The final number as to how many billions of dollars will be cut from the defense budget remains a running feud between the White House and Congress, but one number that figures to remain steady is the budget for Army’s football team. The Black Knights aren’t going anywhere.
The same self-assured proclamation cannot be made for LSU. The Tigers finished No. 16 in the nation last season, boast the third-best incoming freshman class, and have made it to three national championship games since 2003, winning two. But as most of America remains grateful for continuing reductions in the price of gasoline, the state of Louisiana defers.
The collapse in oil prices has created a $940 million budget gap for the current fiscal year and a $2 billion shortfall for the year that begins July 1. In a worst-case scenario, governor John Bel Edwards said, health programs for the poor and disabled will close and some public universities will have to shut down before the end of the semester.
“If you are a student attending one of these universities, it means that you will receive a grade of incomplete, many students will not be able to graduate and student athletes across the state at those schools will be ineligible to play next semester,” Edwards told Bloomberg News. “That means you can say farewell to college football next fall.”
Picturing LSU, the state’s flagship university, without football is near tantamount to a football season that doesn’t include the Army – Navy game. Louisiana is reeling in the aftermath of oil’s slide to less than $30 a barrel from over $100 in mid-2014. Edwards, a graduate of the university’s law school, is trying to gain support for a higher sales tax and further cuts to public services by jeopardizing one of the most-profitable and well-known college football programs in the country.
While the university itself depends on the state for funding, LSU’s athletic department receives no state or school subsidies, making it one of about 20 self-sustaining programs. It still sees a bigger profit than almost all other universities, according to Department of Education data from the 2014-2015 academic season. The football program brought in $57.7 million of profit that year, topped only by the University of Texas and SEC rivals Georgia and Tennessee. The athletic department as a whole brought in a net $41 million, also the fourth-most overall.
The football team would be in jeopardy in a case where the school shuts down, preventing students from finishing the semester. Among the NCAA’s rules are that “all Division I student-athletes must earn at least six credit hours each term to be eligible for the following term.”
Army head football coach Jeff Monken announced the hiring of three new defensive assistants – Chad Wilt, ShaDon Brown and Daryl Dixon. Wilt joins the staff as the defensive line coach; Brown will handle the cornerbacks; Dixon, the outside linebackers.
Wilt spent the last two years at Maryland where he coached the defensive line. Last season at Maryland, the defensive line totaled 31.5 of the teams 35 sacks, which ranked 14th in the country. Prior to Maryland, he was at Ball State as the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator from 2011-13. He earlier served as an assistant at Richmond, Virginia, Liberty and Central Connecticut State. Wilt is a 2000 graduate of Taylor University, where he was a defensive lineman from 1996-99.
Brown spent the last five seasons as an assistant at Wofford College. For the first four seasons he was the cornerbacks coach before moving to safeties in 2015. Brown spent the 2015 NFL training camp as an intern with the Carolina Panthers.
Dixon has spent the last seven years at Ball State as the defensive backs coach. Prior to Ball State, he was a graduate assistant at Illinois. He is a 2003 graduate of Florida, where he starred as a defensive back and was a second team All-SEC honoree and spent two seasons in the NFL with the Colts.
Along with the additions, Mike Viti will move into a new role as an assistant coach with the fullbacks, while Sean Saturnio will work with the tight ends and become the special-teams coordinator. Bob Bodine is moving from tight ends to an assistant coach with the offensive line and Danny Verpaele is now the director of scouting after spending time as the assistant offensive line coach.