BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Some quick thoughts Saturday morning from our hotel, about an hour from Oxford, Mississippi.
The last time LSU fired a head football coach was the year 1999, when the Tigers finished 3-8 overall and 1-7 in the SEC. They were beaten by Kentucky 31-5 and Houston 20-7 during that nightmarish campaign. The season before that Gerry DiNardo posted a 4-7 mark with an LSU team that rose to No. 6 in the nation. DiNardo's dismissal obviously made plenty of sense to everyone. The thought of dumping the head coach of a 7-2 team (likely 8-2 had the McNeese State been played) that's currently ranked No. 15 in the land is a bit baffling to many college football fans and media nationally.
Is Les Miles really in trouble?
The reports of Miles' fighting for his job have come from multiple, very credible media sources, so "messenger killing" is a pointless and misguided endeavor. People like Scott Rabalais and Charles Hanagriff are well-connected and hardly "make things up" for attention, ratings or web clicks. And they likewise are very aware, of the weight and magnitude of releasing such information to the public. They are being fed information by people that matter. So, the Les Miles hot seat talk is real.
As the story has exploded locally and nationally, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva has done nothing to squash it. Alleva has made no comment, at least on the record, concerning Miles and his job status. He's sat in silence and watched the situation escalate. This to me is very telling.
We are no longer living in the year 1999. In those days Tiger Stadium was a bit of a dump. A lovable one, but still hardly the immaculate arena it is today. High ticket prices, TAF fees, paid parking and countless other things LSU fans have paid for, have transformed facilities and kept the program up to speed in the incredible SEC arms race. The LSU coaches are very well compensated and at least last season, were the best paid in the country. That team went 8-5, finished unranked and lost in the less-than-prestigious Music City Bowl. A few years back, Alleva said "ok" to a major investment in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (he's being paid 1.5 million dollars this season) and likewise had defensive coordinator John Chavis at well over one million dollars annually, before Chavis bolted for Texas A&M last year.
So I certainly understand some of Alleva's frustrations.
The general overview is that if LSU loses their last two games (at Ole Miss today and then against Texas A&M next Saturday at home), Miles chances of coming back for his 12th season with the Tigers is very slim. If LSU goes 1-1 in those contests, the situation gets more cloudy. And those who have covered the Miles era know very well - things are rarely black and white with the head coach, but instead always immersed in grey.
The obvious way for Miles to save his job, is for the Tigers to awaken from their late season siesta (they were dominated at Alabama and at home by Arkansas the past two weeks) and win their last two games and return to the squad that blasted Auburn and handed No. 8 Florida their only loss of the year. If the players love Miles as much as we've heard countless times over the years, they'll rally around their coach and play inspired football today in Oxford. In today's world of Twitter, social media and yes, college gossip, there is absolutely no way the LSU players haven't heard what's happening with Miles.
Maybe they'll do something about it.
It would be just like Les Miles for his team to dominate Ole Miss out of nowhere, as the coach flashes his trademark grin strolling off the field and tips his white hat to the camera. He's pulled himself back from the cliff many times before. In 2010 his future at LSU appeared to be somewhat bleak, then just over a year later the Tigers were 13-0, SEC champions and playing in the national championship game.
But maybe this is the "crisis" Miles can't overcome. Perhaps his long and highly successful run is coming to an end. Sitting here typing this several hours before kickoff, I have no idea what will happen.
Regardless, captivating, dramatic and high stakes college football theater awaits us all today. In particular, the LSU head coach.