Joe Alleva Fall Break Q&A
LSU Sports Interactive
After a fast start to the fall season at LSU, Michael Bonnette took a break with Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva to catch up on all things LSU Sports.
MB: Football is obviously on a lot of people’s minds right now. How would you sum up the first half of the season?
Joe: This is a huge transition year for football. We knew going in this season was going to be a challenge for a lot of different reasons. In spite of all of that, this team is 6-2 riding a three-game SEC win streak. I can’t say enough about the job Coach O and his entire staff has done. The players dug deep, really deep, and came out stronger. I’m proud of them and 100% confident in where that program is heading.
I want to really encourage the fans to support Coach O and this team. There’s still a lot of work to do and a long season left, so we need to stay patient and support our student-athletes no matter what. They deserve it.
MB: What do those three-straight SEC wins mean for this program?
Joe: I think it shows LSU football is heading in the right direction with the right leadership and very talented, high-character student-athletes. You don’t overcome what that team has overcome without all of those ingredients. They fought through the storm and came out with an identity and a purpose.
MB: What was the week after the Troy game like?
Joe: Emotion and passion is what makes LSU football so special. And emotions run high after a week like that. As the AD, I have to take the heat. That’s part of the job and the criticism of me is expected after a loss like that. But I can’t react to every high or every low, the truth usually lies somewhere in between. My job is to evaluate the overall health and direction of a program. I look at the big picture, and I had total confidence in the direction we were heading. There are a lot of components that go into creating a winning culture and I could see Coach O was making great progress in those areas. That week made it even more clear. It was time for us to come together and support each other. Ed’s leadership is what made that happen. A lot of coaches would have lost the team in all of that. He did the opposite. They came together. You’ve got to love that.
MB: A lot of people don’t know you were a two-sport athlete in college at Lehigh – a quarterback and baseball player. Does that experience help as an AD in a tough week like that?
Joe: I think it gives me empathy for the players. There was nowhere near the public pressure back then like there is now, but being an athlete and going to school at that age is very difficult at any time. And I know how it feels to compete and to lose. Being an athlete teaches you to deal with success and failure. Regardless, you have to move on. I can relate to that because of my background.
MB: What’s your message to football fans about the future of the program?
Joe: First off, there is a lot to play for right now. We are right in the thick of it - we have our destiny in our hands and this team is getting better every week at every position. As everyone knows, this team is also very young which means there are some early challenges but it also means the future is bright – I think we’ve already gotten a glimpse of that. By the end of this season, no matter where we end up, we will have a freshmen class who are veterans. That’s a heck of a foundation to build on.
In the offseason, Coach O and his staff will work to fill in the roster gaps and gain depth, then build on that foundation with great recruiting focused on need and overall roster management. In a couple of years, he will be replacing outgoing seniors with juniors as opposed to freshmen like he has to do right now. It’s a long term plan not a band aid and is just getting started. Bottom line is Coach O has the character, work ethic and intelligence to get this done.
MB: I have to ask because it’s been a popular topic - does Coach O really have a $12 million buyout?
Joe: No, he doesn’t. That’s a false narrative. The real reason large first-year buyouts are placed in contracts is to strategically guard against negative recruiting that a coach might get fired in the first year. This wasn’t included to convince Ed to take the job. We didn’t need to do that. It’s about perception in recruiting and is a common approach these days. There are dozens of contracts in college football with the same or sometimes larger buyout clauses for that reason. In reality, the buyout may as well be $100 million because we are not going to fire a coach without cause in the first year. But to be exact, it was only $12 million on day one and was designed to immediately work its way down every day since. By the end of the season the amount will be $8.7 million, then $5.2 million after the second season, then down to $2.7 million after three seasons.
MB: Football gets most of the coverage, but LSU’s fall athletic season is in full swing.
Joe: It is, and I really encourage everybody to go see Coach Fran Flory and her volleyball team play the second half of their season. They had a great first half and are poised to make a run. And those events are a lot of fun to watch and great for families. In gymnastics, DD Breaux and her team are once again ready to compete for it all and fill the PMAC every meet. We believe we are going to sell 5,000 season tickets for gymnastics this year. That’s an amazing number. Women’s basketball has a really strong roster and I think will find a lot of success this year. Men’s golf is looking to do great things yet again…there’s a lot of good happening right now at LSU.
MB: I hear there’s big news coming from the academic side as well?
Joe: Absolutely and we are really excited about it. I am most proud of what our student-athletes are accomplishing in the classroom – historic things. It’s a championship-level achievement in its own right. Stay tuned for a big announcement on that.
MB: Speaking of good things, how is Will Wade changing the culture of that program so quickly?
Joe: Will has posted the #3 recruiting class in America. He just got a commitment from a four-star player whose other suitor was North Carolina. So yeah, I would say he’s changing the culture. He’s driven. He’s a relentless recruiter, he doesn’t take no for an answer and he has a vision that his players buy into. That’s a recipe for success and I can tell you we are fully behind him and making sure he has the resources he needs to find that success. But like in football, it’s still a transition so we have to be patient and really go out there and support that team. He’s got a lot of work to do to get this program where it needs to be. That won’t happen overnight.
MB: What about facilities improvements?
Joe: That’s a long list. We are going to start on massive overhaul of football ops that will include a new nutrition center. We’re going to once again make it the finest in the country. And I know fans will be happy to hear new HD flat-screen TVs are going to be installed in the PMAC by January, Alex Box by start of their season and yes Tiger Stadium for next season. It’s a great upgrade and will include new technology on the backend giving us a lot of options on what we can display for our fans. New video boards are being installed for Alex Box, Tiger Park and one for a brand new beach volleyball venue that we are really excited about. Baseball will get a new weight room and the list goes on and on.
MB: Thanks Joe.
Joe: My pleasure. And I want to thank the fans for their support and passion and for making this the best place in America for collegiate sports.