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Rabalais: LSU gymnasts deserve to splurge after best-ever season

Advocate staff photo by BRIANNA PACIORKA -- LSU's Ashleigh Gnat is swarmed by teammates after hearing it was announced Gnat scored another perfect 10 on floor during LSU's gymnastics meet against Alabama at the PMAC on Friday, March 4, 2016.

Ashleigh Gnat was ready to work, conditioned after a long gymnastics season to returning home from yet another meet and heading back in the gym to hone her routines for the next meet. Of course, there is no next meet. Not until next year. So LSU’s star junior traded conditioning for some of the things… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Blakeney's decision to return to LSU took smarts, and he'll cash in for it

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU head coach Johnny Jones, left, greets LSU guard Antonio Blakeney (2) during a timeout in the second half against American, Tuesday, December 22, 2015, at LSU's PMAC in Baton Rouge, La.

Antonio Blakeney proved as an LSU freshman that he’s a talented basketball player. Tuesday, he proved he’s smart, too. Blakeney announced, with unexpected rapidity, that he’s returning for his sophomore season. After deciding to test the NBA draft waters, Blakeney figured out he didn’t even want to dip his toe into the pre-draft combine in May. Blakeney apparently got some very sound… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Arnold Palmer’s health a concern at Masters

From left, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player pose during the ceremonial first tee before the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jack Nicklaus said it was his dry-eye condition that was bothering him in Thursday morning’s light breeze as he stood on the first tee at Augusta National Golf Club. But the tears that he had to wipe away from the corners of his eyes seemed to be about something else. The past three years… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Golf’s ‘big three’ take aim at the Masters

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, watches his chip onto the 15th green during the round of 16 play against Zach Johnson at the Dell Match Play Championship golf tournament at Austin County Club Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Golf has always seemed to have its dominant players come in bunches. Back in the 1940s it was Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson. In the 1960s thanks in part to the marketing savvy of their agents at IMG, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player were referred to as… Continue reading →

The Tigers quit — it’s that simple

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU head coach Johnny Jones coaches in LSU Tigers' 80-71 win over Missouri, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, at LSU's PMAC in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU just quit. First on the basketball court Saturday, gliding like a phantom through a 71-38 loss to Texas A&M in the SEC tournament semifinals, one of the most embarrassing losses for any LSU team in any sport ever. Then Sunday, when LSU dropped a bombshell announcement that it would voluntarily end its season, ostensibly declining a… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Friday’s loss aside, the early returns on this LSU baseball team are encouraging

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson (3) throws to first to out Ball State's Colin Brockhouse in the third inning, Friday, March 11, 2016, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La.

It’s early yet. Way early. There are tons of delegates to count before everyone masses at the college baseball national convention known as the College World Series. But in the early returns and exit polls, the shambles of Friday night’s 7-1 loss to Ball State besides, the word on LSU’s Tigers has been pretty favorable. Maybe… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Six questions as LSU prepares for SEC tournament

LSU's Craig Victor II (32) and Ben Simmons (25) confer during the closing moments of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 94-77. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Your friendly neighborhood sports columnist is here to answer six pressing questions about LSU basketball on the eve of the Southeastern Conference tournament: Does LSU have to win the SEC tournament’s automatic bid to get in the NCAA tournament? It certainly appears so. At 18-13, the Tigers’ RPI is 90 going into their SEC tourney opener in… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Opening day is special and unique ... and at Alex Box Stadium, it’s finally here

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU ballplayers line up for of the national anthem before the start of the Purple and Gold World Series on Nov. 4 at Alex Box Stadium. The Tigers open their season Friday against Cincinnati.

The appeal of baseball is its timeless elegance. The players may change from season to season, but it’s still three strikes, three outs and nine innings on a glorious diamond of manicured green grass and lovingly massaged brown dirt. The games tend to blend one into the other, though if you watch closely you’ll invariably see something you… Continue reading →

After upset loss to Alabama, LSU back in must-win mode

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) drives past Alabama forward Michael Kessens (3) in the second half, Wednesday, February 17, 2016, at LSU's PMAC in Baton Rouge, La.

Tim Quarterman stared up at the ceiling as he toed the side of the free-throw lane in the closing moments of Wednesday’s 76-69 loss to Alabama. Perhaps he was thinking of the Tigers’ opportunities missed, especially around the basket, bounce after maddening bounce off the rims. Maybe he was watching LSU’s share of first place in the Southeastern… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Hard to imagine LSU football 'could be any richer' heading into next season

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith pressures Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II during the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29 in Houston. Beckwith is among 18 starters returning to the Tigers for next season.

This better be good. With middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith and safety Tre’Davious White deciding to return to LSU for their senior seasons, it’s hard to imagine the Tigers could be any richer heading into the 2016 season unless they’d nabbed a piece of that mega Powerball prize last week. Their return means LSU has 18 starters… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Tigers predictably unpredictable in win over Arkansas — but awfully fun to watch

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- From left, LSU forward Brian Bridgewater (20), LSU forward Aaron Epps (21), LSU center Elbert Robinson III (3), LSU guard Keith Hornsby (4), and LSU center Darcy Malone (22) celebrate after LSU forward Craig Victor II (32) scored the game winning goal against Arkansas, Saturday, January 16, 2016, at LSU's PMAC in Baton Rouge, La.

I think I may finally have this LSU basketball team figured out. The Tigers need to turn the ball over to gain possession. They need their best player to have what he called his worst game (though he still finished with a double-double). And they need to play a cold-fish first half devoid of intensity… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Four questions about the future of the CFP final four

Associated Press photo by Morry Gash -- Alabama coach Nick Saban added to his collection of national championship trophies with his fifth tile Monday night after the TIde beat Clemson 45-40 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A final four of sun-drenched questions in the wake of Monday night’s CFP National Championship Game: 1. Is the SEC is back on top? Sort of. After a two-year championship “drought,” Alabama’s pulsating 45-40 victory over Clemson gives the Southeastern Conference its eighth national championship… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Alabama didn’t roll to this win over Clemson, which had to make it even sweeter

Alabama running back Derrick Henry (2) breaks free for a touchdown as quarterback Jake Coker (14) celebrates during the first half of the Playoff Championship NCAA football game against Clemson, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Glendale, AZ. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Deshaun Watson ran evasive maneuvers and threw pinpoint passes to someone named Hunter Renfrow. Derrick Henry just ran and ran in his steamroller way, while Jake Coker rained bombs out of the sky on the Clemson defense. In a bowl season filled with duds and routs,… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: With a shot at yet another national title, Nick Saban is unquestionably college football’s best — and maybe the best ever

Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaks during a news conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

If you coach Alabama to a national championship, you get a statue outside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Even if it’s a lame national championship, like the one Alabama claims in 1941 from something called the Houlgate System for a Frank Thomas team that went 9-2 and finished No. 20 in the AP poll. Oh,… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: There’s positively no doubt — Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is one upbeat coach, and it’s no act

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney listens to a question during media day for the NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship in Phoenix, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016. Clemson will face Alabama in Monday's game. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The constant, upbeat intensity. The homespun catchphrases, like “B.Y.O.G.” — which stands for “Bring Your Own Guts.” (T-shirts are available.) The locker-room dance craze that’s sweeping the nation known as “The Dab” — not actually named for him, but he has made it so popular he probably could lay claim. Or admit responsibility.… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: As LSU’s defense goes modern under new coordinator Dave Aranda, it’s up to Les Miles to modernize the offense, too

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- LSU football coach Les Miles, center, answers media questions following a news conference introducing new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.

Taken simply on the merits of trying to get the best person for the job, LSU’s hiring of Dave Aranda to be its new defensive coordinator is significant enough. If Aranda didn’t trade Wisconsin red for LSU purple and gold — and the green of a three-year contract that will reportedly pay him $1.3 million next season… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: As Ole Miss cruises to a Sugar Bowl rout, it’s clear the SEC is flexing its muscle again

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Mississippi Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10), center, and Mississippi Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze celebrate their victory against the Oklahoma State Cowboys next Carey Wick, left, during the Sugar Bowl in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Friday, Jan. 1, 2016.

The Ole Miss faithful who encircled roughly two-thirds of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on New Year’s night cleared their throats and sang along lustily as the school’s band belted out a brassy “Battle Hymn of the Republic” before the Sugar Bowl kicked off. Glory, glory, hallelujah, indeed. This time last year, the SEC’s bowl reputation was in… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: In season marked by wrong turns, LSU finishes right way vs. Texas Tech, has much work ahead for 2016

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette holds his MVP trophy as head coach Les Miles is interviewed before presentation of the bowl trophy, after the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl on Tuesday. LSU won 56-27.

It was finesse against force, razzle-dazzle against relentless pressure, sleight of hand against size and strength. You knew coming in that this Texas Bowl between LSU and Texas Tech would be a captivating contrast in styles. But, given the way this season has gone for the Tigers, you just didn’t know… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Texas Tech, LSU ready for lift-off in explosive Texas Bowl

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU tight end Foster Moreau (84) celebrates the 50-yard touchdown catch by LSU wide receiver Malachi Dupre (15) during the first half Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Tiger Stadium. LSU won 35-28.

HOUSTON — We are go for launch. For a month now there’s been a hold in the count as LSU and Texas Tech, two programs from bordering states who have completely missed each other on the football field for nearly 60 years, got ready to light the candle in the Texas Bowl. Candle? More like Roman candle. The… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Believe it or not, LSU’s crazy football season had plenty to be joyful about

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette breaks free from South Carolina pursuit on Oct. 10. LSU's hospitality to the Gamecocks and their fans in the wake of severe flooding, as well as Fournette's nation-leading 158.3 rushing yards per game, were among the highlights of the Tigers' season.

Even by LSU standards, 2015 has been a crazy, tumultuous year for LSU football. Cam Cameron recovering from prostate cancer this summer. Les Miles getting rushed to the hospital the Monday before the McNeese State opener, then no McNeese State opener at all in the first LSU football game canceled since 1918. Moving the… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: After another disappointing loss, is it time to start wondering about Sean Payton’s future with the Saints?

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton watches time wind down against the Detroit Lions in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Monday, Dec. 21, 2015.

A comedy of Saintly errors erased a New Orleans touchdown just before halftime. Only the Saints, it would seem, could get in the end zone three times and come up empty. About half the fans in the already three-fourths-full Mercedes-Benz Superdome decided they had enough, or perhaps remembered they had some Christmas shopping left to do,… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Welcome to The Hitter’s House, the latest jewel in Marucci Sports’ growing empire

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- From left, former LSU Tigers Alex Bregman and Aaron Hill join former coach and athletic director Skip Bertman, Friday, December 18, 2015, during the grand opening of the Hitter's House, a Marucci Sports facility, off of Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge, La.

When Kurt Ainsworth was working his way up through Baton Rouge’s youth baseball ranks, on his way to LSU stardom and an Olympic gold medal and the major leagues, he and other local youngsters had Skip Bertman’s Grand Slam when they needed to go work out in a climate-controlled setting. The Bertman-owned facility was in the Industriplex area… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Past few weeks 'embarrassing' for LSU, Texas A&M; Les Miles appears 'elevated'

Associated Press photo by JONATHAN BACHMAN -- LSU coach Les Miles greets Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis, who had been LSU's defensive coordinator, before the Tigers and Aggies played Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

Let’s agree to say that LSU and Texas A&M have had better public relations days than Thursday. LSU had to admit in court that it altered the 2012 contract of former defensive coordinator John Chavis, a finding that could have a huge impact on its lawsuit against the coach. A&M, Chavis’ current employer, saw its second quarterback transfer this… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Saints’ throwback win Sunday at Tampa Bay proved that pride still means plenty to this team

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) celebrates after his 1-yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

To quote that great fictitious New Orleans Saint Forrest Gump (he played for the club in the book sequel, “Gump & Co.”), it was like olden times again Sunday for the guys in black and gold. Drew Brees was throwing touchdown passes to Marques Colston and marching up the NFL record book.… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Leonard Fournette’s sophomore season was flat-out remarkable, regardless of the Heisman Trophy voting

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette keeps his eyes on the ball while making the one-handed catch in the end zone during pregame warmups Oct. 17 in Tiger Stadium.

At the LSU Board of Supervisors meeting Friday, the theme was putting the focus back on academics and taking it off of athletic controversies, the Les Miles saga having pre-empted such news as the hiring of LSU’s new provost, the No. 2 position on campus. Leonard Fournette can relate. Before Miles and his job status became a cause… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: For the fun of it, embrace ground-and-pound LSU’s Texas Bowl matchup with high-scoring Texas Tech

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) shakes off the Texas A&M defenders for a good gain during the first half Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Tiger Stadium.

Let’s not make LSU’s trip to the Texas Bowl something it’s not. It’s not part of the College Football Playoff or even one of the CFP’s big six bowls, a game the Tigers had a real shot at before their three-game November skid. It’s a bowl game that exists because people can’t get enough college… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: The Panthers found a way to stay perfect ... and the Saints again found a way for things to go wrong

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton disputes a call in a game against the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015.

The Carolina Panthers are still the NFL’s only undefeated team 12 games into the season. The New Orleans Saints are 4-8. It seems like an enormous gulf separates these two franchises, and it does. The Panthers are talking home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Saints are talking about jockeying for first-round draft… Continue reading →

Rabalais: It’s not easy to do what Nick Saban does ... and it’s not easy for SEC teams to compare themselves against him

Associated Press photo by DAVID GOLDMAN -- Alabama coach Nick Saban leaves a news conference in Atlanta on the eve of the Southeastern Conference Championship Game between his Crimson Tide and Florida.

ATLANTA — Four or five decades have passed, depending on how you choose to reckon it, and the issue for Southeastern Conference football coaches is still the same. Carthage must be destroyed. Carthage was a seafaring power that dominated the Mediterranean centuries ago. In our current context, Carthage is Alabama. At least… Continue reading →

Rabalais: True to himself, sharing with others -- it’s easy to be happy for Les Miles

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU coach Les Miles acknowledges the cheers from the Tiger student section after LSU beat Texas A&M 19-7 in Tiger Stadium. Moments after the game, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said Miles is staying on as the Tigers coach.

Some opinions and observations in the wake of the “Coach stays” scene from “Hoosiers” that played out in real time at LSU … It’s no surprise that Les Miles’ players carried him off the field after Saturday’s landmark 19-7 win over Texas A&M. There is no disputing Miles’ players have always loved playing for him, so… Continue reading →

Rabalais: LSU-Michigan matchup in Citrus Bowl is possible, but much is still up in the air

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU head coach Les Miles shouts on the sideline in the second half of the LSU-Texas A&M football game in Baton Rouge, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. LSU won, 19-7.

The clouded November ending to LSU’s regular season could give way to a sunny January finish. Maybe. Jonathan Gorman, a scout for the Citrus Bowl, told some media members waiting to head into LSU’s locker room after Saturday’s 19-7 win over Texas A&M that his bowl game was a strong consideration for the Tigers with a… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Quite a 'heartrending' moment Monday when Les Miles called Baton Rouge 'home'

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Les Miles holds his weekly press conference amidst growing speculation of his dismissal.

For a coach who has been so embattled almost from day one, so second-guessed, so subject to such withering criticism, Les Miles took on a new persona Monday: That of the sympathetic figure. Miles was asked during his weekly Monday media luncheon — by all indications, his last such gathering as LSU’s football coach — what… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: 'If the writing isn’t on the wall for Les Miles, the pencil is at least being sharpened'

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- A fairly somber LSU head coach Les Miles ponders a question during his post-game press conference, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 in Oxford, Miss. Ole Miss won 38-17.

Whatever Les Miles needed to boost his job security, to help his cause, to prove he is still the man to lead this LSU football program now and into a nationally competitively future, whatever he needed to prove and however he needs to be judged, what happened here Saturday against Ole Miss was the… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Evidence mounting Les Miles coaching for his job next 2 weeks; three scenarios to decide his LSU fate

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU head coach Les Miles, center, waves to fans in the stands before the game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won 30-16.

There are basically two things that can happen after something like Wednesday’s column about Les Miles’ job being on the line in LSU’s next two games makes the rounds. People can come forward and say, “You’re wrong,” at which point you start considering why people are saying such great things about living in Costa Rica. Or… Continue reading →

Rabalais: 'Strong indications' LSU's Les Miles coaching for his job vs. Ole Miss, Texas A&M

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU head coach Les Miles waves to fans as he brings the team down Victory Hill before the game Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Tiger Stadium.

Les Miles has survived a series of crises during his decade at LSU, each calling into question his worth in the opinions of its ambitious purple and gold masses as to whether he was truly the right man for the job. From his second game here, when LSU frittered away a substantial halftime lead and… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: To catch up with Alabama, Tigers must turn the tide in the recruiting battle, especially up front

Photo by Michelle Trip/The (Monroe) News-StarNevile defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence, rated the No. 1 prospect in Louisiana for much of the year, picked LSU.

LSU will beat Alabama again in football. Beating Bama again soon is the real question. The key is in recruiting. That’s where LSU lost to Alabama this year. Not on Saturday night, but back in February on national signing day and on the several signing days before that. Alabama has stitched together the past five… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Classic come-from-ahead loss for Saints, who dash momentum from past three weeks

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton reacts to a play against the Tennessee Titans at the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015.

One of the first things I learned from my father about sports was the Saints’ penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The phrase, or something like it, should be on a T-shirt they could sell in Champions Square after games like the one Sunday. Blowing the unblowable game seems, despite the Super Bowl championship and… Continue reading →

After this one, it’s time to bid some dreams goodbye

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) finds running tough against Alabama  in the first half Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 in Tuscaloosa.

An appropriate Hollywood movie title for LSU’s constantly flammable circumstances here much of Saturday night would have been “Our Brand is Crisis.” By the time the Crimson Tide was done with LSU, balling up so many of the Tigers’ hopes and chucking them into the recycle bin, a… Continue reading →