Tenuous Future of Les Miles Exposes Sport’s Ugliness

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Imagine if a college football message board’s most bitter malcontents had the power to hire and fire head coaches. Your imagination need not be too vivid; just read reports of Les Miles’ possibly impending ouster from LSU.

James Smith of The Times-Picayune reported Sunday, in the wake of LSU’s third consecutive loss, the Tiger Athletic Foundation is “ready to cut ties with Miles and start a new era.”

Tiger Athletic Foundation is the closest we get to anyone attaching a name to some message board-quality tough guy talk, like this: “[The Texas A&M game] will have no bearing on what we do with him.”

What we do with him… Jeez, with language like that, I can’t help but wonder if the anonymous source is Randolph or Mortimer Duke.

LSU went from thinking College Football Playoff, to those seemingly with the money and power to dump a head coach treating the news like a message board.

The key difference: These are people with the clout to back up their words.

Two LSU boosters are presumably going to exchange a one-dollar bill per their bet they couldn’t get a wildly successfully head coach fired.

And make no mistake, Les Miles has been wildly successfully. Under his guidance, the Tigers won two SEC championships, played in two national title games and won one, and amassed a 72.3 winning percentage isn’t sufficient.

But, OK. Regardless the heights Les Miles reaches, he’ll never match Nick Saban. Considering Saban coached LSU before the Mad Hatter, athletic department decision-makers probably presume they can find someone comparable.

Saban’s a once-in-a-generation coach. However, if Smith’s report of LSU brass being hot after Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher bears fruit, the Tigers have a candidate whose shown flashes of being the sport’s next standard-bearer.

But if the school’s bigwigs whiff on Fisher, is LSU’s next coach going to win two SEC championships? A national championship? Better than 72 percent of his games over the course of a decade?

Tigers history says no. Emphatically.

Big-time college football coaching is a tough business, and the metrics by which coaches are measured are indeed arbitrary. But arbitrary often crosses a line into delusional, and the initial rumors surfacing around LSU fit the latter.

Fisher’s a home-run target, but he’s built a self-sustaining machine at Florida State. More impressively, he did so stepping into the shadow cast by a legend, Bobby Bowden.

The successors to legends rarely flourish, and certainly not to the degree Fisher has.

From a purely economic standpoint, Fisher makes $4 million in his current job. Miles’ current contract at LSU is $700,000 more — not chump change by any measure, but hardly a deal-breaking sum.

Just how much above that can LSU afford while also paying off a whopping $15 million in buyout money to Miles and his staff? That we’re even having that particular conversation at a time when Louisiana is slashing higher education budgets at a record pace is off-putting, but I digress.

Fisher is an ambitious target, if not unrealistic. His name being mentioned doesn’t stray into delusional territory — Jon Gruden’s does.

Any time Gruden is suggested as a viable candidate without tongue planted firmly in cheek, there’s a problem. That this comes from sources Smith describes as “highly ranked…involved with the decision-making process” should bother LSU fans.

I won’t shed any tears for Les Miles if his firing does come to pass. When rival Arkansas’ head coaching position came open in 2012, the Hatter was a rumored candidate.

The rumors resulted in a pay raise of almost $600,000 and bumps in support staff salaries.

From the clandestine use of anonymity, rumor-mongering and delusional wish lists, the process plays out no differently than if it went through a message board. Just swap sources with handles like TigerMan68 and raise the stakes.

  • Billy Riordan

    Kyle, nice wriien article. I just posted a comment on another article written about Jimbo Fisher coming to LSU, and posted this comment to B Miller, who commented about Les Miles, and the his LSU Program, and thought I’d post it here, as it is right on, about what You write about in Your article.
    I would somewhat agree with You B Miller. Each, and every Program stands on its own. The proven programs, have a coach in place, that has a process, that’s better than others. I, like You am an LSU Fan, and am one who loves Coach Miles, and what he has accomplished being our head coach. He is a coach first, which he has done an excellent job of, over the 11 years, he’s been here. He is also a father figure, who has helped mold young kids into men, not only on the field, but off the field as well. His process has made LSU football what it is over the last 11 years. There will always be those few fans, and few boosters, that think LSU should play for an SEC Championship every year, and vie for a nat’l title every two years. Their skewed logic, is a slap in the face, to what Coach Miles has accomplished here at LSU, and is what is eventually going to bring down the Tigers. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but when it’s directed at something, that few of them know, anything about, that is where the problem begins. Coach Miles, hasn’t accomplished what he has, by using somene else’s process. Albeit this year, Coach Miles, and his Tigers, are one of the TOP 5 Winningest Programs in College Football, over the last 10 years.(Fact, look it up) There are about another 120 FBS football programs, that wish they could be in that number. I’ve been privileged to call myself a True LSU fan for over 40 years, and watched this program blossom, to the heights of being one of the top programs in the country today. It’s a shame to see what Coach Miles has accomplished for the University, it’s players, and students, as well as the True Tiger Fans, be treated the way he has been over the last few weeks There is an anomaly out there right now, and his name is Saban, that LSU fans know quite well. There is only one Saban, and he has done wonders today, in a college football landscape that is so much different today, than it was 20 years ago. But, with all the rumblings of several fans, and a few boosters, who have more money than sense, they maybe about to turn one of the top programs in the country, over the last 15 years, into one, that within the next 5, will be calling for the Les Miles saviour to return. You reap what You sew…….Watch!!!