Since I make the rules for these columns, I can’t help but choose two outrageously delusional fan bases from football’s greatest division. It is impossible to claim I’m any sort of a college football fan, let alone a supposed semi-expert, without including the insane inhabitants of the real Death Valley (sorry, Dabo) on any and all lists of utter delusion.
Let’s start with some proper perspective on what Louisiana State University actually is as a school and football program. Prior to the arrival of Nick Saban in 2000, LSU was essentially the Kentucky of yesteryear in the SEC, vacillating between a game or two below .500 and a fringe bowl berth. In fact, during the fifteen seasons preceding Saban’s tenure, the Tigers endured four head coaching changes, averaged almost exactly six wins per season, culminating in the four-plus season tenure of Gerry Dinardo, who now terrorizes unsuspecting viewers as perhaps the worst commentator in all of football.
So then through a stroke of genius, the LSU brass poached Saban from Michigan State, ushering in the most successful era in LSU’s history and its first national championship in nearly a half century (claimed – don’t get me started on supposed “unclaimed titles”). As Saban is wont to do, or at least he was prior to the endless money train that’s collided with his bank account in Tuscaloosa, he took off after 2004 for the NFL. While Saban’s NFL tenure was somewhat disastrous, his replacement in Baton Rouge, Les Miles, has been anything but. Miles has actually amassed a higher overall winning percentage as the LSU head man than Nick Saban, the exact same SEC percentage, and has won two SEC titles and a singular national championship, though admittedly in more than double the total seasons.
Prior to Saban and Miles, LSU had ten conference championships in over a century of football. Since, they’ve won another four and tripled their total national championships. This, at a school with limited football tradition, terrible academics, and what is now the most competitive conference in the history of college football. Miles, against competition undoubtedly eclipsing that which Saban faced (consider the fact Alabama was a shell of itself during the Mike Shula tenure and averaged less than seven wins per season while Saban was at LSU) has achieved the same, or perhaps more, success than the greatest living college football coach. Not too bad, right?
Except, according to the LSU faithful, it’s not great. Last season, in the midst of an admittedly down year and a supposed “rough four seasons” in which the Tigers have averaged over nine wins per season, trailing only eleven Power 5 teams during the same period, Miles was basically fired during halftime of an ongoing game. I’m serious. Fans petitioned for his dismissal, sites mocking his appearance, tenure, and his imminent firing amassed hundreds of thousands of clicks a week. Somehow, eleven consecutive bowl berths, two national championship appearances, two SEC titles, and just the third national championship in school history had been forgotten.
Why? Because an extremely young team with the best running back in modern college football history only won eight games. Now, with Miles having Houdini’d his way out of the firing amidst a somewhat rational portion of the booster base pushing for his retention, the Tigers pose the fiercest threat to the mighty Crimson Tide and their former coach, with nine returning starters on defense and why will undoubtedly be the final year of Leonard Fournette at the collegiate level. Miles has again reeled in a top five recruiting class, in over a decade has never been in violation of a “major offense” as defined by the NCAA, all while overseeing a program entrenched in an expanding conference with the highest combined football specific budget than any conference in the history of college athletics.
For Tiger fans, though, who apparently forgot the quality of their school’s academics, location of campus, members of their own conference, and the previous 100 years of their program, winning the same percentage of your games as Nick Saban just isn’t that great.