Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Les Miles: LSU or Maize and Blue

For Michigan fans everywhere right now, we are smiling for the first time all season. We slaughtered a pathetic Notre Dame squad...and it still feels oh so good!! But at the end of the season, Lloyd Carr will have a serious decision to make. Is it time to step away from the head coaching position of the UM football team and go to that position that has been waiting for him in the athletic department? If so, who will be his successor? There are rumors flying about multiple possibilities, everything from Bill Cowher (yes, the Chin himself) to Brian Kelly (current Cincy head coach and former Chippewa top man). Yet with all the possibilities (and nearly every coach out there would love the chance to take over the reins of the winningest program in college football history), there is one coach who seems to be the early favorite: Les Miles, head coach of the LSU Tigers and former UM football player. Without further ado, here is a breakdown of the early favorite in the race for successor of Lloyd Carr (if and when he retires).


Les grew up in Ohio and attended the University of Michigan from 1972-1975, playing under Bo Schembechler as a two-time letterman on the O-line. He has since been assistant coach with U-M twice, first from 1980-82 under Bo and then from 1987-94 under both Bo and Gary Moeller. In between there, he coached for 5 years at the University of Colorado. From 1995-1997, he was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State University. He went from there to the NFL, serving as tight ends coach for the Dallas Cowboys from 1998-2000. In 2001 he was hired as the head coach of Oklahoma State University.

Head Coaching experience:

In 4 years at Oklahoma State University, Les led the Cowboys to a record of 28-21, 3 bowl appearances, and upset victories over the rival Sooners twice with the Sooners ranked in the top 5. As unspectacular as the record and bowl appearances sound, remember that OSU was 13-20 with zero bowl appearances the 3 years before Les arrived. He was subsequently hired by the LSU Tigers in 2005 to replace the recently departed Nick Saban as head coach. In two seasons, Les Miles has done some spectacular things with a school that has never been very dominant in college football. He has taken the LSU Tigers to back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history, while compiling a 22-4 record. He also can be credited with keeping the team strong through adversity in 2005 as the team lost a few home games and many loyal fans to the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.


Though Les Miles has put together a strong résumé, he still has not won at either stop with his own players. At OSU, you can make the claim that the players there weren’t much to begin with, but they had some good talent there including Rashaun Woods (one of the all-time best receivers in NCAA history). At LSU, he has taken the talent that Nick Saban stockpiled and turned it into neither a SEC championship nor a national title. His teams have won many games against top-10 competition but have also not shown up in big games, such as the 2005 SEC championship game, where they lost 34-14 against the lower-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

Current Status:

Les Miles has repeatedly said that he loves his current team and will not even consider any other team at this point in time. While that is very diplomatic and heart-warming to hear, I am of the belief that if your team has to put a buyout in your contract that specifies only one team, you must have let on something to them about your intentions should Michigan come knocking. The current buyout clause is $1.2 million, with the LSU AD Skip Bertman saying he will do whatever is necessary to keep Les Miles at LSU. While Les may be the top option should Lloyd leave, we should all be prepared to have him turn us down as LSU will do everything in its power to make sure they don’t lose a second head coach in 3 years when the higher prestige jobs in football come calling.


Lloyd Carr will step down as head coach, to leave Michigan football along with Hart, Henne, and Long. As hard as LSU will try to keep him, the opportunity to resurrect U-M football a la Bo Schembechler, his former coach, will be too much to pass on. Les Miles will return to the University of Michigan at the end of this year, with his wife (a fellow Michigan alumnus) and family in tow.


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