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History Class: Bob Brodhead... Off the Field

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When even more drama was taking place in the admin building

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As the curse goes, “may you live in interesting times.” The tenure of Bob Brodhead was definitely that, and maybe the most impactful four years in LSU history. Brodhead didn’t make many friends in his time in Baton Rouge, but he modernized the athletics department and turned it into a winner in all sports. Read about the winning in Part One.

He’s one of those people about whom both his critics and defenders are both absolutely correct. He had the tact of an elephant, but the coaches he hired were devoted to him. He cleaned up rot and corruption and ran the department based on merit, but was also sunk by scandal and FBI investigation. His teams won, but he seemed to care first about making a buck. He cowed the old guard, and then lost his political war with them. It’s all true.

DIETZEL MISMANAGES THE BOOKS

Brodhead would tell the story of his tenure at LSU in detail in his book, Sacked! I cannot recommend it more highly. Sure, it airs all sorts of dirty laundry, but he also reveals things about himself that seem like a tremendously bad idea. He comes off as amoral, while LSU comes off as merely incompetent. Still, find yourself a copy. I relied on it heavily, mainly because no rational person would admit to some of things he admits to. He may be Bottom Line Bob to the very end, but he strikes me as honest to a fault.

Brodhead doesn’t mince words:

“I investigated more types of business establishments than I knew existed, and I uncovered more bogus business practices than I cared to believe were possible. But I had never seen a more financially corrupt situation than the one I had walked into at LSU.”

Despite calling out LSU for negligence and corruption, Brodhead does attempt to protect Dietzel’s reputation. He blames the financial mismanagement on Dietzel delegating financial matters to Associate AD Larry Jones, who also had no financial experience. They weren’t corrupt, just in over their heads in the new modern, multi-million dollar era of college sports.

Brodhead saw the audit for what it was and called a spade a spade:

“The internal audit had not been ordered to uncover problems with the Athletic Department and make suggestions to help solve them; it had been ordered to find fault with Paul Dietzel.”

One of the few savvy political moves Brodhead made was to shield Dietzel from criticism. He didn’t need to pick that fight, particularly because LSU Chancellor James Wharton was leaking everything he could to the media to justify Dietzel’s ouster:

Wharton then conducted an audit, which indicated mismanagement, but nothing criminal, sources said.

The audit included these items: More than $13,000 was spent over the course of the season to take the football team by bus from the locker room to the practice field — about a quarter of a mile. Steve Dietzel, Paul’s son, was hired as an assistant coordinator of development In three years, his salary went from $16,000 to $25.000 Sources said no one had any idea what Steve did. He left when his father did.

The athletic department operated out of a $65,000 petty cash fund for all but large expenses. Anyone going on a business trip withdrew money from the fund with the approval of his head coach and the business manager. Money rarely was returned and vouchers often were vaguely worded, the audit said.

Dietzel would later sue for defamation of character. LSU would settle out of court. Dietzel’s defense was that he changed no policies or personnel, and he did the same things which had been done for 20 years at LSU. While he was likely correct, this isn’t as great as a defense as he thought.

College sports, not just LSU sports, were now a big business in a way they simply weren’t under Carl Maddox and Jim Corbett.

The most famous story is the purple and gold fur coats, and while a not a huge deal in their own right, the coats became symbolic of everything wrong at LSU prior to Brodhead’s arrival.

Dietzel bought several hundred fur coats and the LSU gift shop dutifully stocked the fashion atrocities. No one was going to buy a coat that ugly, to say nothing of the practicality of a fur coat in southern Louisiana. Ten were sold, and LSU lost thousands of dollars on the deal.

Again, not corrupt, just stupid. That was LSU sports under Dietzel.

Brodhead came in to change that. His book spends a whole chapter detailing how he reformed concessions to bring in more money. Brodhead claimed the entire department was in a state of disarray, with each sport operating as an independent fiefdom.

As Christine Brennan reported at the time:

Quickly, Brodhead went to work dismantling LSU tradition and creating some of his own He brought in some of his own people — “all the old people were pretty well cleaned out before I got here anyway” — raised ticket prices, reorganized concessions, packaged radio and game program advertising, and, most ambitiously, organized a state cable TV network called Tiger Vision, set to being Jan. 2.

“There is a great tradition here at night,” he said. But there was no tradition of stability in the athletic department. “There has been no miracle here,” Brodhead said. “All LSU needed was a solid business approach to intercollegiate sports. We just started watching pennies, and I also told the coaches we had to win. We didn’t have to go from eighth to first, but I told them we might take a shot at third (in SEC sports). “It just happened much faster than I thought it could.”

He cared about making money, he was Bottom Line Bob after all, but he also knew when to back down. He turned down ABC’s payday to move the Florida St. game to the day to preserve the LSU night game tradition, leading to the famed Oranges Raining on the Field game in 1982.

That said, he fired Stovall a year later. Sure, it was over his won-loss record, but costing the program several hundred thousand dollars in TV revenue certainly didn’t help.

Dietzel always had a fraught history with LSU. Armed with the audit, you could get away with firing him, particularly as Brodhead kept his hands relatively clean. But going after Stovall was a genuine act of war against the old guard, and they knew it.

Dale Brown talking with Governor John McKeithen
Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

At a public meeting, former governor John McKeithen fought the ouster of Stovall before finally backing down but he issued a stern warning to Brodhead:

‘If he don’t win the national championship next year it’s going to be tough for all concerned,’ McKeithen said.

He also warned of repercussions from the firing, saying LSU would lose support among its alumni and fans, and might be unable to recruit top-notch high school players.

‘I don’t question Mr. Brodhead’s sincerity,’ McKeithen said. ‘But sir, you do not know LSU and you will not live long enough to know LSU as I know LSU.’

Look, on the one hand, weakening the old boys network needed to happen. On the other, picking a fight with McKeithen, LSU’s most visible and powerful benefactor, probably wasn’t the wisest of moves.

Brodhead liked to portray the old boys’ network as a bunch of corrupt, incompetent rubes. He wildly underestimated the political savvy of the men he was locked in combat with. Yes, LSU needed reform, but he could have done it without alienating every politically connected member of the Board of Supervisors. They were just itching for the chance to take this outsider down.

THE FIRST SCANDAL

As soon as Brodhead pushed Jerry Stovall out the door, the NCAA investigators showed up. What an amazing coincidence! The Athletic Director alienates the most powerful boosters of the program and just a few months later, an investigation begins due to payments from boosters.

It’s almost as if someone got pissed off and blabbed to sabotage new football coach Bill Arnsparger and Brodhead from the get go. But no one in Louisiana would ever be that petty, right?

Two former football players at Louisiana State have told N.C.A.A. investigators that L.S.U. athletes received payoffs, cars, clothes and other illegal gifts. Donald Polk, a former quarterback, and Clyde Bishop, a former wide receiver, described a network of wealthy alumni that players nicknamed ‘’money men’’ who financially subsidized individual athletes during their football careers at the school.

‘’The thing that impressed me with L.S.U. the most was the money,’’ Polk said. ‘’You could go to alumni and get money and not pay it back. At Christmas, times like that, between $50 and $100.’’ Polk and Bishop were among athletes, coaches and recruits questioned in Baton Rouge by the N.C.A.A., which notified L.S.U. last April that an inquiry was being made into the operations of the school’s athletic department. L.S.U. officials denied any knowledge of illegal gifts, as did Jerry Stovall, the football coach for four years before being dismissed last December.

Not gifts of $100! The horror!

I mean, this is the era of Eric Dickerson’s Trans Am, and he didn’t even go to A&M. SMU would go on probation for the famed Payroll to Meet scandal. Half of the SWC was on probation, leading to the conference’s downfall. Florida was on probation for a “Scandal without Repentance”, Heck, Illinois was accused of 186 violations, and Illinois football barely got past mediocre.

If there was a lawless period in NCAA history, the 1980s were it. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. The 1970s were probably the peak lawless period, and in the 80s, the NCAA tried to reassert its authority and reel in the reckless programs now that they had lost control of the TV money in the Oklahoma Board of Regents case. So I don’t want to say LSU sports weren’t paying players, they almost certainly were, but also… consider the context of the era. An investigation over $100 handshakes was like putting up a speed trap at the Daytona 500.

Brodhead immediately went on the offensive, and slandered the athletes making the accusations.

Louisiana State athletic director Bob Brodhead said students quoted in a copyright story claiming an intense NCAA investigation into the university’s athletic practices were disgruntled, former or transferred football players ‘who didn’t stay around.’

The pay-for-play scandal came on the heels of accusations of extra practices in the offseason, which was a minor violation at the time. Still, it was a bad look and was partly cover for firing Stovall. Don’t blame us, it was the prior coach’s fault.

Brodhead also blamed an NCAA investigation known as Operation Intercept. Operation Interception started in the early 1980s, and involved interviews with all of the top 100 football and top 50 basketball prospects, starting with their time in high school.

Ultimately, Operation Intercept would be a dud. It was an attempted expansion of NCAA power, but to this day, they lack subpoena power and don’t have any real standards of due process.

Yeah, they made everyone skittish for awhile, and the NCAA toppled SMU and harshly punished Illinois, Auburn, and Florida, but ultimately, all they did was piss off the coaches, the fans, and push forth a narrative that college football was dirty.

In the wake of recent reform and #NILSU, the “scandals” of the 1980s seem almost quaint. Oh no, players got some hundred dollar handshakes. The world must certainly have stopped spinning.

The NCAA investigated LSU for almost two years, and ultimately found no violations coming from this alleged pay for play program under Stovall.

But once the NCAA investigators show up, they don’t ever want to leave.

TITO HORFORD’S RECRUITMENT

Dale Brown with players John Williams (24) and Tito Horford (52) during photo shoot outside LSU Assembly Center. Baton Rouge, LA 9/20/1985
Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Tito Horford was a 7’1” center in an era in which centers dominated college basketball. The normally lawless arena of college basketball recruiting got even more lawless given that Horford lived in the Dominican Republic, even further from the prying eyes of the NCAA. Every school wanted him and recruited him hard.

However, the big winners were the University of Houston.

Horford averaged only 2.1 points in seven games, but a teammate, former Houston player Darryl Brown, was so impressed with his ability that he phoned Terry Kirkpatrick, then a Houston assistant coach. Kirkpatrick relayed word about Horford to Bob Gallagher, a steel-industry executive who coached at Marian Christian High School and who often played pickup basketball on the Houston campus. The strategy seemed obvious: Bring Horford to Houston to play high school ball, then keep him there to play college ball.

In September 1982, Horford enrolled at Marian Christian, determined to relearn the English that his father, a Bahamian immigrant, had taught him as a child. His father died a month later, and shortly thereafter, Ana Baltazar gave Gallagher permission to act as her son’s legal guardian. “Tito needed a guardian in case there was an emergency,” she explained.

Although Houston had the inside track on signing Horford, it wasn’t taking any chances. In the summer of 1984, after Horford’s junior year, Houston assistant Donnie Schverak flew to Santo Domingo, met with Horford, then hired a car to take him to his mother’s house in La Romana, two hours away. The NCAA later ruled that Schverak had violated its rules forbidding coaches from meeting prospective players during the summer months and providing them with transportation.

Houston executed its plan to near perfection, and kept Horford isolated at a Houston high school, essentially running other recruiters out of town. But Dale Brown was no ordinary recruiter. He had already made inroads in the Dominican Republic when recruiting Jose Vargas, and the Dominican vice-president Carlos Morales Troncoso happened to be an LSU alum. (Yes, you read that right). Brown pulled whatever strings he needed.

But his masterstroke was that Houston, taking no chances with momma, kept her in the DR, and had her appointed guardian, Bob Gallagher, sign the letter of intent papers with Horford. The problem was that Gallagher never properly filled out the paperwork to become Horford’s guardian, so Brown hired Houston lawyers to file suit to invalidate the contract.

This got everyone else interested in Horford again and the vultures descended on Houston to secure his signature, so Houston, probably overreacting, put Horford up in a casino resort to avoid contact with recruiters, which turned out to be a violation.

The NCAA invalidated the letter of intent, found Houston guilty of multiple recruiting violations, and immediately reopened Horford’s recruitment. Brown set up a meeting with Horford, only to be stood up by the mercurial center, leading Dale Brown to comment, “If Tito crawled up the front steps of the (LSU) Assembly Center, I wouldn’t take him.”

It didn’t take much for Brown to change his tune. Horford visited LSU with the intent to sign, but before Dale would take Horford into the fold, he made perhaps the best decision of his entire coaching career: he had Horford submit to a deposition under oath, answering questions that LSU had not conducted any NCAA violations in his long, strange recruitment.

Brown warned Horford of the consequences of lying under oath. “I told him, ‘You’ll be sitting in the crowd (with the inmates) when we play our intrasquad scrimmage this year at the Angola State Penitentiary,’ ” Brown said. With a court reporter transcribing the proceedings, Horford was questioned by Nathan Fisher, a lawyer chosen by LSU:

During the 50-minute deposition, Fisher asked Horford why he decided to leave Houston. “Well, see, you know, I was thinking about, you know, I wanted to go someplace where I think I’m going to be happy and enjoy the place,” Horford responded.

Horford was asked whether anyone representing LSU had offered him any inducements. “Never,” he said. He also was questioned about his relationship with [Eduardo Gomez, a former Dominican basketball star, friend of Dale Brown, and Horford’s first coach]. “He never put pressure on me about, come to LSU,” Horford said.

Horford signed with LSU, no crawling required. But he would never play a game for the Tigers.

First, Horford skipped out on an intrasquad scrimmage due to a stomach ache. Then he claimed he injured himself falling out of bed.

A day later, Horford had disappeared to Washington, DC and no one from LSU could locate him. Bending to reality, Dale Brown kicked Horford off the team.

DOUG JOHNSON ARRIVES

This sort of high profile recruitment, which failed spectacularly and publicly, heightened the NCAA’s attention. So they sent one of their most high profile investigators, Doug Johnson, a man so remorseless he once nailed St. John’s for the crime of the Italian national team paying for the plane ticket for Marco Baldi. This was a benefit that had nothing to do with college sports or even St. John’s. That didn’t matter to Johnson.

He also built his reputation as the guy who nailed the Gators football program.

“I’m certainly not ashamed of anything I did in the past,” he said. “It wasn’t a personal matter. We don’t pick and choose universities. I think it helped intercollegiate sports, and I think it helped the University of Florida in the long run.”

Johnson would claim that Horford independently approached him regarding violations committed by LSU, but no one really believed him. It was all leverage for Horford’s new appeal to now go back to Houston after withdrawing from LSU.

As for Horford, he was still hiding out in DC and literally no one at LSU knew where he was. He was still enrolled at the university, but not for long….

After a few weeks, Horford turned back up at Houston, trying to renew his commitment to the Cougars by claiming LSU offered him improper benefits, invalidating his commitment there. However, the under oath transcript prevented him from pointing a finger at LSU.

I told y’all that the deposition was a good idea.

Julio Castillo [a Federal Trade Commission lawyer who was born in La Romana, DR] declined to provide details about his relationship with Horford. “The whole experience was frustrating to Julio,” said [American University Coach Ed] Tapscott, who has known Castillo for 10 years. “Julio tried to get Tito a job, but apparently Tito wasn’t interested in working.

“Tito made a lot of calls, and Julio ended up with some sizable phone bills. Julio wished Tito had shown a little more appreciation. He said, ‘I was just trying to be a good guy. It ended up costing me money. It ended up costing me anxiety.’ ”

Given Brown’s success recording a conversation, Brodhead decided to follow suit. On the date Johnson was scheduled to interview Horford, Brodhead helpfully offered his own office as the location… because he had bugged his own office. Unfortunately for Brodhead, the man he hired to do the job was an FBI informant.

Dale Brown appeared before the grand jury regarding the bugging investigation, but loudly decried the hypocrisy of the NCAA: “In America today we are more concerned about speeding and parking than rape and murder, it’s ludicrous,”

It was then Dale Brown unleashed his famed “gestapo bastards” quote regarding the NCAA investigators, and Johnson in particular. LSU, now the subject of both an FBI and NCAA investigation, now found itself the center of the media spotlight. Which would lead to the most infamous sports article in LSU history.

CRAZY DAYS AT LSU

Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

I really can’t do the 1985 Sports Illustrated profile of the LSU investigation justice. It is a tour de force in just how screwed up things were at LSU, and neither Bob Brodhead nor Dale Brown were backing down an inch.

Seriously, if you’ve never read it, you really should. It’s amazing. Here are some highlights:

But even Louisiana’s most jambalayan-jaded residents were shocked last week when the debris from two recent explosions in LSU’s athletic department floated every which way before rolling down diverse trails seemingly headed straight for one another. On one path, LSU athletic director Bob Brodhead was appearing before a federal grand jury, which was trying to figure out why electronic eavesdropping equipment was found in his office, BRODHEAD BUGS ME bumper stickers and BUGS BRODHEAD T shirts with a likeness of the A.D. munching a carrot were at the printers in the wink of an eye. On the other path, Tito Horford, the 7’1” freshman who, LSU basketball coach Dale Brown says, could be “the most dominating center in college in one year,” was walking...or riding...or otherwise vanishing into the extremely thin air of an ongoing NCAA preliminary investigation into both LSU’s football and basketball programs. Brown screamed of “tampering” by other schools. But Horford had taken leave of, chronologically, his native Dominican Republic, the University of Houston and LSU as well as all logic, and had left only trouble in his wake.

...

Well, it’s complicated, but as U.S. Attorney Stanford O. Bardwell said, “I am informed that he [Brown] has been pretty close to the whole situation. He would have been in a position to have accurate information. It’s interesting...maybe he wants that job [the athletic directorship] and wants to get rid of Brodhead.... I didn’t say that.... That’s not my opinion.... That’s strictly street talk.”

...

After Sting was finished, at about 11 o’clock, immediately across the way another sting was starting. It was then that the FBI observed Brodhead and a 300-pound man with a squeaky voice identified by SI’s sources as George Arthur Davis, an FBI informant, entering the LSU athletic offices. Once inside, according to an FBI affidavit, they discussed what Brodhead allegedly wanted to accomplish, namely, the installation of equipment with the intent “of intercepting oral communication within his office to which he was not a party”—a federal violation for which the maximum penalties are a $10,000 fine, five years in prison, or both. The following day a federal search warrant was issued, and the equipment—transmitters, voice-activated tape recorder, a patch cord, your basic tools from the G. Gordon Liddy library—was confiscated. Ed Pistey, the agent in charge of the FBI’s New Orleans office, which has jurisdiction in the case, said, “The results that have been achieved can be described as positive.”

...

Brown has been angered over the NCAA’s interrogation tactics, which he says involve intimidation, coercion and “putting words in players’ mouths.” Brown said he furnished Brodhead with a transcript of a conversation he says he taped with former LSU player Steffond Johnson in which Johnson discussed his “panic” over NCAA tactics. Brown quoted Johnson as saying Doug Johnson, the NCAA investigator, told him: “You can help us get Dale Brown. We have LSU but want Dale Brown.... Don’t tell them we talked to you...or you put yourself in jeopardy.” Contacted by SI Monday, Steffond Johnson, who is now at San Diego State, characterized Doug Johnson’s conversation with him as “intimidating.” But he also said of the NCAA inquiry, “It’s no vendetta.” He said that what the NCAA’s Johnson told him was, “If [Brown’s] a cheater, we’re going to get him whether you help us or not.” Then Steffond Johnson added: “For LSU basketball, it doesn’t look good. This guy knew everything.”

David Berst, the NCAA’s director of enforcement, said, “We certainly do on occasion put pressure on institutions or individuals to cause them to talk to us. But...we don’t put words in people’s mouths. We’re not inclined to steer the outcome of interviews.”

...

Last Friday, Brodhead met with journalists and declined to answer questions about his grand jury appearance of the day before. But Brown did his part to occupy the scribes with his own version of cynical Bayou humor. “I’ve heard Tito’s been seen in seven different cities on three continents,” he said. “I’m disappointed. I thought by this time he’d be on the moon.”

I mean, come on. That is pure entertainment. And while Brodhead was guilty of wire tapping, it was his own office, and that’s more Keystone Cops stuff than actual malfeasance.

And in the end, Brown was proven right. After three long years, the NCAA investigation of his basketball program turned up only minor violations:

He said former executive director Walter Byers, enforcement director David Berst and investigator Doug Johnson were “Gestapo bastards” who reminded him of “Stalin and Himmler.” One of Brown’s proudest moments came when the NCAA, after a 3-year investigation of LSU, gave up trying to prove allegations of major recruiting infractions and imposed a light penalty that Brown perceived as proof “We don’t cheat.”

As a face-saving gesture, the NCAA found those nine violations resulted in the loss of two basketball scholarships. Again, remember that Illinois had 186. And they didn’t have an NCAA investigator literally taking up office space for three years on their campus.

After a three-year investigation, the N.C.A.A. found L.S.U. guilty of nine rules infractions, including an attempt by Bob Brodhead, former athletic director, to eavesdrop on N.C.A.A. investigators during its investigation. The other violations involved boosters buying players’ free tickets for up to $500 and donating free apartments and meals to players.

It was a slap on the wrist, and barely one at that. LSU wouldn’t even miss the tournament and was only a few years away from bringing in Mahmoud Abdul-Raouf, Stanley Roberts, and Shaquille O’Neal all on one team.

Dale Brown fought the NCAA, and Dale Brown won. And they would not let that stand. The NCAA would eventually set Brown up in the Lester Earl scandal, but that is a story for another day. The NCAA does not forgive.

THE FALLOUT

Chancellor Wharton moved quickly into damage control, “In view of recent developments, the university must re-emphasize its position so that there can be no misunderstanding concerning its intention to cooperate fully with the NCAA.”

But the biggest problem was not the public relations. Heck, it wasn’t even the NCAA investigation, as LSU would come out on top without even a slap on the wrist. The biggest problem was the now open fissure in the athletic department between its two most high profile coaches, Dale Brown and Bill Arnsparger.

It was no secret who Brodhead supported, his longtime friend Arnsparger. He had forced out an LSU legend to hire Arnsparger, and now was in the position in which his fate was tied to his football coach, even more than a normal AD:

“Bill demanded that Dale’s players go to class, that they undergo drug tests. He made a statement in front of Brown and all the other coaches that almost no one cared about the other sports, and that they were a drain on football. It almost incited a riot among my staff.”

Let’s allow Dale Brown to retort: “Here I had been there all these years, and I was very disappointed. I confronted him. . . . I was hearing he was making demands. Different things. I’ll leave it at demands.”

Complicating Brodhead’s defense of Arnsparger is that the NCAA actually found more violations of the football program than the basketball program:

Louisiana State officials have accepted blame for 15 of 26 rules violations that the NCAA says were committed in the university's football program. The NCAA also claimed Wednesday it has found more infractions in the basketball program. A report on those is pending. The basketball investigation was expected to be finished in January.

The football violations include a player selling his free game tickets for $1,097 and an assistant coach treating two recruits to hamburgers. The NCAA will propose any penalty after a meeting with LSU officials next month. The investigation of the football program was begun in 1983 amid allegations that cash payments and other illegal gifts were made under former coach Jerry Stovall.

Worse for Brodhead, Bill Arnsparger saw this as the perfect opportunity to try and extract his pound of flesh from the administration. According to tennis coach Jerry Simmons memoir “Inside the Eye of the Tiger”, which we’ve referenced in past episodes, the relationship between Arnsparger and Brodhead began to deteriorate and Arnsparger went to Wharton with a list of demands. First among them? Fire Dale Brown.

Brodhead attempted to squash the dissent by calling a meeting of all of the coaches. If this was Camelot, this was the full Knights of the Roundtable. Again, according to Simmons, the meeting descended into anarchy, with the football and basketball assistant coaches yelling threats at one another, and Arnsparger storming out.

Dale attempted to apologize, but at the same time, he wasn’t going to to give in. If anything, the Tito Horford scandal made Dale Brown even more powerful, and he couldn’t be bullied by Arnsparger or even Brodhead.

As for Brodhead, his problems seem to multiply, as he was the only one to face any sort of real sanction for the article. While it seemed everyone involved viewed the FBI investigation as rather silly rather than a true threat, the criminal case went against him went forward.

Brodhead was sentenced to 200 hours of community service work and fined the maximum $1,000 by U.S. District Judge John Parker, who scolded Brodhead for betraying his position on trust. “Obeying the law — or to put it another way, playing by the rules of the game — is the minimum to be expected of a person in your position,” Parker said.

The charge of conspiring to intercept radio communications ended months of bargaining with federal prosecutors.

For the first time since FBI agents seized microphones from his desk last Oct. 27, Brodhead admitted he intended to listen to NCAA investigators’ interviews of LSU players. “I was aware that this procedure was questionable, but decided that I would do it to protect our athletes and the university,” Brodhead said after his court appearance.

Some community service and small fine isn’t much of a sanction, but it gave the school cover to pull the plug on the brash outsider who generated so much bad press. The boosters hated him because their power got reduced, the academics hated him for professionalizing the sports programs, and the town hated him for the open contempt he had for Louisiana.

The bad press for Brodhead continued when his son was found guilty of drug possession, burglary, and arms possession. This paragraph from the news report is a wild ride:

The teenage son of LSU athletic director Bob Brodhead remains jailed on $30,000 bond as another count was added to the 10 filed against him. Already booked on two counts each of possession of a controlled dangerous substance, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and illegal possession of stolen goods and one count each of simple burglary, possession of a sawed- off shotgun, possession of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute a brand-name tranquilizer, Jason Brodhead also was charged with possessing $2,300 worth of stolen lingerie. Police said he had given it to his girlfriend.

LSU didn’t want the headache, and Brodhead didn’t have any friends to bail him out of trouble. His teams had started to win, but they hadn’t started rolling in the national titles yet, so he wasn’t yet untouchable. LSU moved on what looked like their last chance.

Ultimately, it wasn’t the wire-tapping, but a trip to Mexico. The Brodhead family went on vacation with Doug Manship (Yes, the same Manship in the long line of Manships that owned the Baton Rouge Advocate and for whom the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication is named after), who technically was Brodhead’s employer for his radio show. The conflict of interest is the sort of thing no one would care about under normal circumstances, but these weren’t normal circumstances.

Former LSU Athletic Director Bob Brodhead and local media executive Douglas Manship were found guilty of violating the state’s ethics codes, the Commission on Ethics for Public Officials announced Thursday.

However, the commission decided the violations were minor and the two were not ‘guilty of wrongdoing in the ordinary sense of the word.’ Nathan Fisher, Brodhead’s attorney, and Manship said they would accept the commission ruling. They now must sign a consent agreement. Brodhead was fined $2,500, but the commission immediately suspended the penalty.

Again, a minor violation and a small fine for an executive. But enough was enough. Brodhead had not developed the political alliances necessary to survive multiple scandals, and the school forced him to resign.

Bob Brodhead, Louisiana State University’s athletic director, resigned yesterday, a day before he was to have gone before the university’s athletic council to answer charges of violating the State Ethics Code.

The L.S.U. chancellor, James Wharton, said university boosters paid an undisclosed sum to buy out the remaining three years of Brodhead’s contract.

The ethics charges involved a free vacation trip paid for by a Baton Rouge news media executive, Douglas Manship, and reported improper payments a Manship company made for a Brodhead radio show.

So it ended not with a bang, but a whimper.

ARNSPARGER TRIES TO GET PROMOTED

Brodhead resigned on October 21, 1986. If you’ll note, that is right in the middle of football season, and a pretty good one at that. LSU would win the SEC title in 1986.

However, Arnsparger was already getting antsy, even before his benefactor in the AD office resigned. Arnsparger interviewed with Florida for their open AD position in August, just weeks before the season opener against A&M.

“Sure, I’m surprised. I had no idea Bill would go for the interview now,” Brodhead commented after finding out after the fact.

In response, Brodhead publicly reprimanded his coach, leading to a press conference in which Arnsparger officially withdrew his name from consideration for the Florida job, as the coach and the AD sat on opposite ends of the table. The symbolism was not lost on anyone.

Arnsparger continued to maneuver against Brodhead, all while keeping silent in public regarding the ongoing scandals, except to bad mouth Dale Brown, the rival whom he hated.

Chancellor Wharton called Brodhead into his office and curtly informed Brodhead that at LSU, the football coach mattered a whole lot more than the athletic director. Maybe its hindsight, but he wrote in Sacked! that he correctly evaluated the situation.

“I assume Arnsparger and the chancellor cut some sort of deal and that the athletic directorship came up during the discussion.”

Whatever detente existed, however tenuous, was completely out the window once Brodhead resigned. Arnsparger now openly campaigned for the open AD job, and renewed his interest in Florida.

He essentially negotiated at gunpoint with LSU. Either promote me or I am going to Florida. Either way, you lose your football coach. LSU, the school which practically invented the AD position as separate from the football program, would not be cowed and besides, after the Brodhead era, the last thing they wanted was a mini-Brodhead.

The irony is that Arnsparger’s major competition for the Florida job was none other than Brodhead himself, who wrote a ten page letter to Florida to advance his candidacy. He also engaged in some I-told-you-so’s after Florida ran afoul of NCAA bylaws again in 1989:

“Let me preface this by saying that I obviously don’t like the man,” Brodhead said in an interview this week, “and that he is one of the finest football coaches I’ve ever known.

“But you have a person who is totally untrained and incapable of handling the situation from the administrative sector. Bill is a good football coach. Period,” he said. “If there is lack of administrative control at the University of Florida, it’s the fault of those people who hired him. He never had one minute of training to be an administrator yet one of the major schools in this country hired him to take over an enormous program with obviously enormous problems.”

His dealings with the press have been strained, both in Gainesville and at Baton Rouge, where he coached football at LSU from 1984-86. A columnist at a Baton Rouge newspaper ended a piece by writing, “I wonder if Will Rogers ever met Bill Arnsparger.”

Arnsparger campaigned through the fall, but he lacked the political goodwill to be taken seriously as a candidate. The LSU Board of Supervisors quietly passed on Arnsparger’s candidacy. Arnsparger did not take such a slight lying down, and he tendered his resignation as football coach… the week of the Mississippi St game. LSU still needed to beat the Bulldogs to win the SEC title.

Arnsparger hung around for the game, which the Tigers won, but he was already out the door. In January 1987, Florida announced Bill Arnsparger as their new AD. LSU would go another route.

Louisiana State chancellor James H. Wharton with wife Joan in press box during game vs Alabama at Tiger Stadium. Baton Rouge, LA 11/17/1985
Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

As a postscript to this whole sordid tale, James Wharton’s political victory was short lived. In 1988, he was forced to resign over a scandal of his own, allowing the school to readmit a graduate student who cheated, but was also the relative of a Louisiana legislator.

Wharton and Brodhead both transformed LSU, academically and athletically. Their marriage was fraught in the best of times, and neither ever found acceptance from the old guard of Louisiana politics. In the end, despite both making transformative changes and much needed reforms, both were pushed out over scandals that, had they played the political game more competently, each could have survived.

It is perhaps the most critical era in the history of LSU. The school improved markedly academically and athletically, as it finally stepped into the modern era. But like the mythical Camelot, its time was all too brief.