So, did Scott Woodward hit a grand slam and made a slam dunk?

Why are there no football slogans for a great move in football.

Maybe completed a Hail Mary pass at the horn, sacking a quarterback, hitting a game-wining field goal?

Ok, I see why now.

The hiring of Brian Kelly seemed to come out of nowhere. While waiting on Jimbo Fisher, Mel Tucker, Billy Napier or Lane Kiffin, in walks Kelly.

And I loved the walk.

I was so-so on Kelly when his name did first appear. But his arrival, and especially that meeting with the players won me over big time.

But then releasing Tommy Moffit, Corey Raymond and Kevin Faulk sounded off some alarms.

This guy means business. I believe he has the potential to be my favorite Tiger coach of all time.

Considering my current favorites, that may not be much of a reach.

At the top is not a popular choice at all.

That would be Curley Hallman.

Remember, I said personal.

Sure, Hallman went 16-28 from 1987-90.

Ironically, the loss that got Hallman renting a U-Haul was the one to Southern Miss in 1994. The ironic part was Hallman came to LSU from USM where he had a lot of success with a quarterback named Brett Favre. His running back at the time was a guy from Vidalia named Eddie Ray Jackson.

I was thrilled after Hallman was named head football coach at LSU.

Before Hallman arrived at Southern Miss in 1988, I was responsible for covering LSU and USM football.

Jim Carmody was the head coach at USM prior to Hallman. There were days I would rather cover a football game in freezing rain than call Carmody. First of all, a certain time had to be set up to talk to him, and then it was like a mixture of Nick Saban and Bill Belechik. But worse.

He was rude, terse, abrupt and not willing to talk about the upcoming game

The first time I talked with Hallman at USM, he was polite, very informative, very genuine, humble, and encouraged me to call him at any time of the day. And he backed that up.

Hallman grew up in Northport, Al., just outside of Tuscaloosa. Like most Alabama high school football players, he wanted to play for Bear Bryant. But Bryant did not recruit him. He went to Texas A&M to play for Gene Stallings.

Hallman intercepted two passes by Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler in the 1968 Cotton Bowl.

On November 28, 1990, Hallman was hired to coach LSU.

I called him soon after and we talked for a while -sharing how thrilled he was to be in Baton Rouge.

It was the best of both worlds for me. Hallman at LSU and Jeff Bower taking over for Hallman at USM. Hallman replaced Mike Archer, who would never win a Mr. Personality Contest.

Bower also had the open door policy, and was a true gentleman on and off the field.

I actually had to call him the day after Jake was born for a story from Natchez Merit in 1991. I told Jeff that our son was born yesterday and that he was 21 feet 3/4 inches long and weighed 10 feet 3 1/2 pounds.

Bower offered him a scholarship right then.

While Bower went on to have all kinds of success at USM, Hallman’s stay was dismal.

During Hallman’s first season in 1991, several of Hallman’s football players were accused of instigating a fight with LSU men’s basketball players, including All-American Shaquille O’Neall, in Broussard Hall, LSU’s athletic dormitory, two days prior to the Tigers’ contest with Mississippi State.

LSU started the 1991 season with one-sided losses to Georgia (31–10) and Hallman’s alma mater, Texas A&M (45–7), and finished 5–6. The season marked the second time LSU suffered three consecutive losing seasons and the first time since 1954 to 1956.

The 1992 season included being shut out 32–0 by Ole Miss on Halloween, and beaten 30–6 at Arkansas in the season finale, which was the first meeting between the Tigers and the Razorbacks upon Arkansas joining the SEC. The Tigers finished 2–9, still the worst in school history.

In 1993, LSU’s centennial football season, the Tigers lost 58–3 to Florida in Tiger Stadium, the worst loss in school history. Amazingly, just four weeks after that, the Tigers stunned the Alabama Crimson Tide, 17–13, in Tuscaloosa, ending the Tide’s 31-game unbeaten streak. LSU entered the season finale at 5–5, with a chance at its first bowl bid since the end of the 1988 season. However, the Tigers gave up 412 yards rushing in a 42–24 loss to Arkansas at home.

The beginning of the end for Hallman came on September 17, 1994 at Auburn. LSU led 23–9 early in the fourth quarter, and the Bayou Bengals were in good position to end Auburn’s 13-game winning streak. But LSU quarterback Jamie Howard threw two interceptions that were returned for Auburn touchdowns, tying the game. 

Yes, Jamie Howard’s son is Walker Howard, who many consider the top quarterback in the nation out of Lafayette.

Walker, like his dad, is a class guy and will bring a lot of highlights to Baton Rouge for the new head coach.

On November 14, 1994, LSU athletic director Joe Dean demanded Hallman’s resignation. When Hallman refused, Dean fired him, though he was allowed to finish out the season. This came two days after a 20–18 loss to Southern Miss in front of the smallest Death Valley crowd since 1974 (announced attendance was 51,718, but LSU officials estimated the actual crowd was closer to 40,000). He closed out his career at LSU with a 30-12 win over Arkansas—the Tigers’ first regular-season win in the series since 1956.  

Mention the name Curley Hallman and LSU fans shudder. You won’t see me shudder. I still have fond memories of Curley Hallman at USM and LSU. 

Oh yeah, one other note about Hallman. He was the coach when Odell Beckham Sr., was a player at LSU. Odell Beckham Jr.’s father was a sensational running back at Odessa Perriman in Odessa, Texas.

So if you really want a reach, Hallman may have played a hand in Odell Beckham Jr., selecting LSU. OK, that is a serious reach. 

 Beckham Sr., graduated from LSU in 1992, the same year his son was born.

Hallman would last two more years at LSU.

Next would be Gerry DiNardo.

DiNardo coached from 1995-99 and went 33-24-1. 

I can feel my e-mail box and phone texts overflowing as we speak.

I first met DiNardo when he came to Ferriday for one of those alumni functions (tell me again why we no longer have those).

DiNardo drove up to Panola Woods with my good friend Scott Rabalais, who worked at the Baton Rouge Advocate at the time. DiNardo put aside his plate to talk to me while he feasted on some meatball delicacies. It was typical Gerry DiNardo. But he was a better restaurant owner (Ruffino’s) than coach. He was quite the people person.

The 1998 team was coming off a 9-3 season that was highlighted by a 27-21 victory over No. 1 Florida.

That Tiger team won its first three games and then lost 7 of its last 8.

After LSU defeated Notre Dame in the 1997 Independence Bowl, defensive coordinator Carl Reese jumped ship to Texas.

Reese was upset because DiNardo started getting involved more in the defense late in the ‘97 season.

DiNardo hired Lou Tepper, who was just fired as Illinois head football coach. Tepper had previously coached with DiNardo at Colorado. Tepper tried to install a 3-4 defense with the Tigers, who didn’t have enough linebackers to be effective in the scheme and LSU’s season turned into a train wreck. Assistant coaches have long played a role in LSU’s past demises.

 Next up is Charles McClendon.

McClendon had the misfortune of not being able to beat the Bear.

But a lot of people couldn’t beat McClendon.

We were at an Alexandria motel back in 1975 for my sister’s softball game when we walked out of the room and my dad stated, “Hey, that’s Coach Mac walking out of that room over there.”I quickly found a 1975 small LSU schedule card and raced over.

Coach Mac happily signed the schedule and made small talk with us.

Sorry sis, it was the highlight of the trip.

McClendon, who died in 2001, is much more appreciated now than he was back then.

Cholly Mac went 137-59-7 from 1962 to 1979.

At No. 4 is Jerry Stovall, who lasted only three years from 1980 to 1983, going 22-21-2.

Stovall was thrown into the position after the sad loss of Bo Rein in a plane crash while recruiting. I still wonder to this day how Rein would have done. He was so highly respected by coaches across the nation. Many say he could have led LSU to a national championship.

If you haven’t seen the documentary on ESPN on SEC Network, check it out. Have a couple of boxes of tissue close by.

Jerry Stovall was named head football coach at LSU in 1980.

I made it a point to drive down to Baton Rouge and show off one of my prized possessions.

I walked into Stovall’s office and told the secretary I was there to see Coach Stovall.

Less than five minutes later he walked out.

Let’s see Nick Saban do that.

Growing up I loved writing athletes for autographs. It was a hit or miss deal. Back in 1971, I wrote to Jerry Stovall when he was an All-Pro cornerback with the St. Louis Cardinals.

A few weeks later I received a postcard with a picture of a crew-cut Stovall. On the reverse said was scribbled, “Dear Joey, Best of luck always. May you have all the success you dream of. Play to win. Jerry Stovall.”

Stovall looked at the picture just days after taking the LSU job, let go a big laugh, then showed his secretary.

He graciously signed it again -- “Hi Joey, Best Wishes, Coach Stovall LSU above his original signing.

I did get Saban’s autograph thanks to my good friends Barry and Josh Loy at a breakfast sponsored by one of the companies connected to the Markets.

My son Jake also got a small football photo signed by Saban.

We were walking out when a TV sports reporter stopped Saban to talk. The irritation was written all over the frazzled coach’s face. Jake walked up to Saban with his SEC Championship cap and asked Saban to sign it. He did. Let’s just say I’m pretty sure it’s not something Jake would do today.  

Next up is Paul Dietzel.

Dietzel led LSU to the national championship in 1958.

He went 46-24-3 from 1955 to 1961.

I was born in the middle of that. So no, there were no face-to-face meetings back then.

But I came to know Dietzel when I was doing stories on Donnie Daye and Max Fugler of Ferriday who both played for the Tiger coach.

And I found reasons to continue calling, because I really enjoyed talking with him.

He had a big watercolor business going at that time, which he was proud to talk about.

I ended up doing a full feature, and it turned into one of my favorite articles of all.

So what about the others?

I’ll briefly say Bill Arnsparger (36-8-2 from 1984 to 1986) was a genious, but a bit gruff. Arnsparger had seen many glory days. He appeared to tire of the college beat, which is not all fun and games.

Mike Archer (27-18-1 from 1987-1990) was no fun to talk to at all.

Les Miles was fun. Until it became not fun.

So good luck Brian Kelly. Hopefully you will have the charisma of Hallman and DiNardo.

But much better results.


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