The “demoralization” and “concern” from LSU football players played a role in the firing of Les Miles and Cam Cameron, and the search for a new coach has started with “feelers” and “calls being made,” LSU president F. King Alexander said.
University leaders fired both Miles and Cameron together as a packaged deal, and leaders pulled the trigger four games into 2016 to “salvage” the season, he said during a meeting with The Advocate on Wednesday.
“There was a degree of demoralization that our student-athletes were showing. We just weren’t getting better,” Alexander said. “It was clear that our student-athletes had their concerns, not to mention the fans, not to mention the concerns that kind of spread from last year. (We were told) things would change. And they pretty much stayed the same. We wanted to give our student-athletes and students the opportunity to salvage this year.”
LSU promoted Ed Orgeron, a fiery Louisiana native, to interim coach, and Orgeron elevated tight ends coach Steve Ensminger to offensive coordinator. The duo helped lead the Tigers (3-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) to a 42-7 rout of Missouri on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, rolling up a school-record for offensive yards (634) in a conference game.
Alexander said Orgeron has “as much of a chance as anybody” to get the full-time job.
The Tigers began the season ranked fifth in the nation before sliding into a 2-2 hole, all of it coming after the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and three law enforcement authorities and catastrophic flooding around the region whose effects still linger.
“I’d love to see Ed turn this around for our players and students and win every game for the rest of the season. It would be really good for us, here (in Baton Rouge),” Alexander said. “We really need a boost, and the boost wasn’t what we thought it was going to be (with Miles), and of all times our community needed a shot in the arm, something to hold up high.”
However, the search for a new coach is underway. Alexander does not plan to be heavily involved in the school’s first football coaching search since 2005. He’ll leave it to athletic director Joe Alleva, he said, “to get us some very good candidates.” The school has not hired a search firm, he said, but he did not rule that out.
LSU has contacted intermediaries of several coaches, and Alexander expects to get a significant amount of applications for what he termed “the best job in the country.”
“Feelers are out there,” Alexander said. “I know that calls are being made. I don’t know specifically to which coaches. It’s early October.
“Knowing what other institutions have … I think some of the best, most talented young coaches would crawl on their hands and knees to come to LSU.”
Alexander even mentioned one potential candidate without using his name: Houston coach Tom Herman.
“I know that a number of us are looking at coaches right now,” said Alexander, whose three brothers played college football and who said he follows the game. “It’s early in the season. As this progresses, we’ll have more discussion about it as the season progresses.
“Everybody’s talking about the coach at Houston. Apparently he’s a very good coach. Houston could drop six in a row. They’re talking about other coaches. I will have as much of a role in it as I need to. If it requires me recruiting a coach, I will.”
Former LSU coach Les Miles is coming to a television near you.
The decision to fire Miles and Cameron, longtime friends, began soon after the 18-13 loss at Auburn on Sept. 24. Alexander spoke to members of the LSU Board of Supervisors the night of the game, inquiring if they had watched the Tigers lose at Auburn. Later that night, Alleva called a meeting for Sunday with the school president and select board members, Alexander said.
Miles and Cameron were “going to stick together,” Alexander said of their firing, and the sweeping changes were made after leadership noticed — even after the season-opening loss to Wisconsin — that promises this offseason of offensive change were not being delivered.
“I do know that there was concern about the offense last year, and there were many people who wanted to see a new kind of offense,” he said. “We kept the same people in play. We changed the defensive coordinator, but we kept the same kind of structure in play (on offense). It played out like it did.”
LSU will pay Miles $9.6 million over six years in buyout money, but Alexander expects the 62-year-old coach to land a new job, mitigating what LSU owes him. According to Miles’ contract, he must actively attempt to find new employment in order to receive his buyout money — about $130,000 a month.
“We wish Les the best, and I think we’ll see Les coaching somewhere,” Alexander said.
Miles plans to do just that. In a third public interview since his firing on Sept. 25, Miles on Wednesday indicated that he’ll coach again and did not rule out joining the media as a sports broadcaster.
“The right opportunity, right school, right place, you betcha,” he said in an appearance on the set of the Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd Show in Los Angeles. “I don’t play golf. I’m not a fisherman. My wife is already thrilled with me around the house. ‘You don’t need to organize that, don’t need to organize this. Get out of the house!'”
A Q&A with F. King Alexander will be published later this week.