Supporters of ‘Pistol Pete’ statue will push for one during LSU board meeting Friday

LSU’s basketball arena already bears his name, but now some members of LSU’s governing board and others are hoping that a meeting this week will finally pave the way for a statue honoring basketball star Pete Maravich on campus.

The LSU Board of Supervisors is set to take up a student-athlete statue policy during its regular meeting Friday.

The item that appears on the boards’ agenda for approval is a 2011 policy that outlines criteria that student athletes must meet before they can be honored with statues on campus. The policy was never formally adopted by the LSU board.

Now some members of the board said they expect the item will open the group to a robust discussion about honoring Maravich, who is considered one of the greatest college basketball players of all time.

“This should have been done a long time ago,” said board member Stephen Perry. “It’s like everyone has finally woken up.”

Board member Stanley Jacobs, a former LSU basketball player and former president of the Tiger Athletic Foundation, said he has planned a presentation to advocate for a Maravich statue.

“I can’t believe where we are right now,” Jacobs said. “We should already have a Maravich statue. It should be a given.”

The fight over a statue honoring Maravich, who died in 1988 at the age of 40, has been simmering for some time.

Supporters say that a Maravich statue, like the one honoring Shaquille O’Neal and one that’s being erected to honor basketball legend Bob Pettit, would provide photo opportunities for fans and shed light on LSU’s history and athletic traditions.

Several board members claim leaders have blocked the statue’s approval because they are academic driven and don’t understand Maravich’s importance to Louisiana. Maravich played for four years at LSU but left the school a few credits shy of a degree.

LSU officials repeatedly have pointed to the unapproved criteria list — specifically its requirement that honorees be degree holders — as the reason why there isn’t a statue of Maravich on his alma mater’s campus.

But a lobby campaign in favor of a statue honoring “Pistol” Pete has been growing over the past year. State legislators unanimously approved a resolution last year in support of one, and Bobby Jindal, while he was still governor, sent letters to LSU board members, urging them to intervene to honor Maravich. The governor appoints the LSU board.

Several members of the often tight-lipped board said they didn’t feel comfortable speaking on the record about the statue fight ahead of Friday’s meeting, and others didn’t respond to The Advocate’s requests for comment.

“This issue was really brought before the board and considered by the administration before got on the board,” said board member Jim McCrery, who was appointed in 2014.

Jacobs said he has been pushing for a statue honoring Maravich for at least five years and is hopeful at finally seeing some movement.

“Pete has brought more notoriety to LSU, being the leading scorer in the history of the game, than someone who perhaps has an LSU degree but doesn’t have the skills he had,” Jacobs said. “I can’t believe we have to vote on something that is so apparent.”

If enacted as presented to the board, the policy would enforce the same criteria as the university has consistently cited throughout the Maravich debate — including the degree requirement.

Other criteria former student athletes have to have met before earning a statue on campus: earned at least two varsity letters at LSU; waited 10 years since last competing for LSU; received the highest collegiate award given in his/her sport; made “significant accomplishments” in the sport outside of LSU; and established a reputation for character that reflects favorably upon LSU.

Perry said he thinks a serious discussion should be held about who deserves being honored by statue, but he said there’s no question that Maravich is at the top of the ranks.

He said he thinks the board can reach consensus on a set of standards that would honor athletes who have “transcended the game and the sport” — if not the policy that has been used to date.

“Hopefully, then we’ll address how to create what a lot of people believe will be a great game-day experience,” he said of the Maravich statue. “It’s a great way to honor our history and also to recognize the transcendence that (some athletes) had.”

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .

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