LSU’s firing of head coach Les Miles Sunday came as abruptly, yet delayed; shockingly unexpected, yet wholly anticipated.
A mid-or-early-season termination of this magnitude feels like uncharted territory for a sport that’s seemingly seen it all. Sure, high-profile ousters in September and October have gained frequency commensurate with the growth of coaching salaries and stakes. USC alone fired Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian both midseason, less than 25 months apart.
Of course, neither Kiffin nor Sarkisian won a conference championship, let alone a national title, two feats Les Miles achieved in his time at LSU. For that reason, and despite any anticipation the ax might fall after a bizarre, Week 4 loss, Miles’ ouster is sure to send ripples throughout
Beyond the epicenter of Baton Rouge, nowhere on the college football map will feel tremors quite like Los Angeles.
Les Miles’ sudden availability comes at an inopportune for current USC head coach Clay Helton. He’s 1-5 since being hired to the post Kiffin and Sarkisian held for 31/2 and 11/2 seasons respectively, 0-for against Power Five competition, and has already had public calls for his job.
A proven commodity like Les Miles hitting the market amid USC’s ongoing turmoil gives those demanding change from the Trojans a name to prop up as a clear and viable solution.
But the pot-stirring of a some fans and media is omnipresent around any major program, to the extent it’s simply white noise. The greatest potential source for LSU-generated rumblings in the Southland isn’t Miles, but rather interim replacement Ed Orgeron.
Orgeron’s name lingers around USC three years after his eight games fulfilling the same duty for the Trojans in 2013. Players expressed their affection for Orgeron well after Sarkisian became Kiffin’s full-time successor, and a vocal contingent of fans still champion Orgeron’s case for landing the job instead of Sarkisian.
Former athletic director Pat Haden’s hiring of Clay Helton last December felt like a mulligan for passing on Oregeron. Helton gained player support with an approach different from that of his predecessor (and former colleague), and picked up traction after a marquee win in conference play.
The Trojans’ rout of UCLA to sew up the Pac-12 South last season may not have had the same implications as Orgeron coaching USC to a win over Stanford in 2013 — the loss effectively denied the Cardinal a spot in the BCS Championship Game — but both functioned as resume-builders.
Given the similarities of their interim tenures, one could reasonably project an Orgeron hire could have similar results. If LSU thrives for the remainder of this season, however, three years of second-guessing will come back with a vengeance.
Orgeron inherits a fully stocked cupboard from Les Miles. Recruiting top-tier talent was always a strong suit of the Hat’s, and the chief reason he’ll be a hot commodity in the upcoming silly season.
This particular LSU roster has enough talent that the Tigers became trendy, preseason picks to contend with Alabama in the SEC West. Fairly or unfairly, a 2-2 start juxtaposed with the expectations contribute to Miles’ ouster.
Should Orgeron oversee a turnaround from a talent-laden roster, and score another marquee win — say, against an Alabama team that walloped USC — his might become the top trending topic in Southern California.