It's been a summer of good news for LSU sports

Dave Moormann
LSU's Russell Shepard tries to break a tackle against Alabama last season.

Aside from the oppressive heat, the summer has been nothing but kind to the LSU athletic program.

Then, again, it’s not so much the time of year as it is the timing that has boosted LSU’s spirits. While on-the-field activity is at a standstill, the news from LSU continues to paint a proud picture of the Tigers’ sports teams.

For starters, Blue Ribbon Yearbook selected LSU third in its preseason football poll. While that single act doesn’t truly reflect the overall health of LSU athletics, it addresses the most popular sport at LSU. In reality, if LSU has a top 5 football team, than all is well in the Tigers’ sporting world.

We’ll know more Sept. 3, when LSU opens its season against fifth-ranked Oregon in Dallas. Blue Ribbon ranked six Southeastern Conference teams in its poll, including second-ranked Alabama, 14th-ranked Arkansas and 21st-ranked Mississippi State, all of which will play LSU this fall.

If LSU can emerge still ranked No. 3 after such a treacherous schedule, more power to the Tigers. For now, anyway, nothing could be better unless it’s more good news emanating from Tigertown.

If it’s not the football team grabbing headlines, it’s the overall athletic program that finished 19th in the final Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings. It marks the sixth consecutive year in which LSU has finished in the top 20 in the final Division I standings.

LSU is still smarting over its NCAA Baseball Tournament snub, and baseball’s sub-par season certainly didn’t help the Tigers in the Directors’ Cup standings. Even so, other spring sports helped pick up the slack in earning points for their national rankings.

For instance, the women’s golf team and women’s track and field team each earned 85 points for third-place finishes in their NCAA championships. The men’s track and field team accumulated 80 points for its fourth-place finish. A national championship carried a point value of 100.

Nearly half of LSU’s point total was produced in the spring with 403 of its 831.05 points coming during that time. LSU was the second-highest ranked SEC team behind only Florida at 1,212.25. Georgia claimed 20th place at 829.00.

LSU was 20th after the 2005-06 season and followed that by finishing 17th, eighth, ninth and 19th before this year’s total.

Along with baseball, the women’s basketball team didn’t help LSU’s cause with its failure to reach postseason play. That may change with the hiring of UCLA’s Nikki Caldwell, who recently added forward Sheila Boykin to the Lady Tigers’ recruiting class.

A product of Los Angeles, the 6-foot-2 Boykin was rated the 27th-best high school player in America by ESPN Hoop Gurlz. In fact, the addition of Boykin boosted LSU’s recruiting class to 10th in the Hoop Gurlz rankings.

Caldwell isn’t the only new coach at LSU. Beth Torina has taken over the softball program after Alabama’s Patrick Murphy backed out of his decision to replace retiring Yvette Girouard. What’s more, Torina has hired Southern Mississippi’s former head coach as her top assistant.

In four years as the Golden Eagles’ head coach, Howard Dobson coached seven All-Conference USA picks.

Torina isn’t alone in recognizing Dobson’s ability. He is one of 24 coaches named to the 2011-12 United States Women’s National Team coaching pool, which stands to reason give his record of success both at Southern Miss and as a five-year assistant at Oklahoma.

Under Dobson’s tutelage, Oklahoma led the Big 12 in scoring and ranked among the league’s top two teams in batting average during his tenure. The Sooners reached the Women’s College World Series in 2003 and 2004 and made five NCAA Super Regional appearances.

It helps, too, that Dobson knows Louisiana, having coached at Southeastern Louisiana, McNeese State and Lake Charles Barbe High School. Dobson led Barbe to a Class 5A state championship, which LSU fans can only hope is a sign of more good things to come.