia. LSU’s fabulous football season is long behind us. The incredible run of the New Orleans Saints will sustain us, but only for a few more days...a couple of weeks if things go well. Spring training for baseball is still weeks away. If we can force ourselves to pay attention to LSU basketball, maybe we can make it through. The Mudbugs’ success on the ice is something we take for granted, but it still is something of an elixir for what ails us. Still, we are left longing.
One of the worst things to happen to sports fan in Louisiana early in 2007 may be one of the best things at this juncture. With college football recruiting reaching its crescendo, we can once again concentrate on how angry and disappointed we are with Nick Saban. At least we have someone, something on whom we can focus our energy. Saban’s decision to accept the head coaching position at Alabama led to furious foaming at the mouth for several days in January, and understandably so. The timing of his accepting the job (on the day LSU played Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl) was unfortunate at best. His arrival in Tuscaloosa on the day when the Tigers, his former team, should have been grabbing national headlines with a convincing victory was insulting to thousands of fans who had viewed him as a hero. Now, he’s recruiting against the team he coached to a national championship. This story will not go away. It will be fun to watch for a long time.
LSU will be fine, though. Les Miles, the man who replaced Saban, has made a crucial, inspired hire. Gary Crowton has come on board as LSU’s offensive coordinator. Most recently, Crowton held the same position at the University of Oregon. He has been the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears and the head coach at Brigham Young University. He is known in Louisiana because he was the highly successful head coach at Louisiana Tech.
At Tech, Crowton coached quarterback Tim Rattay, who became a starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49’ers and is still in the NFL. His star receiver was Troy Edwards, who was a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also played for the Ram and the Jaguars in the NFL. Those names reflect the kind of job Crowton can do with offensive talent. This means that his very presence is a valuable recruiting tool. He can take undersized players with above average talent, coach them at a small football school and get them to a level to earn millions of dollars playing pro football. Imagine what he can do for the caliber of players who are attracted to LSU.
Crowton also is considered by many to be an innovator, if not a genius, on the offensive side of the ball. Talk about fun to watch. I can hardly wait to see what he does with Matt Flynn, who will be a senior quarterback for LSU this fall. Jimbo Fisher, the man Crowton replaces at LSU, said Flynn has enough talent to be an early-round NFL draft pick. If his new coach can work his offensive wizardry, it could be a magical fall in Tiger Stadium.
Those of us who worked with Crowton during his time in Ruston can tell you that he is one of the most affable men you will ever run across. The combination of his talents and his personality could mean something special for LSU in the years ahead. This is arguably Coach Miles’ most significant hiring since he arrived in Baton Rouge. If things work out the way they should, people in Louisiana may eventually be willing to forgive Saban. Don’t count on it, though.

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