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Tigers Headed to Nashville

By Jessica Busada

The LSU Tigers will play Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. on ESPN. This will be the first time the Tigers appear in the Music City Bowl.

The Music City Bowl was established in 1998 and this year will mark the 17th annual bowl game. Last years game resulted in a victory for Ole Miss over Georgia Tech.

Before the announcement, LSU athletic ticket manager Brian Broussard said, “We receive 8,000 tickets for the bowl games and currently have requests for 2,500-3,000 total tickets for the game.”

The Tigers and Fighting Irish will meet for the 11th time overall and the fifth time in a bowl game.  Norte Dame finished the season 7-5 and LSU finished 8-4.

The bowl game will be the 15th straight bowl game appearance for LSU.

Senior running back Terrence Magee said, “We are excited about the match up.” Overall reaction to the bowl matchup has been positive from LSU fans and players.

“The bowl took great strides this year to improve our selection process, and I think this year’s match-up proves that it was worth it,” said Toby Wilt, bowl selection committee chairman for the Music City Bowl. “We couldn’t be more excited.”

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said, “We’re thrilled with the opportunity to face LSU –one of the preeminent programs in all of college football.”

LSU coach Les Miles reacted to the matchup announcement saying, “We are very excited to bring our football program and the great LSU fan base to Nashville to play Notre Dame in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

“Notre Dame is a traditional football power and we are looking forward to renewing what has been a tremendous rivalry between the two programs through the years. Nashville is a great city and the opportunity to play in an NFL venue makes this a very attractive bowl destination for us.”

LSU will be the designated home team of the Music City Bowl game. LSU is 5-5 all-time against Notre Dame, including a 2-0 bowl record versus the Fighting Irish.

 

LSU vs. Notre Dame

LHSAA adds Power Rating Rule

By Lauren Lenox

Growing up in Louisiana, most people were born and raised a football fan. Each year, football fans both experienced and new look forward to fall Friday nights under the lights.

The rivalries are thrilling, especially during the Louisiana high school playoffs. Teams are finally able to play the best of the best from around the state.

Within the past few years, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) separated the football playoffs into two divisions: Select and Non-Select. The Select division is comprised of private and semi-private schools around the state.

Now instead of five state championships, there are a total of nine.

The downfall of the new Select system is the lack of teams in each division. In Division I, there are only eight select schools able to compete which is difficult for the playoff brackets.

At the beginning of the 2014 football season, the LHSAA established a new power rating system. The new system allows teams to earn bonus points towards their playoff rankings if a team plays an opponent from a higher classification.

Also, it allows for teams in Division II within the Select group, who are normally classified as 4A or 3A during the regular season, to play in Division I of the playoffs.

This is good news for the teams who are members of 4A or 3A classes but what about the 5A schools? The 5A schools do not receive any bonus points due to the fact that there are no opponents for them to play in a higher classification.

Why would the LHSAA create a power rating system if not all teams could take advantage of the development?

Not only did the LHSAA separate the Select schools from the regular playing field but it created an easier playoff bracket for Non-Select schools which did not stand a chance against the private schools.

The LHSAA did not think about the complications that would be caused with the new power rating system. It is unfair to the 5A schools which are part of the Catholic League, for example, because they are cheated of their actual ranking within Division I.

Head coaches and athletic directors are upset with the new addition to the Select schools playoff system and frankly, fans are too.

As a high school football fan, Select teams should be able to play Non-Select teams whether it is during regular season play or during the playoffs. Why should we segregate schools? The playing fields may be a little different but at the end of the day it is just a football game.

Also, the new power rating system should not be a factor when it comes to football because it seems arrogant. The fact that LHSAA is trying to keep the system fair has only made it become unfair to the eight Select schools in Division I.

LSU grad takes career to CBS sports

By Annie Ourso

Sitting at a small table in a Baton Rouge CC’s Coffee House, CBS sports director Mark Grant motioned his arms through the air as if he were conducting a symphony.

“If you watch the guy who conducts a symphony,” he said, “a bunch of different instruments make it all come together. The drums, the woodwinds, the brass – someone has to make it all come together.”

That’s what Grant does, except as a network television sports director.

“I take the camera guys, the camera shots, the replays, the graphics and listen to announcers – somebody has to wrap all that up into a nice little package and make it have some continuity for TV,” he said. “I tell people I’m like the conductor of the orchestra.”

Grant, a Baton Rouge resident and 1981 LSU graduate, has been directing NFL and college football games at CBS for 17 years.

Only 16 people in the country do what he does, Grant said.

Every weekend for seven months, he travels to games across the country. During the games, Grant can be found inside the TV production truck, calling the shots – literally.

“When you watch a game and see a replay, it’s the director who makes that come on the air,” Grant said. “If you see a graphic, it’s the director who says, ‘Put the graphic up.’ Anytime something changes on screen, it’s the director who does that.”

It’s about more than just airing a game, though. For Grant, it’s about telling a story through pictures.

Throughout his career, Grant has told countless stories – some that have stuck with him to this day. The UCLA-Gonzaga game in the 2006 NCAA basketball tournament, Grant said, was one of those stories.

Gonzaga, led by player of the year Adam Morrison, maintained the lead for the first half of the game until UCLA slowly started making a comeback to beat Gonzaga in the final seconds.

“The story wasn’t so much about UCLA winning, but Adam Morrison, player of the year – my camera guy gets a shot of him on the floor, crying,” Grant said. “Here you have this kid, who’s going to be one of the first players taken in the draft, and he’s on the floor crying because his team is out of the tournament. It’s his last college game.

“That shot became an image of what the NCAA basketball tournament is all about – the joy, the pain, the happiness, the sorrow.”

Capturing those moments and emotions are a part of Grant’s job.

Becoming a director, however, doesn’t happen overnight. Grant spent many early years of his career working his way up through the broadcasting ranks.

He said his first job was at a local cable company, covering high school sports.

“Everyone has to start somewhere else,” Grant said. “If you can’t be great there, you can’t be great at the next step.”

While working at the cable company, Grant took side jobs with ESPN when the crew came to town. He said he used the knowledge he gained working for a big network like ESPN to improve his work at the local station.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. Grant moved up to director and producer at the cable company and began to win awards for his work.

“In local cable, you had the CableACE Awards,” he said. “Our company won, and I was producer. I got a lot of recognition. ESPN recognized that I was more than just a camera person.”

In 1986, Grant was hired on at ESPN as an assistant director. When asked to cover college football, he decided to quit his job at the local cable company.

“Since then, I’ve never really looked back,” Grant said.

His next big break came just a few years later.

In 1989, Grant was working a football game in Georgia when the director’s wife went into labor and he had to leave. ESPN needed someone to direct the show.

“To this day, I don’t know how many people they asked till they got to me,” Grant said. “But they finally got to me and asked not only if I wanted to do it, but could I do it. It was my experience doing local cable as a director that got me that opportunity.

Grant proved himself to ESPN, and by 1990, he was promoted to director.

So, how did he get to CBS? Simple. He was offered a better deal.

In 1998, just before signing another contract with ESPN, Grant received a call from his agent. He told Grant to hold off on signing with ESPN because CBS got the rights back to broadcast the NFL and was looking for directors.

After a phone call and an interview, Grant said, CBS wanted him as a director and haggled with ESPN over who could make the better offer. CBS won out.

“You can’t get comfortable working for one company in a competitive business,” Grant said. “For a lot of reasons, it was a better move for me. Seventeen years later, here I am, doing what I do, and I love it.”

What’s funny, Grant said, is that what he loves most about his job is also what he hates about his job.

“I’m fortunate in that I’ve been all over the world covering sports,” he said. “I’ve met people who are friends for life because I cover sports. I’ve seen cities I never would have. That part of traveling is great, but the day-to-day grind of getting up, packing a suitcase, unpacking and flying – that part of the travel is what I hate most about my job.”

Grant admitted he did not always want to work in television. He started out as a pre-med student at LSU but soon decided that wasn’t for him.

He laughed as he told the story of how he got into mass communications: It was a girl who sparked his interest, not the actual field itself. Grant wanted to be in her major, broadcast journalism, to spend more time with her.

“Once I got into the major, I was fascinated by what goes on in television, especially behind the scenes,” Grant said. “I never really wanted to be on camera, but I just loved editing and writing and putting it all together.”

One of Grant’s classmates at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication was Steve Schneider, the local WAFB sports director. After graduation, Grant and Schneider worked together at the local cable company.

“Mark used to joke that he’d get assigned to cover city council meetings, and they were so boring that they just drove him to excellence, to succeed at something more,” Schneider said. “He excelled. He was determined to learn every part of the business.”

For that, Grant has become well respected in the community, Schneider said, and someone he personally admires.

“I think he’s one of those good people – always stood for the right things, always going out of his way to help people,” Schneider said.

Grant stays involved with the Manship School, teaching classes in broadcasting when he can, and also helps out at the local Cox Sports Television cable channel.

“I like to teach people locally,” Grant said. “I like to help them get to a higher level. It’s rewarding.”

His continued involvement at LSU and in the local community earned Grant a spot in the Manship School’s Hall of Fame.

David Kurpius, LSU’s associate vice chancellor for enrollment management and former Manship School professor, nominated Grant to be inducted in 2003.

Kurpius said Hall of Fame members should be professionals in the field who are still engaged with LSU and the Manship School.

“Mark’s fabulous,” Kurpius said. “He’s had a really great career as director for ESPN and CBS. He also gives back to the school. He’s actively involved in teaching students, getting students to the next level and helping them get jobs and internships.”

It’s easy to relate to the students, Grant said, because he’s been in their shoes and he knows what it takes to get to the next level: hard work.

You have to pay your dues, he said, and really believe and make others believe that you are the best at what you do.

“There are hundreds of people who would like the do what I do,” Grant said. “I do the NFL every Sunday. Only 16 people in the country do what I do, but there are a lot of people, thousands, who could do it and want to do it.”

Grant’s job, then, is to continue performing at such a high level that CBS thinks he’s one of the only who can do it.

“As long as I do that, I have a job,” Grant said. “But the minute I lose my edge and my passion and start taking the easy way and don’t prepare for games – that’s when you start to fall. And when you do, there’s someone more hungry than you.”

LSU vs. Alabama Photo Gallery

Gallery: “SEC Nation” Cast Holds Media Session

By Kyle Huber

 

On Friday evening, the eve of the LSU-Alabama game, some of the cast of ESPN’s “SEC Nation” took questions from the media. Those who partook in the session were Joe Tessitore, Tim Tebow, and Marcus Spears

"SEC Nation" makes its way to Baton Rouge

“SEC Nation” makes its way to Baton Rouge

With Tiger Stadium as the backdrop, the "SEC Nation" cast is set to begin a segment.

With Tiger Stadium as the backdrop, the “SEC Nation” cast is set to begin a segment

The segment as begun.

The segment as begun

This segment features Joe Tessitore, former Florida quaterback Tim Tebow, former LSU Tiger Marcus Spears

This segment features Joe Tessitore, former Florida quaterback Tim Tebow, former LSU Tiger Marcus Spears

Joe Tessitore and Tim Tebow discuss the atmosphere in Tiger Stadium

Joe Tessitore and Tim Tebow discuss the atmosphere in Tiger Stadium

Tim Tebow gives his opinions on the LSU and Alabama key players

Tim Tebow gives his opinions on the LSU and Alabama key players

Only a few fans were out at the "SEC Nation" set Friday evening. This fan chose to show is support for LSU offensive lineman La'el Collins

Only a few fans were out at the “SEC Nation” set Friday evening. This fan chose to show his support for LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins

Joe Tessitore speaks with media on his excitement to be in Baton Rouge

Joe Tessitore speaks with media on his excitement to be in Baton Rouge

Former LSU defensive lineman Marcus Spears expresses to the media how much has enjoyed switching to broadcasting

Former LSU defensive lineman Marcus Spears expresses to the media how much he has enjoyed switching to broadcasting

Tim Tebow discusses with the media his experiences in Tiger Stadium and with the LSU fans

Tim Tebow discusses with the media his experiences in Tiger Stadium and with the LSU fans

This production box has the "SEC Nation" stamp of approval

This production box has the “SEC Nation” stamp of approval

A graphic that depicts the states that make up "SEC Nation"

A graphic that depicts the states that make up “SEC Nation”

The "SEC Nation" tour bus parked next to the set

The “SEC Nation” tour bus parked next to the set

The institutions that make up the SEC on the side of the "SEC Nation" bus

The institutions that make up the SEC on the side of the “SEC Nation” bus

The set for side segments for "SEC Nation"

The set for side segments for “SEC Nation”

A fan's view of the "SEC Nation" set

A fan’s view of the “SEC Nation” set

The majestic backdrop for the "SEC Nation" set, a great view of Tiger Stadium

The majestic backdrop for the “SEC Nation” set, a great view of Tiger Stadium

The sun has begun to set in the Western sky, and soon it will be Friday night in Death Valley

The sun has begun to set in the Western sky, and soon it will be Friday night in Death Valley

LSU-Alabama: The Rivalry Continues

By Lauren Goodman

The LSU-Alabama rivalry has become legendary.

Die-hard fans on both sides plan their lives around the November weekend they play each year. Coaches Les Miles and Nick Saban know that this game is one of the most important games on their schedules before the season even begins.

Each coach got their start in the Big Ten, but became coaching legends in the SEC.

Miles is a “Michigan Man.” LSU fans are reminded of this every time there are rumbles of a coaching change there. Remember 2007, 2011, and even this current season in 2014? Miles is always at the top of the list for potential candidates when Michigan begins a head coach search.

Miles was an offensive lineman for coach Bo Schembechler from 1974-1975. He returned there to begin his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1980 and served as the offensive lineman coach from 1987-1994. The team had four Rose Bowl appearances during that time. It is well known how fond of his alma mater he is.

Saban also got his start in the Big Ten, at Ohio State and Michigan State. He was the defensive backs coach at Ohio State from 1980-1981 and held the same position at Michigan State from 1983-1987 where he eventually became the defensive coordinator during that time. After working in the NFL and as the Toledo head coach, he would return to Michigan State as its head coach from 1995-1999. His success at Michigan State helped him land the head coaching position at LSU in 2000.

During his time at LSU, Saban won two SEC championships, one national championship, and a coach of the year award.  Tiger fans were happy for him when he left to coach in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins. Les Miles was hired by LSU as his replacement.

The modern chapter of the LSU and Alabama rivalry truly began in 2007 when Saban returned to coaching college football after and unsuccessful tenure in the NFL to LSU’s SEC West rival Alabama. The Tigers would now have to play their former coach yearly, and they knew how good of a coach he was.

Alabama is leading the series with LSU from when Saban became their coach in 2007, 5-3. This includes the 2012 BCS National Championship Game where the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers 21-0 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, which some consider it to be LSU’s home turf.

All of this history leads to a focus on Saturday’s match up. Alabama is currently ranked No. 5, meaning it is on the cusp of entering the new college football playoffs with a chance to play for a national championship.

LSU is ranked No. 16, and the Tigers would love nothing more than to knock Alabama out of contention and continue to improve their standing and make a case for a playoff bid.

It is certainly something the Tiger fans have been waiting for all season.  Miles told ESPN radio. “This is a great rivalry and one that everybody in the state turns out to root for the Tigers. I can say that this is a very special Saturday evening, certainly in Louisiana.”

Saban knows that LSU is playing to win and how hard it is to do so in Death Valley.  He told ESPN, “They have a very good team, who’s playing their best football of the year.”

He added “We play these games one game at a time and this is the most important game, because it is a game we play this week against a very good team on the road in a difficult place to play.”

Miles is hoping for the best from both his team and fans.

“Energy in that stadium that is not describable,” he said. “Other people have called it magical.  Other people have called it crazy.  It is the place the Tigers play best.”

The LSU-Alabama game has taken on a significance that no other regular season college football game has done.  The rivalry continues to intensify as each school remains competitive season after season.

The Tigers are excited to play in front of their home crowd and every Tiger fan is hoping for a win because it means an Alabama loss. There will be no love lost between these two teams on Saturday night.

 

Excessive Celebration

LSU fans rush the field after the Tigers upset Ole Miss on Oct. 25.

LSU fans rush the field after the Tigers upset Ole Miss on Oct. 25.

By Lindsay Rabalais

If Tiger fans take their celebrations onto the field Saturday after the game against No. 4 Alabama, LSU will have to pick up a much heftier tab than they did after the Ole Miss game.

After the Tigers upset No. 3 Ole Miss in Tiger Stadium on Oct. 25, hordes of fans triumphantly swarmed the field.

LSU appeared to accept the inevitable.  Police officers did not line the gates at the base of the student section as a preemptive strike against stampeding fans, not even after LSU safety Ronald Martin intercepted the ball with two seconds left in the game.

The Athletic Department also fully accepted the price tag of the celebration: a $5000 fine for violation of the SEC’s access to competition area policy.

Athletic Director Joe Alleva addressed the fine shortly after the Tigers’ triumphant victory.  “I hope I have to spend it again two weeks from now,” he said.

Alleva quickly changed his tune, however.  He released a statement on Oct. 28 instructing fans to not enter the field after the next football game against Alabama.

“I encourage everyone to celebrate great LSU victories within the seating areas of the stadium, and not on the field … We would never endorse the ‘storming of the field’ by our fans – it is a violation of the protocol established by the Southeastern Conference.”

The monetary cost of storming the field for the second time this season is almost certainly a major concern of Alleva’s.

The SEC fined LSU $5000 for its first infraction.  The fine for a second violation would surge to $25,000.  In the event of a third violation, the University would owe a $50,000 fine, according to a CBS Sports report.

LSU’s athletic budget is currently $109 million, according to a report from USA Today.

The $5000 fine for the post-Ole Miss game celebrations represented the first time LSU has been fined for storming the field.  According to CBS Sports, the SEC’s policy against entering the competition area was enacted in 2004.  The last time LSU fans rushed the field was in 2001, after LSU defeated Auburn in Tiger Stadium.

The potential cost of storming the field goes beyond the SEC fine.

It is certainly foreseeable that a fan could be seriously hurt in the rush to the field.

Furthermore, the University would face a host of liability issues if someone became injured, especially if the athletic director encouraged spectators to rush the field.

Rushing the field after a hard-fought victory is a storied component of LSU lore, from the fans who tore down both goal posts after LSU upset No. 1 Florida in 1997 to those who speckled the field in purple and gold on Oct. 25.

However, a $25,000 fine for rushing the field is unprecedented.  The costs – monetary and emotional – of an injured fan would be even higher.

If the Tigers defeat Alabama on Saturday, the Athletic Department will almost certainly take steeper measures to ensure fans keep the festivities in the stands.

Path to Success

By Lauren Lenox

ESPN’s SEC Network reporter, Kaylee Hartung, shared her journalism career path when she visited an LSU graduate level Mass Communications classroom on Thursday morning.

Even with two phones and work to take care of, she spent a good 20 minutes with the class. Her advice to the students about landing their dream job was simple yet important.

“Create value where value doesn’t exist. Show up early, stay late and take advantage,” Hartung said.

As a Baton Rouge native, Hartung grew up as an LSU fan but moved away to experience college at Washington and Lee in Virginia.

She received degrees in Journalism and Politics and gained hands-on knowledge through internships while she was in school.

But when Hartung graduated, she found herself without a job.

Hartung was constantly making connections and trying to market herself to find some type of job. She interviewed for a job that she really did not want but with the help of a friend and honesty, she got it.

Two weeks later, Hartung received a call from NBC saying there was a spot for her and she jumped at the opportunity.

She worked the NBC Nightly News and took advantage of the opportunities. Her boss at the time referred her to the news chief for CBS News.

She then served as personal assistant to CBS News journalist Bob Schieffer. Hartung experienced long hours with the job but she was determined to get where she is today.

Today, Hartung resides in Austin, Texas, and is a SEC Network reporter. She is one of the hosts to the new program “SEC Nation” which airs on Saturday mornings during football season.

Her favorite part of the job is being able to meet people each place she goes and the stories she gets to share with others. Hartung won an Emmy with a story she shared about a boy with spinal diphia and his love for the University of Texas Longhorns.

On Saturday, Hartung will return to Baton Rouge to join the cast of “SEC Nation” and cover one of the most hyped up Southeastern Conference rivalries between the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 14 LSU Tigers.