The news trickled out of an anonymous source’s mouth like a canebreak rattlesnake – quick and poisonous. Rumor hung in the air so thick with condemnation and import, that you could feel it. You could see it. What was once, just three weeks ago, unimaginable was now a reality.
Les Miles, head coach of the LSU Tigers, was going to lose his job after the last game of the season.
It could have been someone in the athletic department, or maybe it was that always vaguest of vague groups, “the boosters,” that started the rumor of Miles’ dismissal. However, it was definitely LSU’s athletic director, Joe Alleva, that never came forth to squash the rumor, and left Miles hanging out to dry – as he was the only one to address the rattlesnake in the room. Maybe Alleva doesn’t read my tweets, so he didn’t know what was going on, or maybe he was off courting Florida State University’ head coach, Jimbo Fisher, to take over the program.
And Saturday night, right when Miles' back was against the wall, with Death Valley looking down upon him, the crowd stood and roared for their old coach – the man who led their beloved Tigers to two SEC championships, and one national title. The crowd remembered that this legend was 111-32, and ran a clean program – one with 40 former players playing on Sundays in the NFL. It would be that love that showered down onto Miles that would sway the secretive Alleva into giving the coach one more chance.
That’s how it will happen in the movie, at least.
In real life, Jimbo Fisher declined the job, and he was Alleva’s “one trick pony”, as Alleva didn’t have a backup plan. There was also the small issue of Les Miles' $15 million buyout clause, which evidently would be taken care of by the LSU boosters picking up that hefty tab. Unfortunately for the boosters, Alleva didn’t take care of anything in this fiasco.
In the span of a week – Alleva didn’t address the rumors surrounding his current head coach, evidently never had a firm grasp on his shiny new head coach (Fisher), and showed signs of weak leadership by eating his words and having to state that – lo and behold – the head coach of the LSU Tigers…is the head coach of the LSU Tigers. An inept comedy, which set off a Rube Goldberg of events that is currently knocking down LSU’s top-rated recruiting class one piece at a time.
Alleva stating that Miles will remain the coach of LSU means nothing at this point. One, Alleva’s word can now only be seen as useless. The dye has been cast, and any decision coming out of the AD department is circumspect. Alleva has obviously shown that he’s not the best “decider,” so why would anyone attached to LSU want him making decisions? What happens if LSU loses the bowl game? Is Les going to get canned? What happens if LSU is blown out in next year’s season opener against Wisconsin? That will be a story. “Les Watch” will start all over again, and even though some people love the drama, you know who doesn’t? Recruits. So, not only has Alleva’s poor decision-making affected the now unstable recruiting class coming to Baton Rouge next year, but its repercussions will be felt in, at least, the 2017 recruiting class, as well.
So, congratulations (?) to Les Miles. He pulled maybe his greatest trick play of all time last Saturday. Hope it works out for him. Somehow.
In the movie, at the end of next year, Les Miles will once again be carried off of the field by his team – but it won’t be in Death Valley, it will be in the national championship game. It will be a tear-jerking moment when Miles sees his wife, Kathy, and they share a look of redemption, kiss and walk off into history. Now, I would make this movie a comedy as well, and our camera would pan back across the field, and we would see the jubilant Tiger players, band and cheerleaders still celebrating. Then, at last, we would see the Crimson Tide mascot take off his elephant head, and, through some wacky chain of events – it would be a sad Joe Alleva.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing – Tin Roof’s “Voodoo Bengal Pale Ale”
Playlist Recommendation – Cake – “I Will Survive”
Around the Way
Speaking of athletic directors, Tulane is currently searching for one, as Rick Dickson has announced his retirement after a 15-year run that saw more success off the field than on. It’s rumored that deputy AD Barbara Burke is a frontrunner for the position. Which is good if you believe in continuity, but, considering the absolute lack of recent on-field success in Tulane’s revenue-generating sports, why would you want more of the same? The search committee should hire another candidate – Todd Patulski, deputy AD at Baylor. Yes – that Baylor – the school that has built itself into perennial title contenders in football, basketball and baseball. Do it for Yulman Stadium – it’s just too pretty for no one to ever see.
Looking for some good Louisiana sports news? It’s not at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Saints are 4-7), and unfortunately has taken three steps back at the Smoothie King Center (Pelican are a heart-breaking 4-13). But let’s head west…
To Lake Charles, where the undefeated McNeese State Cowboys (10-0) will take on the Sam Houston State Bearkats (yes, with a ‘k’), this Saturday at 6 p.m in Cowboy Stadium, in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs. That’s right, unlike the “big boys”, the FCS determines their champion on the field. So, you could call this the Sweet Sixteen. McNeese State beat Sam Houston State earlier this year 27-10, and has held 9 out of 10 foes to 14 points or less this season. The Cowboys are led by defensive player of the year, free safety Wallace Scott, and Slidell’s Daniel Sams at quarterback. #GeauxPokes