Les Miles’ radio show Wednesday night brought tears to a child questioner who sought comfort in Miles’ arms and had a 60-year-old man choking up in front of the embattled football coach.
“I don’t know how you keep smiling, but you do,” one live questioner said. “That’s why we love you. … We’re not going to let you leave town.”
Miles will complete his 11th regular season at the school Saturday night when the Tigers (7-3, 4-3 Southeastern) meet Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3) at Tiger Stadium. Reports of his shaky future with the program turned his weekly radio show into an emotional outpouring from fans.
Some live questioners were brought to tears at the event at TJ Ribs on Acadian Thruway. Sadie, a weekly caller, traveled from Texas with her family to the show.
During the live question segment, Sadie began crying while asking Miles a question about the offense. He reached his arms out for her, pulling her onto the stage, where he spoke to her face-to-face as if she were a confused running back.
Another regular questioner, an older gentleman, broke down during his question to Miles, standing in front of the coach with little to say.
Miles, the 62-year-old who’s led LSU to two SEC titles and a national championship, held it together on the stage. He never wavered or became emotional, grinning and laughing at times. He offered no real news about his unstable employment.
“Reports of your demise are greatly exaggerated,” one caller started, referencing a Mark Twain line.
Reports of Miles’ possible ouster began last week with a story in The Advocate. ESPN and Yahoo! Sports reported similar stories Monday.
Miles is in the third year of a contract that runs through the 2019 season. He makes $4.3 million a year and has a buyout of $15 million. One caller told Miles what he should do with the $15 million if he is fired: “Travel around the world and just have fun,” he said.
Miles responded, “It’s not in my nature to not do anything, to not have productive times.”
It was an emotional event but not only because of the circumstances regarding Miles’ employment. Play-by-play broadcaster Jim Hawthorne returned as the host of the show after missing the last few weeks recovering from heart bypass surgery.
Hawthorne is in his last year of calling LSU football games. This was his last regular season radio show to host.
“I look forward to many more, many more,” Miles said just before Hawthorne signed off for the final time at TJ Ribs.
Miles deflected questions about his job status during two interview opportunities with reporters on Wednesday. He declined to defend himself or his record during the Southeastern Conference teleconference in the morning and then, in a post-practice interview Wednesday night, said he hopes to be at LSU “another 11 years.”
The emotion poured out of fans at a packed TJ Ribs. The parking lot was completely full, and people clogged the seating area around the radio stage.
Les Miles speaks to Sadie, a weekly caller who showed up for his who.
Miles spent more time than normal afterward posing for photos and signing autographs. LSU cheerleaders took selfies with the coach, and Sadie returned to the stage after the show, wiping away tears for some photo shots with the coach.
It all seemed like a good-bye for LSU’s second most winningest coach in program history, a man who has the highest winning percentage at LSU (.774) of any coach in the last 100 years.
One late caller told Miles that he deserves “one more year” like LSU’s most winningest coach, Charlie McClendon. Miles, on stage, gave a slight shake of the head and grinned.
A “travesty” is how one caller referenced the situation, calling out LSU’s athletic director, Joe Alleva.
Miles’ response: “This has never been about the coach. I’ve never coached a season, a game where it’s about me.”