By Trey Mongrue
“Off the record” is a phrase that is bittersweet in the journalism world. Usually, it means that you are about to hear something very juicy, but, for ethical reasons, can’t really do much with it.
LSU head football coach Les Miles did just that on Monday night, making sure that all audio recorders and video cameras were off before he spoke very candidly about his name that has once again surfaced with the coaching vacancy at the University of Michigan – Miles’ alma mater.
While the media was told explicitly on multiple occasions from Miles and other LSU staffers to not directly quote the coach, it was conveyed that he has no plans on leaving Baton Rouge any time soon. And even if he did have aspirations to return to Ann Arbor, Miles claims that neither he nor his longtime agent, George Bass, have heard anything from up north.
Look, Miles didn’t have to have this pow-wow with the media to convince me otherwise. The self-described family man is 61 years old and has been living in Baton Rouge for 10 years now. All of kids – except for his eldest daughter, Smacker – have lived the majority of their lives in Louisiana.
Even with his second oldest, Manny, finishing high school at University High this year, Miles and his wife, Kathy, still has two more under the roof. They are entrenched in the LSU and Baton Rouge community, and I don’t think even a record coaching contract from Michigan would be enough for him to uproot everything and head back north for a program that needs more than a quick fix.
I don’t see Miles coaching into his 70s, and I don’t see him leaving Baton Rouge.
So that’s over and done with and now we can move on to the upcoming matchup with Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl, right?
Unfortunately, that could not be more wrong.
Mere minutes after news surfaced to the public about Miles’ evening press conference, the Michigan Scout.com website, Go Blue Wolverine, quickly pointed out that Miles refusing to be directly quoted gave him an out, should he ultimately be the next coach at U-M.
It should also be noted that this is the same website that originally reported that Michigan had contacted Bass last week (somebody is lying). However, the point still stands.
Had Miles gone on the record and put this to bed for the whole world to see, there would be a lot more clarity, and it surely would cause him less of a headache going forward. With bowl practices cranking up for LSU, Miles is scheduled to meet with the media on two more occasions before Christmas and, no matter how many times he says he doesn’t want to talk about Michigan, there will always be a thinly-veiled question thrown in at some point.
But, from my understanding of the situation, Miles has good reasoning for the coyness.
This is the third time that the Wolverines have had a head coach opening during Miles’ LSU tenure. And each time, we’ve heard the term “Michigan Man” as reasoning for why Miles is included in the coaching search. That has largely been overrated when it comes to picking a coach, but it is still an apt description of Miles.
On more than one occasion during his time at LSU, a post game press conference has been delayed due to Miles watching the end of a big game that involved the Wolverines. Heck, just three weeks ago, Miles tweeted “Geaux Blue!!…. Beat em in the Horseshoe!!!” referring to the annual Ohio State/Michigan rivalry game.
By outright saying that he has no interest in the job, he feels it would be an insult to the institution. Whether LSU fans want to hear it or not, Miles is a big name in the college football world, and him publically turning down the job would just add even more insult to Michigan’s many missteps in recent years.
Miles loves Michigan – that’s an undisputed fact, and is afraid to unintentionally insult it in anyway. He just doesn’t want to coach there and be faced with a rebuilding project.
“There’s a tradition and a culture [at LSU] that we’ve kind of established. The young men that come in here really enjoy stepping into this room and being a part of that culture.”
– LSU Head Coach Les Miles
– LSU Head Coach Les Miles
Besides, he has it way too good down here.
LSU has better facilities, better funding, better fan base, a better foundation… the list goes on and on. Even from a recruiting standpoint, Miles could throw a rock in any direction from his office and hit a handful of blue chip athletes that are at various Louisiana high schools. At Michigan he would have to go on a bus tour across the country to put together classes that are on par with what he has been bringing in to LSU.
The only downsize is the noticeably stiffer competition, but even then, the pros easily outweigh the cons.
Miles made note of that on Monday and made sure that it was on the record.
“There’s a tradition and a culture [at LSU] that we’ve kind of established,” he explained. “The young men that come in here really enjoy stepping into this room and being a part of that culture.”
And just to drive the point home on where his intentions ultimately lie…
“I think that this team has the potential to play in championships.”
Keep this in mind also: Miles is sitting at 103 wins at LSU – 34 behind Charles McClendon’s 137 for the all-time lead. He adds that skin on the wall to go along with his bowl record, two SEC Championships and the 2007 National Championship, he’d go down as the most successful coach in LSU history.
With that, there should be no more speculation. Of course, there will be, but it doesn’t matter. Miles is not leaving LSU.
You can put that on the record.