The Fall of the Mad Hatter
September 26, 2016 by Jean Neuberger • Print Story •
In some ways, it was fitting that LSU coach Les Miles was fired on Sunday.
Few coaches, if any, have endured as many crazy, jaw-dropping, last-second finishes as Miles did during his stint in Baton Rouge. The fact that the last play of his final game was a game winning touchdown that was overturned because the Tigers failed to get the snap off before the clock expired is more fitting than anyone could have ever imagined.
Without question, Les Miles is unique. Also, without question, he'll coach again. Schools tend to be attracted to 114-34 career records, no matter how odd at times the coach appears to be. It won't likely be in the SEC, but there's going to be schools knocking at his door.
The termination of Miles reflects the frustration of the LSU fan base and administration of his inability to win championships on a consistency level that rivals what former coach Nick Saban is doing at Alabama. And, honestly, it does make some sense. LSU is one of the best coaching gigs in America, easily. There's quite a few coaching positions with rabid fan bases, big stadiums and lots of money. However, Louisiana is a state that produces an incredible amount of high school talent and LSU is, by leaps and bounds, the big dog (or should I say cat) in the state. If you're coaching Notre Dame, you have to recruit all over the country. If you're at LSU, you rarely if ever leave the state or need a hotel room for recruiting trips.
LSU is a plumb job. But plumb jobs require massive results. Going from the top five to unranked in a month gets you a pink slip pretty fast.
Moving forward, LSU has some issues. Ed Orgeron, who succeeded at Southern Cal when Lane Kiffin got the axe, assumes the interim title yet again. However, Orgeron rallied the USC program as if the season was his interview for the job on a more permanent basis. He enters this season knowing he's likely not the coach. Will his players and assistants rally in the same way? That's to be determined.
Meanwhile, LSU will start the courting process with Tom Hermann and Jimbo Fisher. If they decline, getting a good coach might be difficult. Coaches in college football could be slowly moving towards their basketball counterparts in turning down major programs for smaller schools with better job security. There's a lot of pros in taking the LSU gig. But pressure to win is immense and patience is an imaginary word in Baton Rouge.
Furthermore, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva couldn't have handled this situation any worse. The pressure was on from fans and boosters to fire Miles at the end of last season. When it seemed imminent, Miles somehow led LSU to an emotional win over A&M that led to him returning this season. It was a decision that wasn't entirely popular; I remember the scowls on some faces during the press conference in which Miles was given new life.
Miles didn't change his offense, paid the price for it, and now Alleva had to clean up a mess that seemed too little, too late. He has to make the decision of his career, but he also has to sell the new coach that he can also handle his role and support the new coach from a position of strength. For now, the firing of Miles is also a failure of Alleva's role as athletic director. He failed to stick to his guns last season, and now, this season hangs by a thread.
It's the end of an era of organized chaos. It'll be interesting to see who can calm the waters down on the Bayou.