(The following is not just pointed at Alabama fans but at all opposing fans who employ the same mindset.)
My hardcore LSU fandom started in the '90s. I was more of a Saints fan growing up. There were a few years there in my pre-teens where I could tell you every player on the Saints, his jersey number, and where he went to college.
While I kept up with LSU in kind of a Sunday morning headline kind of way, my heart was in the NFL and with a team that seemed to treat my heart like a flaming bag of dog poop.
Arnsparger, Archer, Hilliard, Hodson, Sugar Bowls, Earthquakes, Pigs Fly Over Alabama; these were all just words with no real meaning associated with that team I cheered for on Saturday to pass the time until Sundays. And with no pro basketball team in New Orleans, I reserved my LSU love for basketball.
Then when I was 18, I headed off to college at that purple and gold university that once garnered secondary affection from me. My first game as a student was a hard-fought loss to Texas A&M, and even in that loss, the atmosphere hooked me.
There was a passion there that was different from the NFL.
At the time, LSU didn't field a team that matched the passion of its fans. Curley Hallman wore out his welcome much before 1994, but that season was the nail in the coffin. When you hire a coach from Southern Miss and then a few years later he loses at home to the school you hired him from, it's probably not going to end well.
Things were different then. Now, students need to enter a lottery to get tickets. When I was a freshman, you could pick up tickets for Saturday's game on Friday afternoon on your way to class. There was usually a table set up outside the union. I hardly had to break my stride to get them.
That may have been my first "Back in my day..." story. Ouch, really, I'm not that old.
But LSU football quickly became a part of me, and I lived and died by a somewhat above average LSU team during my college years. Gerry DiNardo was hired my sophomore year, and LSU fans who were thirsty for anything that resembled success were rewarded with a bowl in 1995.
The Independence Bowl.
People camped out for tickets for that game—and not like 10 people. Thousands spent the night in sleeping bags and lawn chairs, playing poker and drinking. To go to the Independence Bowl...which is played in Shreveport, might I remind you.
Okay, I was one of those people.
We were absolutely ecstatic to be headed to a bowl. A 7-4-1 season, and we were thrilled. Well, I was anyway. You know...the Saints fan. I didn't have much success in my rooting history at that point.
Allow me to fast-forward through my college years, through more bowl games, beating a No. 5 Auburn team, a No. 1-ranked Florida team, and so on. DiNardo had two more good years before two really bad ones.
DiNardo got talent to Baton Rouge but couldn't put it together on gameday (and stayed loyal to some assistants he probably shouldn't have) and was finally shown the door.
The time following that most are familiar with, because to most people outside of LSU that I hear from, there are only two times: before Nick Saban and after him.
By listening to others, you would think LSU was a wasteland for college football, devoid of tradition and success before the year 2000.
For those that feel this way, this article is more or less pointed at you.
Alabama fans seem to like the phrase "back to mediocrity" when pontificating over their desired destination for LSU football in general. It's a phrase that makes me cringe in its smug ignorance.
Allow me to try to understand where the Bama fans are coming from. Maybe if you have 12 national championships (or however many they claim), anything less is a bad thing.
Well, let's go to the numbers, shall we?
Below are the decade rankings for LSU and Alabama. You'll see without including the '90s that LSU after the year 1930 (because 1930 is even probably too far to go back, but I'm trying to provide you with history) averaged out right at the No. 10 overall.
Does being consistently ranked around No. 10 for decades and decades (save for one) equal mediocrity?
I would hope not.
Big 4 Bowl
Period Rank Total Points Win. Pct. Points Schedule Points Nat. Champs Points Big 4 Bowl Points
Big 4 Bowl
1930-1939 2 896.47 428.95 327.52 100.00 40.00 1940-1949 8 802.03 365.59 371.44 0.00 65.00 1950-1959 25 704.65 254.63 425.02 0.00 25.00 1960-1969 1 1062.55 418.18 399.37 150.00 95.00 1970-1979 1 1103.93 431.25 422.68 150.00 100.00 1980-1989 11 804.38 358.33 411.05 0.00 35.00 1990-1999 12 799.74 337.40 387.34 50.00 25.00 2000-2008 31 652.13 287.61 354.51 0.00 10.00
Info provided by www.collegefootballdatawarehouse.com
Actually, if you average the Tide's decade ranking in the same way I did LSU's (taking out their worst decade ranking, which is the current decade), their average is No. 8—just two spots ahead of mediocre, it would seem.
Amongst the all-time winningest programs, Alabama ranks No. 6. On a list that includes 119 teams (sorry Hilltoppers), what's "mediocre?"
No, 12 apparently.
Twelve is mediocre because that's where LSU is ranked.
So let's review and clarify.
I, as an LSU fan, would not win an argument saying that LSU has more success than Alabama. Championships (National and SEC) speak for themselves. Also, the all-time head to head for LSU-Bama is still lopsided (23-44-5).
Although it's still a more subjective topic, I would even say Alabama gets the nod on tradition and such over the Tigers.
But downplaying LSU's own tradition, history, and success is an exercise of the ignorant.
Anyone can think (and wish) LSU's time in the spotlight will be over soon. I can argue otherwise, but none of us really knows what will happen in the future.
What we do know is what has actually happened in the past are facts—whether we choose to ignore them or not.
There are probably about 100 schools that would trade football history and tradition with Alabama. But to say that number wouldn't be the same or close to the number of schools that would do the same with LSU is shortsightedly dismissive.
I am as proud of LSU's past as I am its present and hope to continue the same sense of pride in the future.
Everyone has their Hallmans and their Mike Shulas, and no one wants to be defined by them.