But with the College Football Playoff National Championship looming, I suppose I should pick a side. And with all due respect to some great friends of mine who hold either degrees or fandoms with the Blue Ridge Bengals...
Pourquoi? Blame it all on my roots. My family - my paternal grandmother, specifically - is from New Orleans, the Nero family homestead, where some of my extended family still live. It's the extended branch to which I am most connected, and as such I've always felt an affinity for Louisiana, despite not yet having been there. LSU has a tie to its home state like few other flagships enjoy, as most tend to split loyalty with another in-state program. My Louisiana kin are purple and gold clad, and with no actual ties to either team, I'm inclined to oblige.
Interestingly enough, it's those same roots that would give me reason to distance myself from Baton Rouge. With Louisiana - and with it, its system of higher education - still being deeply segregated in the 1940s, my grandma, who got her undergraduate degree across town at Southern, was denied entry to LSU, because racism. She would ultimately join the Second Great Migration and get her master's degree from Wisconsin. LSU's first Black student would set foot on campus in the fall of 1953, a semester after the birth of my grandmother's second child - my father. Still, she would have seen no different prognosis had she been a South Carolinian; Clemson would not integrate until nearly a decade later.
One more thing draws me to LSU: Coach O. The fact that LSU did right by head coach Ed Orgeron has been rewarded so far, and I would love to see if culminate in a championship. Coach O is as Louisiana as it gets, and I was pleased to see him get the call after LSU parted ways with Les Miles. For this loyalty to be rewarded on Monday night would mean the world to that coach, school, and state.