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BATON ROUGE – At least, Archie Manning is 2-for-4 in offspring going to his alma mater Ole Miss.
Oldest son Cooper Manning and youngest son Eli Manning each signed with the Rebels. Cooper had to leave football because of a rare spinal condition in 1992 before he ever played at Ole Miss, but Eli became a legend at quarterback in his father’s footsteps there from 2000-03.
Middle son Peyton Manning became an icon at Tennessee from 1994-97, and Archie’s grandson via Cooper, Arch – a five-star quarterback at Newman High in New Orleans – committed to Texas for 2023 over the summer.
Former LSU linebacker Verge Ausberry, who started for the Tigers on SEC championship teams in 1986 and ’88 and twice led the team in tackles, is 0-for-2, as far as his sons going to LSU.
THE AUSBERRY KIDS HAVE GAME
Austin Ausberry, the No. 7 safety in the nation in 2021-22 and No. 10 player in Louisiana by Rivals.com from University High on the LSU campus, signed with Auburn’s Class of 2022 despite a scholarship offer from former LSU coach Ed Orgeron and present LSU coach Brian Kelly. He is a true freshman cornerback at Auburn, which opens the 2022 season Saturday against Mercer (7 p.m. eastern, SEC+, ESPN+). Ausberry, who made a leaping interception at an Aug. 19 scrimmage, could see a lot of action this season as a backup at cornerback along with nickel and safety.
Then last month, Jaiden Ausberry, the nation’s No. 4 outside linebacker, No. 4 player in Lousiana and No. 38 prospect in the nation by ESPN also from University High, committed to Notre Dame – Kelly’s old school – over LSU for the Class of 2023.
LSU fans on social media did not like it.
-“If you think it’s OK for Louisiana to provide an atmosphere and high school training for our enemies in football, you aren’t a real fan and don’t get it,” an LSU fan posted on the Tigerdroppings.com site. “His father situation is bizarre to me.”
-Another wrote, “Just don’t expect Louisiana to welcome you with open arms when you come back.”
-And another wrote, “Can’t help but think that when both kids pass on LSU, it says something about dear old dad. I suspect Verge is bad mouthing his employer, but cashing that check regardless. He’s damaged goods and probably unemployable otherwise. Screw him and them.”
Manning heard similar comments pre-social media when Peyton picked Tennessee over Ole Miss.
“People do that online – fans on Facebook and Twitter, but I I don’t pay attention to that,” Ausberry said in an exclusive interview with OutKick last week. “Nobody said anything to my face. It’s like this – if my kids weren’t athletes, would you care where they went to school?”
People have asked and continue to ask Ausberry directly why neither went to LSU.
“And I say, ‘Hey, that’s my children, and they’re independent,'” he said. “If they wanted to go to LSU, I’d have no problems with it. My time was at LSU, and I love LSU. I’ll always be a Tiger. And my children, they love LSU, too. They grew up here, but they’re going to do their thing. They’re going to where they’re going to be happy.”
Ausberry has been extremely loyal to LSU, and he is extremely well paid – $510,000 a year. He has never worked anywhere else. Ausberry played linebacker for Coach Bill Arnsparger in 1986 as a redshirt freshman when the Tigers won the Southeastern Conference at 9-3 and 5-1. He started as a sophomore in 1987 under Coach Mike Archer when LSU finished 10-1-1 with a 5-1 SEC runner-up finish to 9-1-1, 5-0-1 Auburn. The Tigers won the SEC again in 1988 at 8-4 and 6-1 when he was a junior. He led the team in tackles in 1988 and ’89.
Ausberry began his LSU career off the field at the Academic Center for Athletes in 1992 after graduate school before moving to the Tiger Athletic Foundation, the fund raising arm for LSU athletics, in 1999. He became an associate athletic director in 2001 and has remained in the athletic department ever since.
LSU has been loyal to Ausberry as well. In March of 2021, a report by an outside investigative firm concluded that Ausberry wrongfully kept quiet about former LSU receiver Drake Davis, who had been accused of abusing at least three LSU female students while on the team from 2016-19. LSU only suspended Ausberry for 30 days without pay and ordered him to attend seminars on domestic and sexual violence. He also could not attend LSU home games in the 2021 season, but he didn’t mind that because it allowed him to attend visits to colleges with his sons.
“I tell people, ‘There’s my professional life, and there’s my children. Let’s keep it that way,'” he said. “When it comes to my children, I love LSU. But I love my children a lot more.”
Archie Manning made a similar comment when he was asked why he was not pulling for the Saints, whom he played for from 1971-81, against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts before Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.
“I wanted them to go where they wanted to go,” Ausberry said. “They’re going to be the ones going to class. They’re going to be the ones practicing. I told everybody, including coaches, ‘I’m not getting involved with the decision.’ I’m a daddy. I put my daddy hat on. But I’m not one of those helicopter dads.”
Orgeron and Kelly each approached Ausberry individually about his sons’ plans.
“Oh yeah,” Ausberry said. “They came up, ‘Hey, Verge.’ And I said, ‘Hey, they’ve got to make their decision.’ I told everybody that. I didn’t care who it was. The buck stops there.”
NICK SABAN WAS IMPRESSED
And that included Alabama coach Nick Saban – LSU’s coach from 2000-04 whom Ausberry has admired greatly for more than two decades and says he reminds him of the late Arnsparger.
“Austin liked Alabama. I talked to Nick about it,” Ausberry said. “But Austin said Alabama had too many players. You’ve got to wait your turn. We were at an Alabama game, and Austin said, ‘Dad, you see those two guys on the sideline for Alabama? They’re four- and five-star prospects, and their uniforms are clean.'”
Both kids considered LSU strongly, but the Tigers are coming off a pair of bad seasons – 5-5 in 2020 and 6-7 last year with the Orgeron-to-Kelly coaching change last December.
Another aspect that did not help LSU was not LSU’s fault. When Jaiden finishes at University High next spring, both Ausberrys will have gone to school on LSU’s campus from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Fewer U-High kids than one would think continue at LSU for college.
“That has a lot to do with it,” Ausberry, a New Iberia, La., native, said. “They grew up on this campus. My sons tell me more about LSU than I can. A lot of kids, including mine, want to see another part of the country.”
And football was only a part of it. Ausberry and his wife, the former Cheri Morial of New Orleans, have always preached higher education. Ausberry has a master’s degree in education and a degree in higher education administration from LSU. His wife, whose father Dutch Morial was the first black mayor of New Orleans and whose brother Marc Morial was also a New Orleans mayor, has a master’s degree from LSU in business administration.
“Every summer since they were 8 or 9, we’d take the boys on one fun trip and one academic trip,” Ausberry said. “We visited Stanford, Cal Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Harvard, Tufts University, MIT, Northwestern, the University of Chicago. All my wife’s family are Ivy Leaguers. It was about academics and what you want out of life and where you want to be.”
Austin is majoring in finance at Auburn, and Jaiden plans to do the same at Notre Dame.
“Both of them want to work on Wall Street,” Ausberry said. “Football by itself doesn’t impress my kids. During their recruitment, they both asked schools, “What’s the 40-year plan?”
Saban used that approach in recruiting five-star tight end Marcus Spears out of Southern Lab in Baton Rouge in 2000-01, before he moved him to defensive end.
“They love football, but they’re looking at the big picture,” Ausberry said. “What’s the plan after I’m finished playing football. What’s the career? The bling and NILs don’t impress my kids.”
And the transfer portal better not either.
“I did tell each of them, ‘Whenever you pick a school, the transfer thing is not too much of an option for you,'” Ausberry said. “I’m not playing that. Fight it out. Compete. If I hear, ‘You know, I’m not going to be a starter automatically, I’m transferring.’ I’m going to say, ‘C’mon, man.’ That’s not real world. You let children transfer after three months, you’re setting them up for failure in the future.”