FURMAN BISHER: The case of the missing quarterback

Furman Bisher

Furman Bisher

That's a misleading title. Jarrett Lee wasn't missing at all.

He stood on the LSU sideline, in uniform. In fact, some friend told me he had noticed Lee slip his headgear on, then off. If he did, I missed it.

I was among the millions who watched Alabama play LSU for the national football championship on television, totally wondering why Jarrett Lee never entered the game. He had been the winning quarterback when LSU beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa for the SEC Championship. Now, as LSU struggled to find its way to the end zone — or to a first down, or across midfield — he sat. The game was well into the fourth quarter before LSU even crossed midfield. But through this offensive doldrum, LSU head coach Les Miles stuck with Jordan Jefferson. (Jefferson is a senior, and “you don't lift your senior in the big game,” someone wrote. Well ... Jarrett Lee was a senior, too, a 5th-year senior.)

It's possible I can help you here. Lee had started eight games, four of which Jefferson had sat out because of a street brawl. Lee had performed well, but he had an aversion to the classroom. In fact, he had stopped going to class. Abandoned his studies. (And let it be known that his father is a football coach.)

So Les Miles made a deal; arranged for Lee to go to special classes every day until the end of the fall semester, then take a test — and if he passed, he'd play. Otherwise, he would not play, nor would he graduate.

It turns out he missed a number of classes. His coach had gone the extra mile — no pun intended — with him, given Lee so many chances that he had no alternative but to keep him on the sideline. So those of us who had seen LSU beat Alabama with Lee at quarterback sat by our television sets wondering, “Where' s Jarrett Lee?” And why?

Some of the Fighting Cajuns flew into a rage about it, but they would have the answer eventually. As do we.