Let’s agree to say that LSU and Texas A&M have had better public relations days than Thursday.
LSU had to admit in court that it altered the 2012 contract of former defensive coordinator John Chavis, a finding that could have a huge impact on its lawsuit against the coach.
A&M, Chavis’ current employer, saw its second quarterback transfer this month with the news that current starter Kyler Murray is leaving the Aggies.
Remember how when Chavis left LSU he gigged the Tigers, boasting that he was looking forward to teaming with a “great offense” when he stepped off the plane in College Station? Now you’re left to wonder who will light the Aggies’ fuse in their Music City Bowl date against Louisville.
It was in that bowl last December that LSU lost to Notre Dame, thanks in part to a less than stellar effort by what was then the Southeastern Conference’s No. 1-ranked defense. Turns out, LSU has obtained a letter from Texas A&M dated Dec. 27, 2014, three days before LSU played Notre Dame, a letter of agreement for him to become the Aggies’ new defensive coordinator.
Chavis’ lawyer contends he didn’t become A&M’s defensive coordinator until February, though there are photos of Chavis visiting recruits in January wearing a Texas A&M shirt. LSU contends he was in a compensated “consulting agreement” at the time. It certainly looks that way.
Two smoking guns, one on each side of the Louisiana-Texas border, were apparently launching eggs at the faces of these two institutions of, ahem, higher learning.
Has anyone at these schools learned anything about dealing with contracts? A&M and Chavis are clearly open to the breach of contract LSU contended has existed all along. LSU has opened itself to the possibility that its contract with Chavis was void because of the sloppily handled contract changes — changes it contends were “innocent, unintentional and immaterial.” Perhaps, but they did, in fact, change the document Chavis originally signed without his knowledge.
How embarrassing these past few weeks have been for LSU and A&M. First there was the Les Miles saga when clearly LSU was lining up the funds to buy him out only to have the school administration block the high-priced move at the 11th hour as public opinion surged to The Hat’s defense. A&M is a school which signs great quarterbacks in February but can’t keep them through a minor December bowl.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, the architect of the offense these quarterbacks are fleeing, looks bad. Chavis looks bad. LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva and school President F. King Alexander look bad.
The only one who has come out of the past month untarnished, even elevated by all of these missteps and miscalculations?
Les Miles, that’s who.
Miles wanted to keep Chavis last year, but Chavis wouldn’t agree to a contract with the so-called “Les Miles clause” in it, stipulating he would only get paid for six months should Miles be terminated, a clause Alleva wouldn’t remove.
Then Miles took the high road the week of this year’s Texas A&M game, saying how much he enjoyed coaching at LSU for 11 years and wished he could coach 11 more. He was carried off the field after his Tigers beat the Aggies 19-7 by players who clearly love playing for him, to the doorstep of a postgame news conference where Alleva revealed he would be staying after all.
First, of course, he hugged his players while singing the LSU alma mater. The man whose orations have often become punch lines came out looking like a public relations savant.
Even in the court documents that were revealed Thursday, Miles comes up smelling like a rose. You may have quibbles with his choice of Kevin Steele as defensive coordinator — personally, I think the jury is still out — but from the evidence he certainly did his due diligence.
Miles considered 25 candidates, spoke to 13 coaches (and/or their agents) and ultimately met with five, including Steele. He even gave former defensive line coach Brick Haley the courtesy of a sit down about the job before ultimately replacing him with the highly respected Ed Orgeron.
Miles and Steele and Orgeron and the rest of the LSU coaching staff — a staff that he has shown no signs of shaking up, but that’s a story for another day — continue their preparations for the Texas Bowl in Houston, A&M’s backyard.
Meanwhile, LSU faces the possibility of going to court with Chavis and facing a jury that will at least have its opinions slanted by the contract changes. Chavis attorney Jill Craft is sure to make that the theme of her case, casting doubt on LSU’s credibility at every turn.
After all that’s happened, it would be best for both schools to do what they should have done months ago: reach a settlement. Quickly. At least that would prohibit either LSU or Texas A&M from doing anything else foolish.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.