We all appreciate honesty, especially in an era where every team, player, and school’s image is carefully crafted by PR elves. But the decision by LSU to retain Les Miles as head coach looks even more ridiculous now as the reasoning becomes public.
“The F. King,” as in LSU president F. King Alexander, and his explanation makes King Henry VIII look reasonable (and he was called a “blot of blood and grease upon the history of England” by Charles Dickens). Alexander admits the decision to retain The Grass Muncher wasn’t made until halftime of last weekend’s finale. In other news, Tigers brass will finalize its holiday shopping list at 6:30a Christmas morning.
“Many of us decided this was the wrong place and the wrong time,” Alexander says. You think? Firing a head coach is a pretty enormous decision, especially when that guy has won a national championship and 78% of his games. Making that change during the Golden Girls intermission performance of Ariana Grande’s new hit is probably not the best time. What would’ve happened if the Tigers trailed by three touchdowns?
The entertaining part about Alexander’s wording there is not that the power brokers decided Les was the right coach. Just that this was the wrong time to give him the zig. Alexander doubled-down on his back-handed support of Miles by saying the amount of the buyout had a lot to do with it.
“After the type of budget battle we went through this past spring,” he said, “we certainly do not need to be throwing tens of millions of dollars around under certain circumstances. We don’t need to go into the next legislative session with a black eye that we’re throwing tens of millions of dollars around on issues that aren’t associated with academic progress.”
Pretty amazing transparency on the reasoning, but pretty bad visuals for the program. So Miles is now employed by a branch of administrators who won’t publicly support him, but they’ll pay him because he’s too expensive to fire. And that’s supposed to engender support among a divided LSU fanbase?
I understand money plays an enormous role in all of this, and it’s certainly prudent to avoid a check for $15 million just for someone to go away. But if the failings of the football team is your reason for canning Miles, telling the world you still don’t think he can do the job doesn’t build a foundation for the success to happen.
There are power battles that happen all the time in the quixotic and toxic high-stakes road race that is college football. These types of partisan, booster-fueled, academic-torn debates are at the center of many coaching decisions. But in 2015, when the outside noise is louder than ever, you don’t understand how to quiet the crowd?
Don’t float this idea Les is going to get canned two weeks before it happens, it only feeds the hysteria. Don’t bring everyone together and make a rushed decision with thirty minutes left in the season, it only forces impractical urgency. And don’t admit you’re only sticking with your guy because he’s too costly to get rid of, it only undermines his influence with the staff, his players, and recruits.
Hey F. King, think about all of this next time. You’d hate to be a blot of blood and grease upon the history of Tigers football.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.