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LSU Coaching Search Update: Nearing the End?

Joe Alleva has settled on two names.

NCAA Football: Houston at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

And as the regular season closes today, LSU should have some level of closure by the end of the day today. Earlier today, as expected, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva met with interim head coach Ed Orgeron regarding his plans for the job beyond this season.

Saturday, as reported by the Advocate’s Ross Dellenger, he will meet with Houston head coach Tom Herman:

The search is winding down, and leaders expect to make a decision by Sunday, but that's contingent on Herman's interest in a Texas head coaching job that's not yet open. and reported Thursday night that LSU and Herman were deep in talks and could close on a deal as early as Saturday. The reports sparked Texas officials late Thursday to meet with Herman’s agent, Trace Armstrong, reported.

It seems to have thrown Texas and LSU into a high-stakes game for Herman, something that LSU's leaders had hoped to avoid. Many feel Herman covets the Texas job, and that his agent, in a calculated move, fed information to Texas officials and/or UT beat reporters regarding LSU's negations with his client.

LSU leaders feared Texas' emergence into the coaching search arena. The Longhorns are desperate and wealthy, but there is a chance embattled Texas coach Charlie Strong will be retained, though multiple reports have indicated he will be fired. The Longhorns close the regular season Friday against TCU.

"We're not going to miss out on any (coach) for a certain amount of money," one LSU source told The Advocate, "but we're not going to be lunatics."

Texas, of course, lost its final game in miserable fashion. That said, there does not appear to be much urgency on the Longhorns’ part to speak with Herman right away. Early reports are they’ll meet with current head coach Charlie Strong tomorrow. Most expect that to end with Strong’s departure.

And either way, the ball is squarely in Herman’s court. LSU will make him an offer, and it’s likely to be substantial. If Herman leaves Baton Rouge without accepting it, look for the call on Orgeron as LSU’s full-time head coach to be made on Sunday, with a possible press conference on Monday.

Ultimately, everybody knows where Texas stands in his pecking order on this. If he passes on LSU, he’ll likely wind up in Austin along the same time frame. A Texas 247 site is already reporting that Texas will try to schedule an interview tomorrow as well. One possible sticking point could be Herman’s offensive coordinator, Major Applewhite, who is problematic for Texas due to the still active Bev Kearney lawsuit. Kearney, a former track & field coach at UT, was pressured to resigned after sexual relationships with her students were uncovered. Applewhite, shortly thereafter, was disciplined, but not fired, for having an affair with a student trainer while he was an assistant coach on Mack Brown’s staff. Kearney has been suing for discrimination, and if the university were to hire Applewhite back, that would be very damaging to her case. The question, of course, would be whether this situation would be enough to influence Herman out of what is universally considered his dream job, by multiple sources close to him.

Overall, LSU started conversations with Herman earlier in the week through intermediaries, and reportedly was very impressed — more so, I’m told, than by Jimbo Fisher, who was the favorite of several influential boosters, but not Alleva. As for Orgeron, Alleva has always been impressed with the way he’s managed the program after replacing Les Miles, and is more than comfortable with him as a candidate.

So it’s down to two names. Look for it to be down to one by Sunday.