Long before he became the beloved head football coach at undefeated LSU, this is where Ed Orgeron made some of the dumbest mistakes of his life and nearly threw away his future, according to local legend.
It was late 1982. Orgeron had just finished his junior season as a football player at the local university, Northwestern State. But he was on thin ice. He already had quit LSU as a freshman because he was homesick and didn’t like it there. Then after he joined NSU about 180 miles up the road, he had earned a reputation as a hell-raising, curfew-busting barroom brawler.
A new coach had just been hired, Sam Goodwin, who considered kicking him off the team, along with his roommate, after they were accused of trashing a dorm room.
The school’s housing director “took me into this one room, and every piece of furniture in there was broke,” Goodwin recalled this week as Orgeron prepared LSU for the national championship game against Clemson Monday in New Orleans.
“Just a total disaster,” he said. “He told me two of my players did all that, and it wasn’t the first time they had done it. One of them was Bébé Orgeron, and the other Bryan Arceneaux, both of them from South Lafourche.”
What happened next is one of those choices that can change the rest of a person’s life. Nearly 40 years later, it’s also one of the many stories that make up the local folklore of a man nicknamed Bébé (pronounced Bay-Bay), a Louisiana hero whose success has set off a wave of pride throughout the state, especially here, where the university community is still riding the huge highs and lows of the past two weeks.
On Dec. 28, another beloved NSU graduate, Carley McCord, was among five who died after their plane crashed after takeoff in Lafayette. She was a sports reporter, 30 years old, and was headed to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl, where LSU beat Oklahoma under the direction of Orgeron and her father-in-law, Steve Ensminger, LSU’s offensive coordinator.
“It’s a part of us that will be playing in that game on Monday,” NSU President Chris Maggio said of Orgeron. “It is bigger than just a head coach of a university. Everybody in Louisiana can really identify with him, identify with his love for the state, his love and his passion and really rallying everybody together. All at the same time, our world was kind of crushed when we heard the news about Carley. She was just a phenomenal young woman with such a bright future.”