LSU was No. 5 in Bleacher Report's post-national signing day top 25, but that ranking might be a bit too high.
As in, the Tigers might not even have the chance to justify it at all.
According to Julia O'Donoghue of NOLA.com, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed the state Thursday regarding the ongoing budget crisis that threatens virtually every state-run entity.
In it, he discussed the worst-case scenario: If state lawmakers don't pass his proposed tax increases during a special legislative session, the $940 million budget deficit could close the doors on LSU and cancel the football season.
Here's an excerpt from the speech, courtesy of NOLA.com:
As I mentioned earlier, if the legislature fails to act and we are forced to proceed with these cuts, the LSU Ag Center and parish extension offices in every parish, and Pennington Biomedical Research Center will close by April 1st and the LSU main campus in Baton Rouge will run out of money after April 30th, as will the Health Sciences Center in Shreveport and LSU Eunice. There is no money left for payroll after those dates. The Southern University System, and University of Louisiana System, and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System are in the same boat: without legislators approving new revenue this special session, some campuses will be forced to declare financial bankruptcy, which would include massive layoffs and the cancellation of classes.
If you are a student attending one of these universities, it means that you will receive a grade of incomplete, many students will not be able to graduate and student athletes across the state at those schools will be ineligible to play next semester. That means you can say farewell to college football next fall.
LSU fans should be worried about this. Very worried.
The worst-case scenario clearly is a legitimate possibility. While football is likely the most visible aspect of this story to the outside world, it's only a small piece of the puzzle in a complicated issue that obviously needs attention right now.
Because of that, it's fair to say the LSU football season is in jeopardy.
It would be uncharted waters for the NCAA, but those players would likely be able to transfer elsewhere and play immediately, as was the case when UAB shut down in the fall of 2014. The combination of no football in 2016 and players competing elsewhere, many of whom would likely land in the SEC, would be nearly as crippling to the program as the "Death Penalty" the NCAA handed to SMU in 1987.
With that said, though, football will likely be the first thing saved once lawmakers meet because of its importance to the state.
While the university system has struggled for years, the Tigers have been profiting. According to Forbes.com's Chris Smith, LSU was the fourth-most valuable football program in the country in 2015 at $111 million. As Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com noted last summer, the athletic department has transferred $43.5 million to the cash-strapped university since 2010.
LSU doesn't need football just because it's an outlet and a reason to raise school spirit. LSU needs football for its own bottom line, plain and simple.
The budget crisis—and virtually every possible solution—will undoubtedly shift how practically everything in the state is funded, but football is part of the solution to that problem, not a cause.
It will be one of the first programs preserved, so long as the doors to LSU's Baton Rouge campus stay open this summer and fall.
If they don't, and LSU runs out of money on April 30, as stated by Bel Edwards in his speech, get ready to hear a lot about "Alabama running back Leonard Fournette" in 2016.
LSU will likely avoid that worst-case scenario, though.
Bel Edwards dropped that tidbit about cancelling football in the middle of the speech and then just let it hang there, marinating in the news cycle like the 900-pound gorilla in the room. That's an effective way to illustrate just how serious the situation is and shines an even brighter national spotlight on lawmakers.
More pressure and a brighter spotlight will help save football and hopefully balance the state budget.
The season hangs in the balance, but it's still likely that "LSU running back Leonard Fournette" suits up for the Tigers in September.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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