AP photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta / President Donald Trump holds up a University of Alabama football jersey presented to him by Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, right, during a ceremony honoring the 2017 national champions on the South Lawn of the White House in April 2018. The president plans to attend Alabama's game Saturday against visiting LSU.

LSU football coach Ed Orgeron would love to somehow turn nearly 102,000 fans Saturday afternoon inside Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium to cheering for his Tigers, but he knows that won't be the case.

There is one spectator, however, Orgeron wouldn't beg for support: President Donald Trump.

"I think it's good that the president wants to come to a big game like this," Orgeron said Wednesday. "I just hope he sits right there in the middle cheering for both sides. The president needs to be neutral. If he wants to cheer for LSU, we would welcome his cheer, but obviously I don't think the president should be cheering for either team.

"I think he should be right down the middle."

Trump, the former owner of the New Jersey Generals in the short-lived United States Football League, is no stranger to college classics. Since becoming the 45th president of the United States in January 2017, he has attended the Army-Navy game, as well as Alabama's 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia in the national championship contest of the 2017 season.

The only other president to watch an Alabama game in person was John F. Kennedy, who attended the Crimson Tide's 17-0 win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl following the 1962 season.

"It's an honor that the president of the United States would be interested enough to come to the game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I'm sure we'll do everything we can to welcome him. We've been to the White House several times, and it's always very, very flattering and a unique experience."

Two of the most notable presidential visits in college football history were Richard Nixon watching Texas rally past Arkansas 15-14 in Fayetteville in 1969, and Jimmy Carter attending Georgia's 17-10 win over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl to clinch the 1980 national championship for the Bulldogs.

Saban's Tide have won five national championships and were honored four times at the White House by Barack Obama and once by Trump. When Saban won his first national title with LSU in 2003, it was actually a shared crown with Southern California, with the Tigers winning the BCS title and the Trojans getting tabbed No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.

Orgeron was an assistant with the Trojans and met Saban for the first time in spring 2004 at a shared White House ceremony when George W. Bush was president.

"It was great," Orgeron said of the event. "Everybody was cordial, and it was good to see everybody. I thought we may have a scrimmage in the courtyard or something, but those guys were nice and we were nice."

some text
AP photo by Matt Rourke / President Donald Trump meets with Navy football player Anthony Gargiulo before his team's game against Army last Dec. 8 in Philadelphia.

Orgeron also made White House visits as a Miami assistant during the George H.W. Bush administration.

LSU will be playing in front of a sitting president for just the second time in program history. William Howard Taft watched the 1909 Tigers succumb to Sewanee 15-6 in New Orleans.

"This will be my first time," Orgeron said. "I've been to the White House four times, but I've never had a president come to a game. This is going to be interesting."


Tagovailoa update

Saban has provided his share of updates regarding junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who had surgery to treat a high-ankle sprain the day after it occurred in the 35-13 win over Tennessee on Oct. 19. He provided another one after Wednesday night's practice.

"Tua has worked hard to try to get back where he has an opportunity to play," Saban said in a news conference. "He's been able to practice some, and we still don't know what his status for the game is going to be. We'll make it when the game comes.

"We don't know what kind of setbacks he's going to have or how he's going to continue to progress. There is nothing else I can really say about it, but his attitude has been great."

When asked about Tagovailoa's mobility, Saban said, "I'm not going to play the guy if he can't move."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.