Has the Mad Hatter’s School Gone Mad?

I read an article on ESPN today that LSU is considering buying out Les Miles’ contract. LSU has lost three straight after being ranked #2 in the nation (30-16 v. #4 Alabama, 31-14 v. Arkansas, 38-17 v. Ole Miss). While if this were a situation where a new coach came in and blew it against the two biggest rivals, I would maybe understand. Maybe…

Les Miles was hired by LSU after Nick Saban flew the coop for the Miami Dolphins (and then went to now-rival Alabama). Miles had a fairly successful career at Oklahoma State (despite NCAA violations) and immediately made an impact at LSU. His first three seasons his Tigers went a combined 34-6 including an SEC and National Championship. Two years of subsequent mediocrity made people question whether or not his success was based on Nick Saban’s recruitment…but four straight years of double digit wins along with another National Championship appearance (much to my chagrin) wiped those doubts away.

The last season and a half has been rough for Les and the Tigers, going a combined 15-8 (8-7 in conference). This certainly is not what the LSU faithful are used to seeing. LSU was poised for a playoff run this year before three straight, including their two biggest rivals Alabama and Arkansas. But does this low point deserve a firing?

First, let’s look at the pure financials: LSU owes Les Miles $15,000,000 (throwing in the zeroes for effect). They would be on the hook to pay him that money from now until 2019 ($3.75M per year). After that, they would have to go find another coach, likely pay that coach’s buyout from his current school, and then pay him a salary as well. Conservatively, this would cost them over five or six million dollars per year until 2019. According to an open records survey by USA Today, LSU only profits $10M per year as it is.

Besides the financial matters, LSU firing Les Miles makes little to no sense strategically. If they were to fire him, he would immediately become the top candidate in the coaching free agent pool. The other top candidates are Dana Holgorsen (WVU), Mario Cristobal (Alabama), Butch Davis (TV analyst, also 63 years old), and Rich Rodriguez (Arizona). Those are solid names, no doubt, but none of them have a National Championship nor the coaching pedigree that Miles offers.

What if LSU were to fire Miles, though? I will tell you right now, there are three schools that are saying their prayers every night before bed: Miami, USC, and South Carolina. Miami or South Carolina makes the most sense for Les Miles to land, but USC has the tradition and the pull that defines “destination school” in the NCAA. I sincerely hope LSU does not fire Les Miles (for their own sake). If they do, I cannot imagine that he will be a free agent for very long.

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