LSU players received a mass text message Sunday afternoon: Be at the football operations building at 5 p.m.
Sundays are off days for players. This was not normal.
The text popped up on receiver Travin Dural’s cell phone while he watched the NFL game between the Eagles and Steelers.
“I thought,” Dural said Sunday evening, “that maybe we’d be coming in talking about things that we’re going to change with the offense.”
That wasn't the reason for the meeting.
LSU fired coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Sunday, ending Miles’ 12-season reign over the program in stunning, swift fashion a day after the Tigers, ranked No. 5 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll, fell to 2-2 and out of the poll.
Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron will serve as LSU’s interim coach, the second such stint of his career. The fiery 55-year old Louisiana native went 6-2 in an interim role at Southern California in 2013. Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger will serve as interim offensive coordinator.
Players took the news hard Sunday. LSU made several available to speak with reporters following the meeting. Miles, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva and Orgeron spoke to the roomful of more than 100 players in the program’s team room of the football operations building.
Miles’ speech brought out tears — for himself and his ex-players. They rose from their seats at its conclusion, giving the Ohio native a standing ovation, according to school spokesman Michael Bonnette, who added Miles told the team he'd be pulling for it Saturdays and urged them to to go run the table.
“Very emotional,” safety Jamal Adams said describing the scene. “That man is so passionate about LSU.”
“He came in and gave his speech; it touched me,” Dural said. “You could hear and feel the pain in his voice. You could hear that he almost broke down. He loves every one of us. He’s a player’s coach.”
Running back Leonard Fournette spoke to Miles one-on-one from the coach’s second-floor office after the players meeting.
“To me,” Fournette said, “he’s one hell of a coach. It’s shocking.”
Miles, soon to turn 63 years old, entered 2016 on shaky ground with a frustrated athletic administration, donor base and LSU Board of supervisors, barely surviving a firing in November.
Miles couldn’t survive the quick action that unfolded on a wild Sunday in Baton Rouge. The path to his firing began immediately after another sloppy offensive showing — which continued the narrative of poor clock management and struggles to pass the football — in an 18-13 loss at Auburn on Saturday night, the last straw for a coach on thin ice for the past 10 months.
Alleva, LSU president F. King Alexander and a selected group of LSU Board members made the decision to relieve Miles and Cameron of their duties at about 2 p.m. Sunday. Alleva met with Miles afterward, and the coach took the news “well,” a source said. Later, during what became an emotional players meeting, Miles said he was “for the change,” defensive back Tre’Davious White said.
Alleva and Orgeron will attend a news conference Monday at 12:30 p.m., the program's regularly scheduled weekly conference.
“Decisions like this are never easy ones to make,” Alleva said in the statement. “Coach Miles has done a tremendous job here and he’s been a great ambassador for our University, which makes this even more difficult.
“However, it’s apparent in evaluating the program through the first month of the season that a change has to be made. Our commitment to excellence and competing at the highest level is unwavering, and our goals for the remainder of this season haven’t changed. We have an obligation to our student-athletes to put them in the best position to have success on the football field each week and we have great confidence that coach Orgeron will do just that.”
Multiple sources told The Advocate that Les Miles was fired Sunday, a day after LSU, ranked …
Long-time collegiate defensive line coach Pete Jenkins is expected to join LSU's staff as well, a source said. Jenkins has a longtime relationship with Orgeron, coaching with him at several stops. The 75-year-old Jenkins is now a retired consultant. He consulted with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and Orgeron over the last year.
Jenkins is in Destin, Florida, this weekend. He's returning to Baton Rouge on Sunday night.
Players confirmed that Ensminger will take over as offensive coordinator for Cameron, his second such stint. He assumed the offensive coordinator duties at Auburn in 2008 when coach Tommy Tuberville fired Tony Franklin. Ensminger's been coordinator at multiple stops in his career.
LSU is shuffling its staff even more, according to 247Sports.com. The Tigers are promoting graduate assistants Eric Mateos to tight ends coach and Dennis Johnson to outside linebackers coach. Bradley Dale Peveto is solely coaching special teams. He had handled the coaching of the outside linebackers as well.
Receivers coach Dameyune Craig is taking on the title of recruiting coordinator, which Orgeron assumed after the departure of Frank Wilson in January. Austin Thomas has been elevated to "general manager" of the LSU football team and personnel director.
Thomas replaces Dean Dingman, who was also fired, a source confirmed.
Orgeron was head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-07. He also served as interim head coach in 2013 at Southern California after Lane Kiffin was fired during that season, going 6-2.
With the loss to Auburn, LSU is now 12-10 in its past 22 games against "Power Five" conference teams and 4-5 in its past nine games overall.
Miles has a hefty buyout of $12.9 million but, many believe, the sum is reduced by the salary he has made already for this calendar year. Miles makes $4.3 million per year, and his staff is the nation’s highest-paid at a combined total of $5.471 million per year. Of that, Cameron is paid $1.2 million per year after receiving a new three-year contract in March running through the 2018 season.
Cameron’s contract still includes the so-called “Miles clause,” meaning he would be owed only six month’s salary if Miles were terminated.
LSU President F. King Alexander nixed a plan in November to fire Miles at the end of last season, following a sudden and dramatic three-game losing streak, the program’s first since 1999. The Tigers started 2016 in a similar way, with a team that has struggled offensively without mass production from banged-up running back Leonard Fournette.
AUBURN, Ala. — It looks like The Hat is running out of magic.
LSU (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) opened the season with a 16-14 loss to Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, the program’s first defeat in a season opener since 2002. The Tigers beat Jacksonville State and Mississippi State, surviving a near late collapse against the Bulldogs, before Saturday's loss at Auburn (2-2, 1-1). LSU hosts Missouri at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
LSU scored one offensive touchdown in each of its two losses, and Cameron’s unit failed to score in the fourth quarter through four games, the only Football Bowl Subdivision program to have done that. The Tigers rank 119th out of 128 FBS teams in passing yards, 111th in total offense and 110th in scoring offense.
With two sophomore first-year starters at quarterback, LSU’s passing offense ranked 116th (2014) and 106th (2015) nationally. The team has struggled to field a consistent passing attack since quarterback Zach Mettenberger left after the 2013 season, Cameron's first with the team. The program changed quarterbacks this season, inserting Danny Etling for the struggling Brandon Harris after the first five quarters of the season.
Miles, who turns 63 in November, had a highly successful first 11 years in Baton Rouge, specifically his first seven seasons. He has an overall record of 114-34 and a winning percentage of 77.0 percent, tops among LSU coaches since the school joined the SEC in 1933. He is 62-28 in SEC games, a winning percentage of 68.9 percent, and led the Tigers to a bowl game in each of his first 11 seasons, going 7-4.
The Tigers won the 2007 BCS national championship and SEC title and repeated as conference champions in 2011 before losing in the national title game — a disheartening 21-0 loss to Alabama and former coach Nick Saban. Miles’ program has seen a gradual decline since that game.
His Tigers went 8-0 in SEC play in 2011, 6-2 in 2012, 5-3 in 2013, 4-4 in 2014 and 5-3 in 2015. Last year’s team started 7-0 and 4-0 in SEC play and was No. 2 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings before the three-game losing skid.
The losses were not close: 30-16 at Alabama, 31-14 to Arkansas and 38-17 at Ole Miss. It was the first time since 1966 the Tigers had lost three consecutive games by double digits. The loss to Alabama, the SEC’s dominant football program, was LSU’s fifth straight in the annual series and sixth straight overall.
AUBURN, Ala. – This was no dream at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It was a nightmare.
Criticism in recent years was also leveled at the coach for his run-heavy, conservative style of offense and lack of quarterback development, something that reared its head to open this season.
Miles and Cameron benched Harris in favor of Etling in the past two games. The Purdue transfer is 40-of-71 for 433 yards. He threw for just 118 yards Saturday against Auburn, another head-shaking performance from an offense featuring preseason Heisman Trophy favorite Fournette and a host of four- and five-star signees.
That has been another quandary for LSU under Miles over the past half-decade: He has mostly thrived on the recruiting trail, only to have those highly touted players lack production on the field. LSU has signed four straight top-six classes, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.
The offense, specifically the passing attack, has been under fire recently.
The 118 passing yards against Auburn continued an unsettling trend. LSU has been held under 150 passing yards in 17 of the past 30 games, a startling figure for modern day college football. Entering a Week 2 game against Jacksonville State, LSU averaged 169.3 yards passing per game over the past two seasons. That was lower than all but two "Power Five" conference teams: Boston College and triple-option squad Georgia Tech.
Miles indicated throughout much of the offseason that he would incorporate change into LSU’s offense but, despite a higher percentage of passes, the production hasn’t improved.
Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.
Photos: LSU coach Les Miles' top 10 wild-and-craziest night games in Tiger Stadium
LSU coach Les Miles is 46-4 in Saturday night home games. The only losses were to two top-ranked teams -- No. 1 Florida on Oct. 10, 2009 and No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 3, 2012 -- to another that became No. 1 in Mississippi State on Sept. 20, 2014 and to No. 5 Alabama on Nov. 8, 2014. LSU’s last non-conference home loss was to UAB on Sept. 23, 2000. Flip through the photos to relive Miles' biggest moments at night in Tiger Stadium.