Dig Baton Rouge

End of an Era?

By Andrew Alexander, DIG Sports Editor
@TheOtherAA

Eleven years at one college football head coaching job is a rarity in the era of knee-jerk reactions and a microwave society.

After three straight double-digit Southeastern Conference losses, and based on several reports in the Baton Rouge media over the past week, the Les Miles tenure at LSU will likely come to a close following the 2015 season.

Miles became a beloved member of the Louisiana family when he stepped on campus in 2005 and guided his squad to an 11-2 season following Hurricane Katrina.

The man they call “The Mad Hatter” has become an eccentric folk-hero in the college football community, eating Tiger Stadium’s grass while calling trick plays to “destroy the dreams of invading foes,” as LSU public announcer Dan Borne’ would say.

Since Miles arrived in Baton Rouge in 2005, six head coaches have won national titles. In regards to championship rings, Miles is part of a pretty exclusive club. Five men (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Mack Brown, Jim Tressel and Les Miles) have coached in multiple national championship games since 2005. The problem is the first name listed: Nick Saban.

Miles’ predecessor has led Alabama to three national titles, including a victory over LSU in 2012 BCS National Championship game, since 2009. In the ultimate what-have-you-done-for-me lately business, Saban’s presence within the SEC Western division serves as a constant reminder to Miles’ detractors about what could have been in Baton Rouge.

“But this is college football, and sooner or later the clock strikes midnight for each and every coach.”

Forget the fact Miles is 110-32 and 60-27 in SEC games during his tenure in Baton Rouge with a national championship and two SEC titles. Opponents to Miles will always point to the jewelry Saban has won so far in Tuscaloosa instead of Miles’ success.

I see both sides of the argument.

On the one hand, how can LSU fire Miles with all the success he’s had in Baton Rouge? There’s no guarantee that the grass is greener! Look at Tennessee after firing Phillip Fulmer!

On the other hand, since Alabama blasted LSU 21-0 in the 2012 BCS title game, the Tigers have yet to beat the Crimson Tide. Miles’ offensive philosophy is archaic and he refuses to adapt! Bring back Saban!

Meanwhile in Baton Rouge, LSU’s conference record has steadily declined from 8-0 in 2011 to six wins in 2012, five wins in 2013 and a mediocre four wins in 2014.

To top it off, LSU has led all universities with the most players in the NFL the past two seasons, and has consistently been near the top of those rankings throughout the Miles era.

LSU fans and boosters have grown accustomed to competing for conference and national titles in the twenty-first century, and the Tigers’ trophy case has not been restocked since 2011.

Should LSU fire Les Miles? No. Will LSU fire Les Miles? Most likely.

Change is beneficial if done for the right reasons, and schools will always face some degree of risk when firing one coach for another.

Common wisdom suggests it’s almost always better to sever ties with a coach or player, on any level of athletics, a year too early rather than a year too late. The latest Miles employment scenario seems like a year too early.

After all, the recruiting class of 2014, headlined by Leonard Fournette, Brandon Harris, Malachi Dupre and Jamal Adams, will be juniors next season.

LSU will likely garner a high preseason ranking and could be a serious contender for the College Football Playoff.

A walk off win in the national championship next season would be the perfect fairy tale ending for Miles’ career.

But this is college football, and sooner or later the clock strikes midnight for each and every coach, even one as successful as Les Miles.

Follow Andrew on Twitter (@TheOtherAA), and be sure to check out The A Game with Andrew Alexander Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on WUBR 910AM CBS Sports Radio.

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