We know now that LSU coach Les Miles will not lose his job following this past weekend’s contest against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge.
At the first of last week, it was so clear, a blind man could see it coming evidenced by Miles’ demeanor at his weekly news conference on Monday November 23rd, which was broadcast live by ESPN2. I suppose the boys from ESPN showed up anticipating Miles might take the podium to announce his resignation or declare the bout with the Aggies to be his last in light of a three-game losing skid including another loss to archrival Alabama.
But who could blame the Mad Hatter for looking dejected? After all, his exodus as the head man at one of the most coveted coaching jobs in the country has been playing out in the press since Scott Rabalais of The (Baton Rouge) Advocate penned a column a couple of weeks ago saying Miles’ future at LSU was in doubt. Specifically, Miles’ job status would be determined by how the Tigers performed at Ole Miss (38-17 loss) and against Texas A&M (19-7 win) in the season finale. Meanwhile, one member of the LSU Board of Supervisors was quoted in another news report saying Miles might be fired even if he won the last two games of the regular season.
Make no mistake, Rabalais’ column and two more pieces published by him regarding Miles’ pending ouster didn’t appear in print because Rabalais alone thought it was a topic worth exploring. That information was fed to Rabalais on purpose. It doesn’t really matter who leaked it, or planted it. What’s done is done.
Yet, the mere idea that the administration at LSU opted to use a sportswriter to attempt to get rid of its head football coach – to do its dirty work – was deplorable. Second rate. Bush league. Spineless.
All of those words come to mind in searching for a proper description to capture how LSU President F. King Alexander and athletics director Joe Alleva handled the business of running Miles off the reservation. Especially the word spineless.
Though all Tiger faithful are familiar with it, it’s worth revisiting Miles’ mark as LSU’s head coach since taking over in 2005 after Nick Saban bolted for the Miami Dolphins in the NFL.
Miles has guided the Tigers to a 111-32 record from 2005 through all 11 regular season games in the 2015 season. He’s 61-27 in Southeastern Conference play, including conference titles in 2007 and 2011. He won the national championship following the 2007 season behind a 38-24 manhandling of Ohio State, though it goes without saying that Miles’ 2007 squad was littered with talent recruited by his predecessor. Miles’ Tigers, though, haven’t been the same since Jan. 9, 2012. That was the night that Alabama, coached by the man who put LSU football on the map again, Saban, blanked the Tigers 21-0 in the national title contest at the Superdome in New
Orleans. I was there. It was painful to watch.
The loss to Alabama, in hindsight, has never been forgotten. It was a loss of plutonic proportions, especially in light of the manner in which LSU zipped through the 2011 regular season unbeaten, dispatching every opponent, except one, in razor-like fashion. The exception was a 9-6 overtime win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa in November. That game, by the way, was the last time Miles’ Tigers have bested Saban’s Crimson Tide.
While Miles has posted an impressive record over the past 10-plus years, his SEC mark since the 2011 season has been lacking: 6-2 in 2012; 5-3 in 2013; 4-4 in 2014; and 5-3 in 2015. The three conference losses this year (taking place in three consecutive weeks) are the first three losses in a row in Tiger Town since Gerry DiNardo’s last year as head coach in 1999.
No one can blame Miles’ shortcomings on recruiting. Year after year after year Miles has managed to haul in talent by the boatload. If you doubt it, look no further than the pros. There are more former Tigers playing in the NFL today (40) than any other college football program in the country.
You may recall as well that Miles landed the No. 1 recruit in the country in 2014. His name? Leonard Fournette, who through the first seven games of this season was the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Then the Alabama game came along. Another loss and Fournette’s chances of winning the Heisman went up in smoke.
The loss to Alabama would have been easier to swallow if Miles hadn’t insisted – once again – on trying to run the ball down after down after down when everyone in the country knew that sticking with the running game was a lost cause. Even Booger McFarland, the former LSU great from Winnsboro, LA, Tweeted about it as it all unfolded before our eyes.
Many LSU fans may still think that, perhaps, it’s time for a change in the head coach at LSU. Lord knows Miles isn’t likely to deviate from his three yards and a cloud of dust mentality. If he was inclined to make a change, the losses in conference play – 12 of them over the past three years – would have prompted him to do something different by now. I suppose being threatened with the loss of a job might do it.
There’s something inherently wrong, though, with the course of action Alexander and Alleva attempted to take to force Miles out. If the decision had already been made to fire him, the least Alexander and Alleva could have done was to man up, pull Miles behind closed doors and handle their business like men. The public execution we witnessed for over two weeks before this all played out last Saturday night (resulting in Miles remaining at LSU indefinitely) was a cowardly way to do it.
This whole thing was unfair to Miles, to the players and the university as a whole.
Sam Hanna is a state political writer.