Tag Archives: Ed Orgeron

Little Rock Touchdown Club Ed Orgeron Part 1

Little Rock Touchdown Club Ed Orgeron

Published on Sep 29, 2014

Ed Orgeron speaks to the Little Rock Touchdown Club.

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I really enjoyed hearing Ed Orgeron speak at the Little Rock Touchdown Club yesterday and Little Rock native George Schroeder got to interview him afterwards and his is the result below.

Ed Orgeron, college football free agent, wants back in

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The coach is roaring again. Ed Orgeron is expounding on his keys to running a successful college football program, pounding his fist for emphasis, when he comes to another important point:

“Cookies!”

Everyone laughs. But Orgeron is not kidding.

“There weren’t any cookies on the menu,” he says. “I fed ’em cookies the first night — they ate 500!”

In his mind, adding treats to the training table was an essential piece of changing the vibe at USC last season, a factor in the Trojans’ dramatic turnaround under his leadership after Lane Kiffin was fired.

During an appearance Monday at the Little Rock Touchdown Club — coincidentally, exactly a year after Orgeron was named the Trojans’ interim head coach — he made it clear that he wants to coach again. His rambling speech, peppered with anecdotes, delivered in that familiar, gravelly Cajun drawl, could easily have served as a pitch to an athletic director or a search committee.

Maybe because that’s essentially what it was.

“You send a message out every time you speak,” Orgeron told USA TODAY Sports afterward.

The message then, with Kansas and SMU already open — with others sure to open soon — is this: Orgeron is available, a candidate with head-coaching experience, serious recruiting chops and the ability to fire up, well, just about anybody.

“I have a lot of good stories to tell,” he says to the crowd, but then adds: “I’ve been out of work eight months, and somebody asks me, ‘Coach, I’ll bet you can’t wait to get back to work! What are you missing?’ I told him:

“‘I can’t wait to be the boss of something again. Somebody’s gonna listen to me — you married men understand what I’m talking about.”

And then, Orgeron launches into the story of how he caught his first big break, way back in 1986, with a phone call that came while he was “shoveling shrimp” back home in Louisiana. Did he want to become an assistant strength coach at Arkansas?

“I threw that shrimp shovel into the bayou,” he says, “and then I asked, ‘Where’s Arkansas?’ ”

A few minutes later, while explaining his philosophy on recruiting, Orgeron says: “You’ve got to recruit the mama — and I’m good at that.”

Everyone laughs again. And over the next 40 minutes or so, it’s obvious the audience in the hotel banquet room understands what Orgeron is talking about.

“Look, everything happens for a reason,” he says, referring to the USC job he wanted on a permanent basis, but didn’t get. “Right now I don’t know what that reason is, why I didn’t become a head coach. But I’ll soon find out. I believe that.”

Kansas? You bet he’s interested.

“It’s a Power Five (job),” he told USA TODAY Sports. “(Mark) Mangino went 12-1 and went to the Orange Bowl. It’s in a great conference. His staff proved that you can do it.”

And if the program is mired at the bottom of the Big 12? So what?

“It’s a challenging job,” he said. “But most jobs you get, there’s gonna be some things you’re gonna have to fix.”

Until Orgeron gets that chance somewhere, he’ll wait, back home in Mandeville, La. He says it’s been good to be able to spend time with his wife and three sons, who have lived there since he spent the 2008 season with the New Orleans Saints. But the challenge has been to stay busy enough to avoid going stir-crazy.

Take last weekend. Orgeron watched his son Parker play for Mandeville High — “eight receptions for 103 yards,” he notes. He got to the game really early, because he loves soaking up the atmosphere. But also because he misses the game.

The offseason was the worst. After 27 years on a coach’s calendar — the majority of those as an assistant, with multiple recruiting trips — the free time was, well, “boring.” And if August, when preseason camps started and he didn’t, was tough, the season has been almost a respite.

After the Friday night lights, Orgeron got in a workout Saturday morning, then grilled steaks for a family football feast. He flipped channels all day long, from one game to another. Late that night — he would not miss it — he watched USC’s win against Oregon State. Sunday, it was church, then the NFL. And then it was back to the weekdays.

“Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday can get a little sluggish,” he says.

His three-year stint as head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-07 didn’t go well — 3-8, 4-8, 3-9, with only three SEC wins. But last season, after Kiffin’s departure, he led the Trojans to six wins in their final eight games.

“We had an unbelievable turnaround,” he says, and it was so good, he sincerely believed he might get the job. When it went to Steve Sarkisian, Orgeron went home to Mandeville.

“Really, not getting the job for me was like a divorce or a death in the family,” he says a few moments later. “It was something you’ve kind of just got to get over, you know? I am now, in a positive way — but it just took a little while.”

Orgeron says he learned plenty from mistakes made his first time around as a head coach, when he went in with the hard-charging, ultra-aggressive mentality of a defensive line coach. The story might be apocryphal, but it’s been told often that in an early team meeting with the Rebels, he tore off his shirt.

“I don’t do that anymore,” Orgeron says. “It was a little too much.”

Instead, when Orgeron convened the players and staff at USC after Kiffin was let go, he had everyone play tug-of-war. Really. The offensive line squared off against the defensive line. Running backs against linebackers. Receivers against defensive backs. And then, the school’s administration took on the football coaches.

Orgeron asked each group: “Who won?” And then he asked everyone to grab hold of the rope and pull in the same direction.

For eight games, the Trojans seemed to do just that. After an upset of Stanford at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the crowd stormed the field.

“I believe I put my résumé out on the TV those last eight games,” he says. “They know who I am and what I’ve done.”

It was more than cookies. Orgeron says he’s learned to treat players like sons, and that he’s also determined to treat assistants with respect, loosening their schedules to allow for free time. There’s more, but his approach might best be distilled to three simple sentences: “Play with energy. Have fun. Loosen up.”

While he waits, Orgeron seems to be living the message he’s preaching.

“I’m 53,” he says. “I’m full of fire. I’m ready to go again.”

Anybody listening is probably ready, too.

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