Les Miles walked into his weekly news conference, shook hands with a former sportswriter and stepped to the microphone.
That ended the normalcy on this Monday at LSU.
Miles acknowledged reports about his job security, shook off a question on retirement and delivered “team-first” messages to his players and to what he called a concerned coaching staff. His players defended their coach during interviews, touted his success at the school and praised his work ethic.
This was anything but a typical Monday.
“It’s been a pretty interesting weekend so far,” right guard Will Clapp said. “I’m ready to get back to work.”
At least two national organizations confirmed Monday what The Advocate reported last week: that Miles’ job is in jeopardy and that his $15 million buyout isn’t an issue. ESPN and Yahoo Sports both posted stories about the possible, if not likely, ouster of the Tigers’ 11th-year coach.
The news quickly spread nationally, stunning many sports columnists, TV pundits and others around college football.
Miles took the stage for his weekly news conference as reports erupted from outlets across the nation. ESPN2 even streamed the first portion of the news conference live. The coach quickly addressed the issue.
“I want to get me out of the way as best I can,” he said in his opening statement. “I don’t know anything other than, ‘Let’s go to work, let’s rally the troops, enjoy the men that I’ve hired and recruited. Let’s coach them hard and get victory.’ ”
Miles offered no real answers about his future at LSU, where he has delivered a national championship and three Southeastern Conference titles. He said he has not considered retirement, and he declined to answer a question on whether he has met with LSU administrators over the past week.
A source close to the coach told The Advocate on Monday that Miles has not met with school officials and that they’ve told him nothing about his job status.
It’s business as usual for Miles, he said.
“The information I have is, ‘Do your job as you would do it,’ ” he said. “It’s something I took when I took that job 11 years ago. Someone is asking me if I’m coaching for my job. I think I’ve done that for 11 years.”
Rumblings of Miles’ potential job trouble began last week with a column in The Advocate that indicated the coach’s tenure with the school may be drawing to a close as his team slid into a stunning slump.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva declined comment Saturday night until after the season. An announcement and decision is not expected until then.
Just 16 days ago, LSU entered a game at Alabama 7-0 and No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Since then, the Tigers (7-3, 4-3) have lost three straight for the first time since 1999, losing those games by a combined 55 points. The latest was a mistake-filled 38-17 defeat at Ole Miss on Saturday — an ugly performance that included 13 penalties and, at one point, a 24-0 deficit.
The loss dropped LSU’s record in the SEC to 8-7 in the past two seasons and 13-10 in the past three. Miles’ team is 35-14 since that 21-0 loss to Alabama in the 2011 BCS championship game.
“I just know he’s still our coach right now,” receiver Malachi Dupre said Monday. “He’s done a great job since he’s been here. Put up historical numbers as far as the winning percentages and the things he’s accomplished since he’s been here.”
Miles, 62, has the second-most wins (110) of any coach in LSU history, and his current winning percentage (.774) is the best in school history among those who coached the program for more than two years.
He’s in the third year of a contract that runs through the 2019 season and pays him $4.3 million annually. The contract includes a buyout of $15 million that can be paid over eight years. The payout is off-set if Miles takes another job.
Miles addressed his job situation with his assistant coaches in their weekly Monday morning meeting.
“I started this morning’s meeting in the same rendition as I gave you here,” Miles said to reporters. “They understand this is not about me. This is about the team. This is about the opponent and enjoying the young men that we coach.
“There’s probably some concern,” he continued about his staff, “but I think overall they are professionals. Victory is maybe more important than anybody’s job.”
LSU hosts Texas A&M (7-3, 4-3) on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium in a regular-season finale back-dropped by the return of former defensive coordinator John Chavis. He and the school are locked in an ugly lawsuit over Chavis’ buyout, and each has made bitter court filings against each other in the past eight months.
That has taken a backseat to the situation with Miles.
Talk of his possible dismissal has already affected the Tigers’ top-ranked 2016 recruiting class. Feleipe Franks, a top-five quarterback in the class, decommitted Monday night in a post on Twitter. He had been committed for nearly 18 months.
Franks’ announcement put an end to an unusual Monday at LSU — one that didn’t change its football coach’s approach.
“I’m going to go on and work,” Miles said. “At some point in time, there’s a me in this. Not while I’m coaching. This will always be about our players and our team.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.