After two years of wandering in the pandemic wilderness, The Rabbys are back.
I know you missed them. Maybe you know someone who missed them. OK, you at least had a vague thought rolling around the back of your mind that something had been misplaced, like your car keys or yesterday morning’s half-eaten English muffin.
This midsummer classic passes out awards to some of the most noteworthy, impressive or notorious sports newsmakers in our area over the past year. First prize is an all-expenses paid week-long stay in the exotic Transfer Portal. Second prize is all the world ranking points the LIV Golf play-for-hire boys are letting slide (who said they don’t give money to charity?).
So, faster than a couple of major college sports powers can change conferences, here we go:
Team of the year
The LSU women’s basketball team exceeded virtually every expectation, rising from unranked into the top 10 before bowing out of the second round of the NCAA tournament with a surprising 26-6 record. Picked in the middle of the pack in the Southeastern Conference, the Tigers finished second behind eventual NCAA champion South Carolina. They even came close to upsetting the Gamecocks in January in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Fans (and we must admit, media) who mostly ignored LSU women’s basketball over the past decade were compelled to take notice and were swept along in a season that certainly reminded all of the program’s good old days. And what may be about to come.
Coach of the year
When Kim Mulkey arrived at LSU from Baylor, you figured she’d find a way to squeeze 20 wins or so out of the Tigers, get them into the NCAA tournament and build toward next season. But no one, not even Mulkey herself, figured they’d get to be a national seed (No. 3 in the Spokane regional) and host first- and second-round games in the PMAC. Mulkey earned well-deserved AP national coach of the year honors, though somehow only two of her fellow SEC coaches voted for her for SEC coach of the year. Graduation delivered a big hit to LSU experience wise, led by do-everything point guard Khayla Pointer (now with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever). But the Tigers’ 2022-23 team may possess more talent after recruiting well and hitting the transfer portal hard. And LSU has a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 player for 2023, Bossier City Parkway guard Mikaylah Williams. It’s hard to overestimate how bright the future of LSU women’s basketball truly is. Oh, and if we gave a Rabby for best/most interestingly dressed, Mulkey would win that one, too.
The Grand Slam Award
Since we haven’t done this since 2019, we certainly can go back and recount what a busy fellow LSU athletic director Scott Woodward was dating back to early last year. For the first time ever, LSU replaced its coaches in the big four sports within one calendar year. Woodward hired Mulkey in April 2021, baseball coach Jay Johnson in June 2021, football coach Brian Kelly in December and men’s basketball coach Matt McMahon in March. In that time span he also hired new coaches in volleyball, swimming and diving, men’s tennis and women’s tennis.
Agree with all of his moves or not, but one thing is for sure: Woodward came back to LSU with a reputation for making cannonball-like splashes with his hires. After a slow start with few hires early in his tenure, Woodward has certainly not disappointed in that regard. Can any/all of them produce national championships is the next big, so far unanswerable question.
The World is Not Enough Award
Speaking of coaching changes, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a coach better handle (enjoy?) his firing than Ed Orgeron. He not only finished the season after being terminated in October with five games to go, but he seemed to be glad to be relieved of the pressure to have to build the program back up again after the unrepeatable perfection of 2019. Of course, walking away with $16.949 million will do a great deal to uplift your attitude. Personally, I would take the LSU job and be fired and be happy to walk away with half that. Just saying.
Since his departure from LSU, Orgeron has been popping up on campuses and in exotic locales all over the place, including shooting daggers at some dumb college kids in Cabo San Lucas who were having a laugh at his expense (find the video, it’s a hoot, trust me). Rumors are that Coach O — who played himself in “The Blind Side” — may be returning to movies as the next James Bond, but that’s probably just rumors. We all know the next Bond is going to be Will Wade.
If you’re talking former LSU athletes, it’s easy to make an argument for Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase or Mondo Duplantis.
If you’re talking about people currently on campus, the upside for LSU centerfielder Dylan Crews disappears somewhere in the clouds. If Mr. Crews needs an agent in advance of his potentially being drafted No. 1 overall next summer, you folks will have to find someone else for your Rabbys come 2023.
I’ll make the argument as well for LSU women’s golfer Ingrid Lindblad. The All-American from Sweden tied for second with teammate Latanna Stone in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April, is the No. 2-ranked women’s amateur in the world, and already holds the school record for most career wins by any golfer (nine, with one season to go).
Best athlete you don’t know
Favour Ofili won the 100- and 200-meters at the SEC meet, ran the second leg of LSU’s winning 4×100 relay team and set a collegiate record (since broken) with a time of 21.96 in the 200 earlier this season (if you set a track and field record with this program, you’ve done something). A native of Nigeria, the 19-year old should be on the watch list for the 2024 Paris Olympics.