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In the odd world of Les Miles the off-beat coach once again beat the odds and will remain LSU’s coach for the foreseeable future. Miles is under contract through the 2018 season. After what was speculated by many, including Miles himself, to be the head coach’s final game at the helm of the Tigers, Athletic Director Joe Alleva announced that Miles will remain LSU’s head coach, a position he’s held for 12 years.
The announcement came following the Tigers’ 19-7 victory over Texas A & M at Death Valley. Apparently the decision to retain Miles was made sometime during the game. Miles was carried off the field on the shoulders of his players as the crowd chanted his name. The win ended a three-game, double-digit losing streak, which hadn’t happened at LSU since 1966.
Miles’ situation began to turn bad following losses to Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. The losing streak set-off rampant rumors of Miles likely departure at the end of the season. The $15million buyout was not seen as a problem, with many boosters unhappy and willing to foot the bill.
The season started well with the Tigers ranked #2 in the country. They started at 7-0 and were led by Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fornette at running back. All that changed with the drubbing at the hands of arch rival Alabama, led by former LSU head coach Nick Saban.
Saban’s impact on college football is felt throughout the country, particularly in the SEC. Boosters throughout the South either want him to coach their program or want to hire someone who can beat his program. Neither of those scenarios has materialized as yet.
Miles isn’t the only SEC coach who has failed to live up to the unrealistic expectations of zealous boosters. Georgia’s’ Mark Richt “stepped down” after 15 seasons and a 145-51 record.
Miles has a better winning percentage at LSU than Saban did in his tenure at Baton Rouge and he has the same number of national championships that Saban had at the school, one.
Miles salvation came as a result of the confluence of three realities.
First, LSU is a public institution in a cash-strapped state. If the boosters had no problem raising $15 million, plus an additional $2 million for the assistant coaches, then any future consideration regarding public funding of university programming would be viewed with contempt by lawmakers and the public.
Second, possible successors to Miles weren’t coming out of the woodwork. Many desirable coaches are already in good situations and aren’t up to the challenges of the SEC West. With no viable alternative Miles began to look a little better.
Third, public opinion was solidly in the head coach’s corner. During his weekly radio show callers and attendees cried when they faced the thought of LSU without Miles. After the A & M win the chants of “Keep Les Miles” reverberated through Death Valley and sent a clear message to school administrators regarding the public’s sentiment on the matter.
The university handled the entire situation inappropriately and all criticism is justified, and Alleva deserves to pay the price.
The announcement stemmed a negative backlash against the university and gave Les Miles the security of at least one more season; or the opportunity to pursue other jobs with the knowledge that he came out on top in another bizarre event that seems to define who he is.