Frank Wilson leaving LSU: ‘Tears of joy’

Frank Wilson called leaving LSU an “emotional time,” but said his players supported the Tigers’ former recruiting coordinator and running backs coach in his venture to a head coach.

“They were super excited for me,” he said during his introductory news conference Friday. “Tears of joy.”

University of Texas-San Antonio introduced Wilson as its new coach on Friday evening with a news conference broadcast live on the school’s website.

During the 30-minute event, Wilson said he learned plenty from coach Les Miles in his six years in Baton Rouge, discussed his recruiting “process,” and called the opportunity to be a head coach too big to pass up.

Wilson said his now-former LSU players are “near and dear to me.”

“My family is eager and excited to be here and call San Antonio home,” he said. “It’s been a long, long time since we started this since I was a high school football coach. My family and I prayed, cried every moment of it.

“It’s the biggest moment of our life. Birds up!” Wilson finished, flashing the Roadrunners’ hand signal.

LSU acknowledged the departure of Wilson on Friday morning, and coach Les Miles, in a statement, says the school will miss the hotshot recruiting guru who helped deliver five top-10 class in six years in Baton Rouge.

“It stands to reason that with the success that we have had here at LSU, our coaches are going to get these types of opportunities,” Miles said in the statement. “Frank has been a big part of what we’ve accomplished at LSU both on and off the field. He’s ready to be a head coach. He’s worked long and hard for this opportunity and I couldn’t be happier for Frank and his family. He’s going to do a great job at Texas-San Antonio. We are going to miss him.”

Wilson and the Roadrunners came to a deal Thursday night for him to leave the Tigers for the Conference USA program. UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey told the San Antonio Express-News on Friday that Wilson’s contract is a five-year deal starting with an annual salary of $650,000 – about $25,000 less than he was due to make this year at LSU.

Wilson said he has no immediate plans to return to Baton Rouge. He packed four luggage cases of clothes to last him for weeks. His family will return to Baton Rouge soon to ready for the move to San Antonio.

National signing day is just 20 days away, Wilson noted. He’ll begin recruiting and assembling a coaching staff immediately, building back up a slipping program as Miles and Co. did when Wilson arrived at LSU after the 2009 season.

“I tell you… the year I got there they had not come off a great season and learned a lot of things from Les Miles and that program on how to do these the right way. How to take your time and assess things and look at the long-term view and to rebuild it yet again from the bottom up.”

UTSA didn’t wait long to tout Wilson around San Antonio.

Wilson, a 42-year old from New Orleans, has spent six years in Baton Rouge as a key member to Miles’ coaching staff.

He’s known as one of the nation’s best recruiters. Five of the Tigers’ previous six signing classes under Wilson have been ranked in the top 10 by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. And the current one is No. 1 in the nation in three of the four major recruiting outlets.

Wilson never hid his desire recently to become a head coach. He was a finalist for the head job at Troy last season.

Wilson was the highest-paid position assistant at LSU, making $675,00 a year. He has a contract that expires on March 31, 2018 – the longest of any position assistant.

LSU is waiving Wilson’s buyout, as it normally does with assistants who leave to become head coaches, athletic director Joe Alleva said. Wilson’s buyout was about $330,000 – or 25 percent of the remaining salary on his contract.

He’s the third LSU assistant in the mix for another gig this off-season. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele left for Auburn, and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and Mississippi State were in, at least, brief discussions about the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator opening.

Orgeron, an aggressive recruiter who joined the staff last year, seems to be a natural fit to take over the recruiting part of Wilson’s job. The Louisiana native has served as recruiting coordinator at Tennessee and two stints at Southern Cal.

But who would coach running backs?

Potential candidates could include current North Carolina running backs coach Larry Porter, who spent 2005-09 coaching running backs at LSU and had a brief stint as the head coach at Memphis; Alabama running backs coach Burton Burns, a New Orleans native; Texas Tech running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, a Southern University graduate and former Louisiana Tech assistant; and Josh Henson, the former Missouri offensive coordinator who worked with Miles at Oklahoma State and LSU.

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