LSU Presidential Search Committee to meet; Emmert’s name resurfaces

The LSU Presidential Search Committee will meet Wednesday afternoon to begin discussing the pool of applicants for the university’s top job.

That pool shrunk by one earlier today, when Thomas Galligan, who has been serving as interim president since January 2020, issued a statement saying he has removed his name from consideration so he can spend more time with his family.

Galligan, who at the time of his appointment said he was not interested in applying for the permanent position, changed his mind in mid-2020 and indicated he would throw his hat in the ring after all.

In the months since, he has tried to shepherd the university through an unprecedented series of scandals centered on, but not limited to, its mishandling of Title IX complaints of sexual violence and misconduct by athletes and administrators alike.

With Galligan out of the picture, it is unclear how many candidates have applied for a position that appears to get more challenging by the day. Applications were due Monday, a deadline that was extended by more than a month after the university failed to attract as many competitive applicants as it had hoped, according to sources familiar with the situation, who blame the ongoing Title IX scandal for having a chilling effect on the search.

LSU did not respond to questions about how many applications the executive search firm that has been retained by the Board of Supervisors has received and the agenda for Wednesday’s 3 p.m. meeting had not been publicly posted by publication deadline.

Regardless of the official slate of applicants, multiple sources familiar with the situation say back channel but legitimate efforts are under way to try to recruit former LSU Chancellor and current NCAA President and CEO Mark Emmert for the position.

Emmert, who served as chancellor at LSU from 1999 to 2003, is widely considered to be one of the best leaders in the university’s history. He is credited with creating the LSU Flagship Agenda, attracting top-flight faculty and researchers and hiring football coach Nick Saban, who led LSU to its first national championship.

Emmert has close friends in Baton Rouge, including LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward, whose stepson is married to Emmert’s daughter, and LSU booster Richard Lipsey, who recently returned from a wine-tasting trip he and his wife take annually with the Emmerts.

Political strategist and LSU alumnus James Carville, who also considers himself a friend of Emmert, says he has not spoken directly with Emmert about his interest in the position but thinks the 68-year-old is exactly what the university needs in the short term.  

“If he came back for three years, it would be great,” Carville says. “We don’t raise enough money. We don’t have access to the big foundations and he’s obviously got tons of experience. … I don’t speak for him but I think he would be a really good choice. We need to crank up the energy level. We need someone with mojo.”

Sources familiar with the situation say the decision will ultimately come down to money. F. King Alexander, LSU’s most recent president, was paid more than $600,000 a year during his seven-year tenure.

Recruiting Emmert for the position would take more than that, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Attempts to reach Emmert through the NCAA were unsuccessful.

Carville, who is known for hyperbole, says he doesn’t know how much it would take to attract Emmert back to LSU but he thinks any amount is worth it.

“If they were paying King $600,000 I think they should pay Emmert $6 million,” he says.