How first-year LSU head coaches performed since 1962

Brian Kelly became the fourth head coach of the century for the LSU Tigers. Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Ed Orgeron have led the Bayou Bengals since the turn of the century. Kelly becomes No. 4 since the year 2000.

The previous three each won a national championship during their time in Baton Rouge, Kelly is searching for that elusive title run. It wouldn’t be a surprise to many if Kelly is able to rebuild the program and make a run, we have seen it time and time again.

What is the expectation level in year one? It would be a tall task to think they could make the run in the initial season for Brian Kelly. A good start would be a winning season. The last two years the team has finished 11-12, getting to seven or eight wins will feel like a win based on what Kelly was left by the previous staff.

Looking back at the last 60+ years of LSU football, we review how other coaches did in their first season as the Tigers head coach.

Ed Orgeron, 2017

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Record in Year 1: 9-4, Lost Citrus Bowl

The first full season of the Ed Orgeron era came in 2017, which has a striking resemblance to this upcoming season. Both opened the season in New Orleans. LSU finished 6-2 in conference play with losses to Alabama and Mississippi State. The loss to Troy was embarrassing but the team was able to finish as a top 25 team with a loss to the man that eventually replaced Orgeron in the bowl game, Brian Kelly.

Les Miles, 2005

Dale Zanine USA TODAY Sports

Record in Year 1: 11-2, Won Peach Bowl

It was the first year for LSU after Nick Saban left for the NFL and the Miami Dolphins. Miles came over from the Oklahoma State Cowboys to head the program and his first campaign ended with 11 wins. LSU would play for the SEC Championship but would fall to Georgia. They defeated No. 9 Miami by a score of 40-3 in the Peach Bowl. Miles would eventually lead them to one national championship and another BCS title game appearance.

Nick Saban, 2000

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Record in Year 1: 8-4, Won Peach Bowl

The beginning of LSU’s ascension to the top of the SEC began in 2000 when Nick Saban left Michigan State for the Bayou. It was the first of 20 consecutive seasons without a losing season. Saban led the team to a 7-4 regular season after they started 3-3. The season was capped off with a 28-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Peach Bowl. Saban would lead the team to a national championship in 2003, the first since 1958.

Gerry DiNardo, 1995

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Network

Record in Year 1: 7-4-1, Won Independence Bowl

The era of Gerry DiNardo in Baton Rouge isn’t one that is very memorable. Until the 2021 campaign, he was the last coach with a losing season on the Bayou. That came in 1998 and 1999 where he was a combined 7-15 over the final two years. In 1995 he led the team to a win in the Independence Bowl over Michigan State. That season was the first year for Nick Saban in East Lansing, he lost to the man he would eventually replace five years later.

Curely Hallman, 1991

Joe Patronite /Allsport

Record in Year 1: 5-6

During the five-year stretch of 1989-1994, it was rough for the LSU football from Mike Archer and Curley Hallman. They were unable to finish above .500. In 1991, Hallman’s team was just 5-6 and 3-4 in SEC play.

Other Coaches in their first year

(AP Photo/Ed Kolenovsky)

  • Mike Archer, 1987 (10-1-1)

  • Bill Arnsparger, 1983 (8-3-1)

  • Jerry Stovall, 1980 (7-4)

  • Charles McClendon, 1962 (9-1-1)