LSU, coach Ed Orgeron agree to part ways at conclusion of 2021 college football season

LSU and coach Ed Orgeron, 60, have reached a separation agreement that will result in Orgeron not returning to coach the Tigers following the 2021 season, the program announced Sunday night. Orgeron, who won a national championship at LSU in 2019, will finish the remainder of the season as the team’s coach before parting ways with the university. If the Tigers (4-3) reach a bowl game, Orgeron will also coach that game, he said in a Sunday night press conference.

“At LSU, we expect to compete for SEC and national championships year in and year out,” LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said. “We are proud of that standard and will always work to uphold it. Our last two seasons have simply not met that standard. When we evaluated our on-field results and the future of our program with President (William) Tate, we determined that it is time for us to move in a new direction. That was LSU’s decision, but it is one Coach O understands.”

While this development comes less than 24 hours after the Tigers upset Florida 49-42 at Tiger Stadium, Orgeron said he had a conversation with Woodward after LSU’s loss to Kentucky on Oct. 9 and “knew that it was time.” Orgeron is expected to receive his entire $17 million buyout, according to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman. That buyout will be paid beginning in December — the first payment is $5.68 million — with incremental payments through 2025. Additionally, the terms of the separation do not allow Orgeron to become employed as a head coach in the SEC for the next 18 months.

Orgeron said he does not plan to coach in 2022.

“I want to take a little time off. I’m 60 years old, I’ve coached for 37 years,” Orgeron said in a press conference with Woodward. “I think I’m going to have enough money to buy me a hamburger, and every once in a while maybe a double meat cheeseburger. I want to take a little time off to find out what direction I want to be in. Today I think I’m not going to coach, but that might be different a month from now. But right now I want to take a little time off and spend it with my kids.”

Orgeron led LSU for the last five full seasons after being promoted from his role as interim coach in 2016. Though he did put together an undefeated LSU team that won the 2019 national title in one of the most dominant seasons in the history of the sport, the program has fallen significantly since it walked off the field after winning the College Football Playoff in New Orleans.

LSU is 9-8 (7-6 SEC) since that championship win with a 2-3 record against Power Five opponents this season. Overall, it is 49-17 (30-14 SEC) since 2016 when Orgeron took over as an interim coach after LSU fired Les Miles four games into the season.

Following that 2016 season, the Tigers tried and failed to hire both Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman. That created momentum behind hiring Orgeron full time after he led LSU to a 6-2 (4-2 SEC) mark in the eight games he coached.

As for who may replace Orgeron next season, CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd has you covered with LSU coaching candidates.

The Tigers went 9-4 and 10-3 in Orgeron’s first two full seasons at the helm before everything came together for LSU. Orgeron realized he needed to modernize his offense with quarterback Joe Burrow at the helm, so he hired Joe Brady as passing game coordinator. Combined with the hire of Dave Aranda as defensive coordinator, LSU rolled to an undefeated 15-0 season in college football history in 2019.

That was the high point. 

The next year, Orgeron was named in reports of the LSU administration’s handling of sexual assault allegations against athletes on campus. In particular, they raised questions about Orgeron’s alleged knowledge of, and response to, allegations against former Tigers running back Derrius Guice.

With a 5-5 season in 2020 — which included a sizable defensive regression — plus a lack of relationship with Woodward, who did not hire Orgeron, he was already on the hot seat entering 2021. 

A summer injury to potential starting quarterback Myles Brennan left LSU no choice but to start redshirt freshman Max Johnson at UCLA in Week 1, a game the Tigers lost 38-27.  Wins over McNeese, Central Michigan and Mississippi State in the final three weeks of September helped, but injuries began to mount. Among the key absences for the Florida game were wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., defensive lineman Ali Gaye and defensive back Eli Ricks.

At 4-3, the Tigers still must play Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M this season. LSU is unlikely to be favored in any of those games. It must win at least one of those SEC games, plus defeat ULM, to become bowl eligible.

This marks the end of Orgeron’s career’s zenith. In his first stint as a head coach, the Louisiana native went just 10-25 (3-21 SEC) from 2005-07 at Ole Miss. After time spent on the New Orleans Saints staff, he resurfaced in college football with Lane Kiffin at Tennessee in 2009. From there, he followed Kiffin to USC and worked as the Trojans’ interim coach, leading the team to a 6-2 mark in eight games after Kiffin’s firing in 2013.

Orgeron was out of coaching in 2014 before catching on with Miles at LSU. At times, his steely cajun demeanor seemed to make him a perfect fit for one of college football’s most unique cultures. But in the end, his shortcomings as a CEO made the flash of glory in 2019 unsustainable.

“I knew we had to sustain that momentum and sustain that standard,” Orgeron said. “And I know that in the last two years it hasn’t been the standard of LSU.”

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Christin Hakim

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