After flirting with other options, the LSU Tigers hired the same guy who has held the head-coaching position for the past two months.
LSU announced Saturday it has promoted interim coach Ed Orgeron to a full-time role after he went 5-2 as longtime coach Les Miles' replacement.
"My goal is to build a championship program fast, very fast," Orgeron said Saturday. "I understand the expectations at LSU and I invite them because I have the same expectations of myself and my staff."
Orgeron, 55, is a Louisiana native.
"This is bigger than life," he said. "Driving past the stadium, I just wanted to be an assistant coach here. I just wanted to have my feet on the grass, but I knew once I got here I could earn my way up to being the head coach. I wanted to take it one step at a time, and every step I went, I was preparing to come back home to LSU.
"That was my goal the whole time -- to go out and go to Miami, go to Syracuse, go to USC and prepare to get better. I wanted to come back to be the best football coach I could possibly be when I took this job, and I feel like that happened. I'm prepared to do it."
It had been a dramatic 48 hours, as rumors swirled about LSU administrators targeting Houston's Tom Herman and Florida State's Jimbo Fisher over Orgeron. LSU finally went with Orgeron, who earned widespread support from the team and a large swath of the fan base in his time as interim coach.
"There was never a day where I felt like I wouldn't have a chance to get this job," Orgeron said. "And that's all I wanted."
A source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy that LSU decided to go with Orgeron because it "wasn't going to be held hostage [while Herman negotiated with other schools]. ... In the end, they chose the guy who wanted the job and not the guy who wanted the money."
The Advocate reported Saturday that Orgeron's deal is for five years, with yet-to-be finalized financials expected to be $3 million to $4 million per year. Miles' contract for 2016 was for $4,300,000. The median coach salary in the SEC, meanwhile, was $4,172,500 this year, according to a survey by USA Today.
It initially seemed as though Orgeron was a stopgap between Miles' 12-year tenure -- a time when he became the program's most consistent winner -- and the next coach's, but over time it became clear Orgeron had a legitimate chance to contend for the job. He developed a loyal following because of his enthusiastic approach, his outreach to program alums and Louisiana roots.
"This is a great day for LSU and for all of Louisiana. We got our man and he's been here all along," athletic director Joe Alleva said in a statement. "Coach Orgeron has demonstrated his ability to run this program with excellence, even under difficult circumstances. Coach 'O' earned this job.
"I worked closely with [LSU] President [King] Alexander and board leadership throughout a very deliberate process. By the end of that process, our decision was clear. Coach Orgeron took us step by step through every aspect of his plans for this program and there was no question that he is the man to lead LSU football."
Orgeron's adjustments to LSU's game-week schedule won favor among the players, signaling a stark change from his first head-coaching job a decade earlier, when he went 10-25 in three seasons at Ole Miss and alienated the team and fan base in the process.
Orgeron said he was a more mature coach after the humbling experience at Ole Miss, and he earned a chance to prove it in two stints in an interim role.
He went 6-2 at USC after replacing his friend Lane Kiffin during the 2013 season. He didn't land that full-time gig with the Trojans, but he did at LSU after a series of impressive accomplishments solidified his candidacy.
The Tigers set multiple single-game school records under Orgeron and new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, whom Orgeron elevated from tight-ends coach when Cam Cameron followed Miles out the door after a 2-2 start.
Among the notable achievements on offense:
In Orgeron's first game, LSU posted 634 yards of total offense against Missouri -- the most any LSU team has accumulated against an SEC opponent.
The following week, LSU averaged 10.9 yards per play against Southern Miss, setting a modern-day school record.
Sophomore Derrius Guice threatened Fournette's rushing mark with 252 yards in a blowout win at Arkansas on Nov. 12 and then broke it on Thanksgiving night with 285 yards and four touchdowns in the season-ending win over Texas A&M.
"He's done a great job," Guice said of Orgeron after Thursday's 54-39 victory over Texas A&M. "He's a family guy. He keeps us close. He reminds us that it's you fighting for your brothers. ... We're all one heartbeat. I want Coach O to stay. We need somebody like Coach O to lead us out there."
Orgeron, who becomes the 33rd coach in the program's history, is likely to make changes. It appears he'll make an effort to retain some members of Miles' coaching staff -- Orgeron said defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has committed to staying after LSU ranked in the top 15 nationally in both total defense and scoring defense -- but there are sure to be adjustments.
His first order of business must be to bring aboard a top-tier offensive coordinator who can develop a scheme that can consistently rival the defense's standing as a national leader. Alabama offensive coordinator Kiffin and Orgeron remain close after working together in previous locales, and Kiffin is sure to be high on Orgeron's list of candidates should he choose to leave Nick Saban's program without a head-coaching contract in hand.
"All I'll say is I'll try to get the best coordinator in football," Orgeron said when asked about the possibility of adding Kiffin to his staff. "My plan is to take my time and assemble the best staff in America.
"The offensive coordinator that we're going to bring here -- we have a couple guys in mind. It's going to be all that and more that you ask."
LSU could use Kiffin's guidance as an offensive playcaller and developer of quarterbacks after struggling in both departments for the latter portion of Miles' tenure. Even after Orgeron took over, those issues surfaced in losses to Alabama and Florida, when execution mishaps directly contributed to LSU losses.
"I do believe that nowadays that you have to run the spread offense, you have to have dual-threat quarterbacks that can run the ball and throw it," Orgeron said. "But you have to have somebody that knows how to run it. We still want to be a physical football team."
Wins and losses will be the ultimate measure of Orgeron's effectiveness in his new job. LSU has not won an SEC West title since 2011, and the formerly competitive rivalry with Alabama has become one-sided recently, with the Crimson Tide winning the past six meetings.
Recovering the program's reputation starts on offense, which is why most believed LSU would hire an offense-minded coach who would modernize Miles' ground-and-pound approach. Perhaps Orgeron, a longtime defensive line coach, still can be the person who leads that turnaround, but it will depend on the caliber of offensive assistants he persuades to join his staff.
"I want to thank King Alexander and the board of supervisors for entrusting me with the greatest job in the country," Orgeron said. "I want to let you know that myself and our football team is going to represent you guys in the best way that we can.
"Growing up in the state of Louisiana, watching the Tigers play, we get it and we understand what you gave to us and the accountability that we have to the people of the state of Louisiana, to LSU and everybody that's played here before."
ESPN staff writer Brett McMurphy contributed to this report.