Some opinions and observations in the wake of the “Coach stays” scene from “Hoosiers” that played out in real time at LSU …
It’s no surprise that Les Miles’ players carried him off the field after Saturday’s landmark 19-7 win over Texas A&M. There is no disputing Miles’ players have always loved playing for him, so they physically expressed their devotion when they thought they would lose him.
It’s easy to be happy for Miles personally. He has in most respects been a quirky pleasure to work with for 11 seasons. He hasn’t had any problem being true to himself and his emotions or sharing those with others, like flying to Michigan the week of LSU’s 2006 season finale to attend the funeral of his beloved mentor, Bo Schembechler; or opening his heart this season to a dying young fan named Sid Ortiz.
It’s also important to remember that coaches are people, people with families. Late in Saturday’s game with Texas A&M, Miles’ youngest daughter, Macy Grace, ran through the common area of the press box with a broad smile on her face, perhaps convinced that her dad’s Tigers were about to come through against the Aggies.
Coaches’ families go through the wringer much of the time, even when times are good. And even though Miles will stay at LSU, it appears certain that some of his coaches will be moving on.
Miles appears to be facing a mandate to modernize the offense to make it more productive, but there is no contractual obligation. One assumes offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will go, but he’s still recruiting for LSU — he and Miles visited formerly committed quarterback Feleipe Franks on Tuesday, per 24/7 Sports’ Shea Dixon — and there is little if any buzz on that front, especially with so many coaching job changes around the country. Many an up-and-coming play-caller will angle for a head coaching job of his own before signing up for a job at LSU that will last who knows how long.
If Miles doesn’t see the light when it comes to the offense, there’s a strong possibility he and LSU could be right back a year from now where it was last week, trying to decide should he stay or should he go.
As always with Miles, there is another side to the coin, good or bad. And the pro-Miles camp has to look no farther than Miles’ old nemesis when he was the coach at Oklahoma State to make a case for why he should have been allowed to stay.
Like LSU, Oklahoma went 8-5 last year, and the heat was increasing under Bob Stoops’ seat, a coach whose “only” national championship was back in 2000. In the offseason, Stoops brought in a bright young offensive coordinator, Lincoln Riley from East Carolina. The Sooners averaged 10.4 more points per game over 2014 (45.8) and 78.2 more yards per game (542.9).
Oklahoma is No. 3 in this week’s CFP rankings and a virtual lock to stay in the top four when the CFP semifinal parings are announced Sunday.
And, oh yes, quarterback Baker Mayfield became a Heisman Trophy contender along the way.
The one critical issue that hasn’t been addressed, probably won’t be addressed, but will be asked again and again over the next year is what record keeps Miles’ employed?
Pegging a number of wins is problematic, but you have to figure on LSU needing to be a contender to season’s end in the SEC West and improving on this year’s 5-3 SEC record. If LSU goes at least 6-2 in SEC play, sweeps the nonconference slate again — including a quality win over Wisconsin in what shapes up to be a pivotal season opener — and plays its way into a CFP bowl, it should bode well for Miles.
Was it all real? Miles being in trouble? The idea of Jimbo Fisher being his successor? The answer is a most definite yes. Then what changed?
First, the groundswell of public support for Miles and his being cast more and more as a victim of circumstances rather than a creator of his own problems grew, much more than the LSU administration must have envisioned.
Second, at some point the Fisher deal fell through. It isn’t clear yet whether Fisher pulled out — or his agent, Jimmy Sexton, demanded too much — or that LSU officials decided they couldn’t go through with the millions in buyouts and new contracts such a move would have entailed.
But all that changed at the end of last week, to the point where college coaching insider Scott Roussel of FootballScoop.com posted this Saturday morning:
“This morning, multiple sources have told FootballScoop that the ‘political forces’ involved are weighing in unlike ever before. Multiple sources have said to FootballScoop today, ‘If LSU wins, there now is a very real chance Les hangs on.’ To be clear, this was not the case just a few days ago. All sources agreed on that point.”
LSU won. Miles stayed. If the past few days and weeks have proved nothing else, the man’s a survivor.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.