Beth Torina looks to lead LSU to national championship

Dave Moormann

Well, at least LSU saved Monday when Patrick Murphy went back on his word and stayed at Alabama rather than become the Tigers’ next softball coach.

LSU will pay Florida International’s Beth Torina more than $100,000 less annually than it had agreed to give Murphy. Not that the 32-year-old Torina is inferior to Murphy, but she certainly doesn’t have his credentials.

The acclaimed Murphy has guided Alabama to 50 or more wins for nine consecutive seasons. The Crimson Tide finished third in the recent Women’s College World Series and are the envy of most every program in the Southeastern Conference and beyond.

LSU aspires to be in that position and hopes to reach it with Torina, who replaces retiring Hall of Fame coach Yvette Girouard.

In introducing Torina at a press conference held on her behalf, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said Torina “brings great passion, energy and character to the program.”

That’s a start, anyway. Murphy did the same for two days until he elected to hightail it back to Tuscaloosa. It’s been nearly a week since Torina officially was presented to the media, and as yet she hasn’t returned to Miami.

She doesn’t figure to do so, either, unless it’s to gather her personal belongings and complete her move to her new digs. Torina is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. She brings some solid credentials with her, too.

In four years as Florida International’s head coach, she twice was named Sun Belt Coach of the Year. She produced the SBC Pitcher of the Year, Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year this past season, which says something both about her coaching and her ability to recruit. That’s a winning combination anywhere, including in the rough-and-tumble SEC where Murphy leads a pack of experienced coaches.

“When you’re a coach and you’re competitive, you want to be best and compete at the highest level,” Torina said at her press conference. “In my opinion, the SEC is the highest level. I’m ready for the SEC to win its first national championship. I would love to be part of that.”

Should Torina bring LSU a national softball title, she can expect a major bump in her salary just as Les Miles received when he won the 2007 BCS national football championship.

When LSU hired Miles away from Oklahoma State in 2005, Miles didn’t have the reputation he would come to establish. He quickly proved himself and now pulls down a seven-figure income that puts him among the highest-paid college football in the country.

In time, Torina can pull off the same feat in softball if she can produce similar results. At least, Torina is no stranger to the SEC having played for Florida, where she pitched for the 1998 regular-season champions. In 2000, she earned a B.S. degree in occupational therapy.

If it means anything, Miami has sent a host of accomplished people LSU’s way, and Torina could be the next person to join the parade.

Leading the way is former baseball coach and athletic director Skip Bertman, who was Miami’s associate head coach before former Miami Dolphins executive and LSU athletic director Bob Brodhead lured Bertman to Baton Rouge.

Bertman built the LSU baseball program into the juggernaut it has become and advanced the popularity of college baseball in general. Brodhead also hired former Dolphins defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger, who enjoyed a successful three-year run as head football coach and brought LSU its first SEC football title in 16 years.

Brodhead also hired venerable women’s basketball coach Sue Gunter, who had no ties to Florida but built her program around the likes of Miamians Marie Ferdinand and Sylvia Fowles, who both currently play in the WNBA.

There is a precedent for success, which may well have been one of the selling points not only in bringing Torina to LSU but in keeping her here, as well.