In 1971, Carl Maddox reviewed the new football season ticket applications after one day of sales. 10,000 people had applied for season tickets and Tiger Stadium had just 500 seats available. It was time to expand the stadium. But, being Clipboard Maddox, he asked for a study from the Board of Supervisors first.
In 1972, the Board came back with its proposal: 10,000 new seats for $7 million. In today’s world, the LSU AD would leap at that offer, but Maddox was a bottom line thinker. He said no. The Board came back in 1974, planning 7,500 seats for $6 million. Maddox stilled stalled. The Legislature offered to kick in $5 million and finally, only then did Maddox decide to start construction on Tiger Stadium’s upper deck.
Maddox was the great builder of LSU facilities, but he was also a conservative man who planned his every move. And threw around nickels like manhole covers.
Program Overview 1971-74
Athletic Director: Carl Maddox
National Titles: None
Conference Titles: Wrestling (1971-72)
Programs Added: Women’s Volleyball (1974)
Facilities Added: LSU Assembly Center (1972)
The real reason he wanted to stall the Tiger Stadium construction is that Maddox had already committed funds to the program’s first major new building project since the John Parker Ag Coliseum in 1938: the LSU Assembly Center.
With the track stadium completed in 1968, Maddox worked on building a new home for the suddenly popular basketball team. Maravich never got to play in the PMAC, but it was the House That Pete Built. The Assembly Center cost LSU $11.5 million and it initially served as home to the basketball and wrestling teams, and plans were already underway to expand LSU sports offerings under the newly passed Title IX.
But LSU had a plan in place to monetize the new building almost immediately: live music. The Assembly Center had a fairly spectacular lineup of acts in its inaugural year. Three Dog Night played the first show on March 10, 1972, but the rest of the year included shows from Stephen Stills, Jackson Browne, Jethro Tull, and Elton John.
Over the rest of the 1970s, its heyday as a live music venue, the Assembly Center played host to Led Zeppelin, Styx, the Who, Yes, the Doobie Brothers, Neil Young, the Beach Boys, the Moody Blues, George Harrison, ELP, Grand Funk Railroad, Rod Stewart, and George Carlin. That’s a stacked roster. After Maddox, the shows dried up. There were a smattering of shows in the 80s, and the 90s played host to Guns n Roses and a REM/Radiohead double bill, but nothing in the past quarter century.
The reason there were so many concerts is because there weren’t as many teams back then and as soon as Pete left, the basketball team turned into a pumpkin
The Last Years of Press Maravich
With Pete off to the NBA, Press changed up his coaching style. Understandably, the entire offense ran through Pete while he was in school, but now that the greatest scorer in NCAA history was no longer on the team, Maravich tried to run a more balanced offense. This didn’t sit well with his best returning player, Apple Sanders, who felt that it was now his turn for the offense to run through him.
Sanders was an excellent center, but he wasn’t the kind of player you could revolve an offense around anyway. He averaged near 20 points and 15 rebounds a game, and the hallmark of his game was rebounding. His 1,168 career boards ranks 3rd all-time in school history. He could score (18th in school history), but not like Pete.
Sanders had spent two years setting screens for Pete, and now the Baton Rouge native wanted to be the focal point of the team. Press already had failed to play the political game by recruiting primarily out of state talent, so he needed a local boy to make good for future recruiting.
But Sanders broke his ankle before the season, making things worse. Sanders put up good but not great numbers, enough to make first team All-SEC and get drafted by the Virginia Squires of the ABA, but not the kind of numbers to make the locals happy. The alumni and boosters might not have been able to force McClendon out, but they had an easier target in Press.
Making things even worse for Maravich was that Governor Big John McKeithen had taken an interest in the basketball team. McKeithen took charge of Collis Temple Jr’s recruitment, in an attempt to integrate the LSU basketball team.
Collis Temple, Sr. had attempted to enroll at LSU in the 1950s and was part of the lawsuit which resulted in the admission of AP Tureaud, the first African-American student to LSU. Temple took a settlement in which LSU paid his tuition to attend any school in the nation. He obtained a master’s from Michigan St.
Temple Jr was being recruited by Kansas, as he arrived on their radar because he attended a science camp at KU and ended up playing pick-up games with Kansas All-American and future Hall of Famer Jo Jo White. But McKeithen and his father’s influence were too much, and Temple stayed home, explicitly to become the pioneer.
Remember all of the nice things the first African-American football players at LSU said about their teammates and coaching staff? Yeah, Press Maravich wasn’t Charles McClendon. As Temple told The Undefeated years later:
Temple Jr. said he was coached by a “very racist” Maravich for two years before the coach was replaced by Dale Brown in 1972. Brown said he didn’t know Maravich, but said that he remembered Temple Jr. telling him about the racism issues he had with his former coach.
“[Maravich] tried to be accommodating and nice to me, but he was extremely racist,” Temple Jr. said.
He also had issues with teammates.
“I played with teammates that called me n—– and got into physical altercations with me,” Temple Jr. said. “I broke up practice. They couldn’t finish practice and they didn’t practice the next day because I was so irritated and frustrated about what was happening. I was playing with [point guard Mike Darnell], who wouldn’t pass me the ball and would call me a n—–. He’s a point guard and I had to deal with this fool for three years.
“My coach couldn’t force him to pass me the ball. He would tell him to pass me the ball and this fool would hit me on my ankle with the ball, he would hit my knee with it. I would make a turn to post up and he would hit me in the back of the head with the ball. This is my teammate. He could do better. He was a better player than that. We would get into fights and shouting matches. I am playing on a team trying to win. I am playing against Kentucky and my teammates.”
On March 7, 1972, LSU dropped the axe on Press Maravich. LSU went 24-28 in his last two seasons without his son, and he closed his career losing six of his last seven games, the last four all by double digits. It was over.
Dale Brown and the “Hustlers”
I realize now that enough time has passed that there is a large portion of our readership who do not actually remember Dale Brown. Sure, you’ve seen him on a documentary or maybe some old footage or something, but if you don’t have personal knowledge of Dale Brown in his prime… he simply could not be described.
Dale Brown was a f’n force of nature. And he almost never became a head coach.
In 1972, he was an assistant at Washington St, working the field and networking to prepare to accept a job offer from Converse. As part of his networking, he struck up a friendship with Joe Dean, who recommended Brown to Maddox as a potential replacement.
After interviewing with Maddox, Dale called his wife to report on the meeting. She said that he had a better chance of becoming a kamikaze pilot with the Japanese Air Force than getting the LSU job. He replied that a kamikaze pilot has a brighter future than an LSU basketball coach.
If Pete Maravich couldn’t win at LSU, then who could? Dale Brown, that’s who.
Joe Dean claimed that he told Dale the truth about the job: “The people just aren’t interested. You’ll have to hang your nets, sweep the floor, keep your own stats, and sing the national anthem.”
This wasn’t much of an exaggeration. Dale performed basic maintenance on the brand new facility when he couldn’t get anyone to answer quickly enough to a work order. He recruited tirelessly, not just players, but fans. He paid for purple and gold nets and handed them out to anyone he met and even gave out LSU basketball bibs to newborns at the hospital.
And then his team lost a preseason scrimmage to Catholic High. In a preseason game, LSU lost to the University of the Americas. LSU was a bad team, picked to finish last in the SEC.
The Tigers opened the 1972-73 season against #11 Memphis St and before the game, Coach Gene Bartow accidentally called Dale, “Dave.” Dale made this the centerpiece of his pregame motivational speech, that Memphis didn’t even respect them enough to learn their damn names. LSU played a frenetic style, diving for every loose ball and contesting every shot, and pulled off the shocker against the eventual national runners-up 94-81. LSU went 14-10 and 9-9 in the SEC. It was LSU’s highest SEC win total on a team that didn’t boast Pete Maravich since 1954.
Dale Wins Over Collis
Collis Temple’s career at LSU was on the brink. He had muddled through a sophomore campaign of Press’ inevitable demise, as the team slipped from his control and Temple became more isolated. Some of his teammates tried to take him to the local hotspots, only to be turned away. So Temple stopped going out.
One of his teammates (from Indiana, but LSU had two players from Indiana so it could be either of them) slipped a note under his door which threatened that they lynch people like him back in Indiana, too. Press lacked the power to stop it, though Temple admitted that Press at least meant well and tried to do his best.
Now, on Dale’s team, Collis wasn’t fitting into the new system and he started to freelance, so Dale benched him. Collis Sr. showed up in Dale’s office and demanded to know what was up and Dale explained that Collis had been pouting, so he sent him to the bench as punishment. And Collis, Sr exclaimed “Collis, this is your father when you’re in Baton Rouge. You do exactly what Coach Brown says.”
From that point on, Collis was Dale’s best player. He was named to the All-Academic SEC Team as a junior and a senior, and the second team All-SEC squad his senior year. He’d earn a Masters degree from LSU, play in the NBA for the Spurs and the Sonics, and was drafted by NBA, the ABA, and the NFL, the only athlete to be drafted by all three of those leagues.
But the racist taunts never went away. Temple claimed that Kentucky was the worst place to play. He suffered harassment from the fans and players, and the refs did nothing to protect him. He finally lost his cool against Vanderbilt, punching out Jan van Breda Kolff during a midgame brawl.
On the return trip to Vandy, the abuse was intense though to be fair, it wasn’t entirely racially motivated. He did punch out one of their players. At halftime of the game, the police informed the team that there was a threat that if Dale and Collis returned to the floor, they would be shot. Collis played, Dale coached, but LSU lost to the #5 Commodores by three.
Despite it all, Collis Temple loved LSU. LSU’s Final Four team in 2006 was primarily made up of kids he coached on the same AAU team: Garrett Temple, Tyrus Thomas, Glen Davis, and Tasmin Mitchell were all Collis Temple AAU vets. In 2017, he was finally inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame.
Tragedy Strikes Baseball
On Opening Day of the 1972 season, pitcher Randy Wiles hurled a no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader against Rice. He pitched seven innings (a full game due to the doubleheader rules), notching 11 strikeouts and only one walk. Rice nearly broke it up with an infield hit, but freshman shortstop Mike Miley made an outstanding play to record the out and preserve the no-hitter.
Miley wasn’t even supposed to be there. The Reds selected Miley with their first pick in the 1971 draft, but Miley passed on the bonus money to play baseball and football at LSU. He would star as the starting quarterback of the 1973 football team, guiding the team to the Sugar Bowl.
But he was even better on the diamond. Miley earned All-SEC twice. He decided to forgo his senior year when the Angels drafted him in 1974, making Miley, I believe, the first LSU football player to leave school early to turn pro.
At 2 A.M. on January 6, 1977, Miley’s car slammed into a culvert near LSU’s campus. The car overturned and Miley was thrown from the car. He was crushed by the car and died before ever getting a chance to play in the Major Leagues.
This is morbidly referenced as an instance of the Angels’ Curse. Three players in the Angels organization died in 1974 alone, and it was of this Harry Dalton, the Angles GM said was “the first thing I thought of” upon hearing of Miley’s death.
Swimming and Golf Get New Coaches
For twenty years, 1948-67, the golf team has two coaches: Mike Barbato and Harry Taylor. Between them, they won one national title and seven conference titles. It was a strong albeit minor program.
For some reason, as soon as Maddox took over as AD, instability reigned over the most stable of programs. Maddox hired a new coach in three consecutive seasons from 1968-70. After twenty years of stability, LSU now had more golf coaches in three years than it had in the prior two decades.
Ben Freeman, hired in 1970, didn’t last long either. He would end his term as the coach after two years, getting replaced by Bill Brogden in 1972. The crazy thing is that Freeman was clearly successful: the Tigers finished 2nd and 3rd in the SEC in his two seasons. I honestly have no idea what happened there.
Brogden settled into a groove of mid-tier SEC finishes and several tourney wins a year. The program wasn’t the stealth power it had once been, but it was still a competitive program, and dominant over its local rivals. Brogden would stay for five years before taking the Oral Roberts head job, where he would build a minor power at ORU and then Tulsa over the next four decades.
Swimming, on the other, seemed to get off on the wrong foot right away. Ivan Harless took over the head job in 1971. Harless would guide the Tigers to their first winning season in 1972 and a trip to NCAA Championships. LSU finished 4th in the SEC, a finish the team would not best until 1988.
Bob Smith wins a lot of SEC titles
One of the cool things about doing a project like this is that sometimes people reach out to you to share some personal anecdotes or, more often, to complain about something. Anyway, I got an email from a former track athlete who gently took me to task for implying the track program wasn’t any good in the 1970s, and for that, he’s absolutely right and I apologize. The track program put up some monster performances in the early 1970s. Of course, that was mainly due to the letter’s author himself, Bob Smith.
LSU track finished 3rd in the SEC nine times between 1964-75 and was the SEC runner up in 1970. This was a really good team that just couldn’t quite get over the hump. But it’s not like they didn’t add to the trophy case.
Starting in 1972, Bob Smith would win at least one SEC title every year for four consecutive years. Larry Shipp, starting in 1974, would win at least on SEC title for three consecutive seasons. Bob Smith would finish his LSU career with eight SEC titles, one away from the school record, and tying the great Al Coffee.
Let’s put this in perspective, Smith won 8 titles. That’s one more than Slats Hardin. That’s two more than Xavier Carter. That’s three more than Richard Thompson. It’s four more than either Trindon Holiday or Eddie Kennison won, so combined, they only equal his total.
And I know this is when you roll your eyes and think that yeah, he won in the 1970s, but today’s athletes would smoke his ass. Well, yeah, because he’s got to be nearing 70 years old. But this is about the time when objective records start to hold up. I know we want to believe everyone is bigger, stronger, and faster these days, but Smith’s 800m time still ranks fifth in the LSU record book. His 1500m time ranks eighth, right behind John Stewart’s mark set in 1972.
And it’s not just Smith. Stewart’s 5000m time ranks fourth. Larry Shipp’s 110m hurdle time from 1976 is fifth. Carey Schimpf’s 400m hurdles ranks ninth, set in 1975.
And remember, this is before modern nutrition, training techniques, and medical treatments. This is with old fashioned equipment on tracks we would now consider archaic. These guys could fly, and we’re comparing them against an LSU program that would win a bunch of titles in the future.
Smith also informed me that the team did go to the NCAA’s each year, it’s just that they went as individuals and they would add up the team score. I’m not sure why the media guide lists it as a “dnc” but I’ll trust the guy who was there.
Smith was inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame in 2005.
Women? Playing Sports?
In 1972, the US Congress passed Public Law No. 92‑318, 86 Stat. 235, codified at 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681–1688. Better known to you and me as Title IX.
I believe it’s overly reductive to say Title IX created women’s sports. The changes in culture were already happening and it was the attitude of people that changed, forcing Congress to pass a law as a reaction to what was already occurring. Let’s not give the government credit for something the people did.
That said, Title IX paved the way for women’s collegiate athletics. There would be no dragging of the feet or reactionary state legislation like there was regarding integration. Once the nation decided that intercollegiate sports should be open to both genders, the machinery cranked relentlessly forward towards that goal.
OK, that’s not exactly true either. The NCAA filed suit in 1976 to avoid compliance with Title IX. It, uh, didn’t go well for them. The courts dismissed the case in 1978.
In 1974, women’s sports debuted on LSU’s campus with women’s volleyball. Jinks Coleman was named the school’s first coach of women’s sport. A graduate of Northwestern St., Coleman had served as a high school girl’s basketball and track coach. She had served as the captain of Northwestern St’s volleyball team prior.
And she, and her program, were promptly ignored by the administration. LSU would sponsor women’s sports, but it was reluctantly at first, and the school would treat women’s sports as more of a legal compliance issue than an actual competitive endeavor until the early 1980s.
It was an utter waste of an opportunity. While LSU was busy pretending no one cared about women’s sports, Louisiana Tech was busy building a women’s basketball superpower that would fully flower in the 1980s, though it was built on the foundation of winning 20 games a year in the 1970s.
There is no earthly reason that Louisiana Tech became a national power other than the fact LSU did not invest in its program at all. Coleman was a dedicated coach who would be pulling double duty by 1976, coaching the basketball team as well. She was the first LSU coach to helm two different sports since Harry Rabenhorst ended his long run as baseball and basketball coach, two programs that also suffered from neglect prior to 1960.
LSU couldn’t really be bothered to support Dale Brown’s basketball program during this time, so the open question is whether this was sexism or simply an athletic program that was so football mad, it could prioritize nothing else. Or, you know, both.
Or it was simply Carl Maddox’s conservative nature. He didn’t do anything quickly, and he kept slowly adding women’s sports, just as he kept slowly building facilities. It wasn’t overnight, but by the end of his tenure, he had completely transformed LSU athletics. But that’s a story for another day.