LSU Short Story
Hatchet Man - 3
Bob Brodhead, Former LSU Athletic Director: Sacked! The Dark Side of Sports
at Louisiana State University
(1987) 
Read Part 1. | Read Part 2.
The 1982 team had come within eight points of an undefeated, untied season; the 1983 edition had, to that point, won just three games. ... Something was drastically wrong, and the buck stopped on the Head Coach's doorstep.
I contacted Dick Vermeil, the successful coach-turned-TV-color-analyst ... Vermeil, who had claimed burn-out when he walked away from the Philadelphia Eagles a short time earlier, wasn't interested. I contacted Illinois Mike White ... At White's prices, I wasn't interested.
I thought about contacting Maryland Head Coach Bobby Ross and several other prospects when I decided to pursue a comment which had been made to me by Bill Arnsparger, Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, when I left that organization in 1982. He had asked me to keep him in mind if I ever had to make a change at LSU.
After the loss to Ole Miss, I flew to Miami to talk with Arnsparger; I found him extremely receptive to the possibility of returning to the college ranks as a head coach. ...
Some members of the media had blown my week-by-week evaluation stance into a full-fledged attempt by "Bottom Line Bob" to "get Jerry Stovall." ...
When the season ended on November 24, LSU's record was a miserable 4-7. For the first time in history, the Tigers had failed to win a single conference game, finishing 0-6 in the SEC.
I recommended to the Chancellor that Stovall be fired immediately and that the Athletic Department get on with its business. To my surprise, he didn't agree. Seems he'd changed his mind in the five weeks since our meeting after the Kentucky game, when he had wanted Stovall's scalp.

L-R: Chancellor Jim Wharton, Edwin Edwards, John McKeithen, Bill Arnsparger
The Chancellor's new strategy called for me to wait until December 2, the date of the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors, when I would be required to make a formal recommendation to fire Stovall. It was a beautiful maneuver that turned what should have been an open-and-shut matter into a public debate, complete with the shredding of Bob Brodhead by the media and the powerful Stovall backers who were set to lobby the Board on the Coach's behalf.
There were just nine days between the end of the football season and the Board meeting, but that was plenty of time for me to be ridiculed, threatened and pressured. My family and I needed a police escort from the November 26 LSU-UNO basketball game in New Orleans when a group of Tiger fans, who had taunted me and shouted obscenities during the game, was seen waiting by the exit afterwards. ...
There were moments during those nine days when I feared that the Board might not back me, and my own job would be in jeopardy. Had I known then what I know now, I wouldn't have lost so much sleep.
The die had been cast long before that now infamous Board meeting. "Jiminy Cricket" Roberts was sitting on my shoulder with a majority vote to accept the recommendation to fire Stovall, and I was too naive to know it. ...
Before the Board meeting, Wharton and Board member Sheldon Beychok met with Governor-elect Edwin Edwards to apprise him of my pending recommendation. Not knowing how adverse public reaction might be, they wanted Edwards kept up to date and, hopefully, in the right corner. Edwards, however, wanted firsthand information, and he summoned me to a meeting in his office.
Edwards' icy blue eyes scared me almost as much as his proclamation, minutes after Wharton, Beychok, and I arrived, that Stovall and I should both be fired and combination Coach/Athletic Director be brought in.
Wondering if I'd just been axed, I offered my arguments against such a move, telling Edwards that, in my opinion, intercollegiate sports had become big business and, as such, should be run by businessmen, not football coaches. He must have seen the logic in my remarks, because at the close of the meeting, he told me to do what I thought was best, and he promised not to interfere. It was a promise he would keep throughout my tenure at LSU. ...
A rally to show support for Stovall was planned for December 1, the evening before the Boad meeting, in the parking lot of Tiger Stadium. A full-page ad was purchased in the local newspaper that ran that afternoon, calling for fan participation.
The basketball team was playing Washington at 7:30 p.m., and the rally was scheduled to begin at 6:15, with the hope that it would carry over into the Assembly Center once the game began. That afternoon, a phone call was made to the Athletic Department requesting the stadium gates be unlocked so the "tens of thousands" of expected participants would have someplace to sit. Campus security called to request that I not attend the basketball game, just in case there might be trouble.
On my drive home from the office to tell Kay we'd be watching the game on TV, I couldn't help thinking what a sad state of affairs I was embroiled in. ...
The rally sputtered and fizzled even as local TV reporters huddled the thirty or so particpants close for an on-camera proclamation that, "It wasn't over for Jerry yet!"
The most disturbing by-product of this wholly unnecessary episode was that my home had to be placed under round-the-clock police surveillance, and I was accompanied to work each day by Mayor Pat Screen's personal bodyguard, who would sit outside my office door, loaded handgun under his jacket. ...
Shortly before the date of the Board meeting, I was told by Roberts that if my recommendation to fire Stovall was approved, and there was no reason to believe that it wouldn't be, I would be asked to name a successor immediately. I got on the phone to Miami and finalized the deal with Arnsparger. ...
The Good Old Boy Club ... weren't happy that Arnsparger was about to become LSU's next football coach. For the first time in thirty years, the Athletic Director would have his man as coach, and that meant the perks would dry up. ...
Big John McKeithen, former governor of Louisiana and prominent member of the Board of Supervisors, had already stated his intention to battle my recommendation to fire Stovall. He thought the Coach had the right to finish out the "one little old year left" on his contract. ...
I gave a short synopsis of the season as it related to the future of the LSU football program and concluded with my recommendation that, for the good of LSU and the Athletic Department, Jerry Stovall be relieved of his duties as Head Football Coach.
I had barely uttered my final syllable when McKeithen began to bellow, and I stood at the podium, in respectful silence, for the duration of his 48-minute rampage. Huey Long would have been proud of Big John's filibuster. He certainly didn't disappoint any of the room's 200-plus occupants who had come looking for fireworks. ...
The three-hour, thirty-minute public hanging concluded with a vote of 13-5 to accept my recommendation to fire Jerry Stovall. In the same breath, the Board voted 17-0 ... to empower me to negotiate a contract with Bill Arnsparger to replace him.