Purple, Gold & Green
When college football is anything but collegial
Legend has it that LSU changed their school colors from navy and white to purple and gold just before their first football game in November 1893. Wanting a way to identify the Bayou Bengals and supporters, LSU team organizers went to Reymond’s store in downtown Baton Rouge and bought out the supply of purple and gold ribbon the store had for the coming Carnival season (the green ribbon had yet to arrive), and the school’s permanent colors were established.
But all too recently, it seems green has seeped into the color pattern for many Tiger fans. For the school that suggests its supporters “Love Purple, Live Gold,” too many are sullying the image and reputation of the school with their words and behavior.
This past Saturday, green was on prominent display in Tiger Stadium – and I’m not talking about the field at Death Valley. As LSU and the Alabama Crimson Tide were locked in an overtime battle, a Tiger lay injured. Solemnity usually hushes a crowd when a player, especially a home player, is down. However, as ESPN’s cameras zoomed in for a closer look, a chant of “Love* you, Saban!” was picked up by in the audio feed for a worldwide audience to hear.
Saban is the reason LSU has three national championships, not one. He laid the groundwork and built the program which is still enjoying the fruit of his labor. He left LSU to try his luck as a head coach in the NFL. His tenure with the Dolphins wasn’t as successful as he had hoped. When he decided to leave Miami, Alabama had an opening. LSU had Les Miles as head coach. Saban went to Tuscaloosa.
What was LSU supposed to do, act completely unprofessionally, fire Miles, pay two sets of football coaches’ salaries as a result and completely eliminate the idea of trust and job security throughout the athletic department?
In many instances, the most vile, and usually the loudest, of Tiger fans didn’t make it past their freshman year at LSU, if they even attended the school at all. They are the reason for the saying, “I support my team because I am an alum; you support your team because you went to Walmart.”
Regarding the Saban chant, many suggested it be written off as the actions of students. But LSU is our state’s flagship public university. It’s where we hope our state’s best and brightest will learn to become our future doctors, lawyers and policy makers. They have to have earned a 3.0 or B average in high school and an ACT score of 22 or SAT score of 1030 just to be enrolled. These people aren’t ignorant. But their actions are. And they’re hurting not only the image of LSU, but the state of Louisiana as well.
On Monday, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva issued a statement on the Saban chant, saying, “We are deeply sorry that such crude behavior occurred in Tiger Stadium, because that is the antithesis of what we represent at LSU.
“If it occurs in the future, we will make every effort to identify those who choose to act in this manner and make sure they know they are no longer welcome in our stadium. Our hope, however, is that this will never happen again.”
I hope so, too. At its best, Tiger Stadium is one of the best environments in college football. But there are times, like Saturday, when the environment is anything but collegial, when Tiger fans put too much energy into bashing the other team rather than encouraging their own. It’s time that those who truly live and love purple and gold work overtime to project a more positive image of the university.
We’ll know how much of an impact Alleva’s statement made the next time the Tigers make a first down. When the famous four notes – da-da-da-da – are played and the crowd, in unison, chants “Geaux Tigers,” will the overwhelming response to the ending notes of the cheer be the traditional “L-S-U” or the oft-heard “Beat their ass?”
* edited for content