Just in time for the college football bowl season, Forbes magazine has rated the LSU football program as the fourth most valuable in the country, prompting an announcement by the Jindal administration to capitalize on the latest data.
With an estimated value of $105 million, the LSU programs ranks behind only the University of Texas ($139 million), Notre Dame ($117 million) and Alabama ($110 million) and ranks ahead of such traditional football powerhouses as Michigan, Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska, Auburn, Arkansas, Southern Cal, Texas A&M, and Penn State—5th through 15th, respectively.
Upon learning of the ranking, Gov. Bobby Jindal, always the political opportunist, immediately pressured the LSU Board of Stuporvisors to approve a request for proposals (RFP) aimed at the privatization of the LSU football program in time for the start of the 2014 season.
The board approved the plan without discussion or objection.
“We actually have been considering this opportunity for some time,” Jindal said. “The latest story by Forbes simply provides us with the opportunity to negotiate the most favorable contract for the people of Louisiana.”
Jindal said the timing is such that it will be impossible to issue the RFP before the Feb. 5 LSU Bayou Bash recruiting party but he said he felt logistical problems of dealing with new signees could be overcome with assistance from legal counsel Jimmy Faircloth.
“The fact of the matter is, long story short, at the end of the day, there are two things: the LSU football team is overloaded with unproductive players. Applying my well-known ‘do more with less’ mantra, the new team owners will drastically cut the excess fat from the program. All players who do not make the first team on either offense or defense will be dismissed from the team. The kickers and punters will come from the remaining 22 starters.”
He said that move alone would save the program millions of dollars in housing and meal costs as well as costs for extra uniforms, equipment, game tickets and tutors. Other cost saving measures to be initiated by the privatization move include the termination of medical treatment for injured players and suspension of any athletic department financial contributions to academics. “We have already seen that academics can do more with less; now they will have the opportunity to do even more,” he said.
Jindal said in his prepared statement that the 22 players will each be paid on a sliding scale beginning at $100,000 per year. “That should allow LSU to attract the very best starting players in the nation and prevent the raiding of the top two or three high school players that Louisiana produces each year by other colleges—especially by Nick Saban and Alabama,” he said.
“This move will represent a new gold standard of athletic competition,” he said.
He said that a player who is injured and unable to continue in a game will be replaced from a pool of about a dozen standby contract players who will be employed in administrative positions within the Department of Education. In some cases, players will be asked to play on both offense and defense as an example of his “do more with less” crusade.
“The fact that the new owners will schedule only home games also should help us move forward with all due speed,” he said.
Jindal said his latest plan represents a “bold new move” for LSU football. “This should allow us to win the BCS championship virtually every year,” he said. “That fact alone should dispel all arguments that privatization doesn’t work.”
Confidential sources confirmed that one unidentified administration official who raised questions about possible NCAA sanctions for paying players was summarily teagued, a claim that was immediately denied. “That person left on his own accord,” an administration spokesman said. “We had nothing to do with his decision to leave.”
“There is a reason the NCAA would take issue with our proposal,” Jindal said. “I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the head of the NCAA is a former president of LSU and that he is envious of LSU’s success since his departure. If you recall, when Dr. Mark Emmert was at LSU he was the one who hired Nick Saban and because of that, he has a vested interest in the continued success of Coach Saban. So it’s understandable that he would be opposed to this move.”
Jindal then proceeded to verbally attack Emmert and the NCAA over the anticipated encroachment. “Dr. Emmert and the NCAA want to deny a voice to the very people who will be harmed by such ridiculous sanctions,” he said. “They are trying to muzzle fans who simply want to express their support for what will be the most successful football program in the history of intercollegiate athletics. The only thing our fans want is for the finest athletes in the nation to have the opportunity to escape failing programs.
“Dr. Emmert is attempting to tell our fans to sit down and shut up. That’s never going to happen. Despite whatever evolving legal argument the NCAA comes up with, the voices of hundreds of thousands of fans will be heard,” he said.
“I have already indicated that the NCAA’s effort to deny these kids the right to equal opportunity in football is both cynical and immoral,” Jindal continued. “They (the NCAA and Emmert) can’t have it both ways. Our fans know the real result of any NCAA action, should it be successful, would be to keep great football players in failing programs like those at Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Florida.”
Key losses to Alabama “have pushed a significant number of players to go out of state,” Jindal said. “Threatened sanctions are another intrusion by the NCAA on players’ personal decisions. Players who wish to play for a premier program should not have to seek approval of Dr. Emmert or the NCAA. It is our moral obligation to ensure that every top player who we recruit has access to the best program available.
“America is a nation of opportunity and a quality football program opens the door to opportunity, no matter the social background of the player.
“We in Louisiana are rejecting the status quo because we believe every player should have the opportunity to succeed.”
He said the Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF) has been contracted to help draft the RFP for the administration.
Insiders have intimated that TAF is likely to be the sole bidder on the project, although Spectacor Management Group (SMG), which operates the Mercedes Benz Superdome, the New Orleans Arena, Zephyr Field in Metairie and the Baton Rouge River Center, has not been ruled out.
Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said whoever wins the contract will receive generous tax incentives and exemptions “for bringing new jobs to Louisiana.”
Jindal said the privatization should save the state “approximately $500 million a year, give or take a few hundred million.”
(We wanted to hold off on this story until April 1, but we just couldn’t wait.)