For the first time since 2000, Les Miles will not be the head coach of a college football program. The reasons for that are both straightforward and murky.
Seventeen new head coaches were named in the yearly coaching carousel following the 2016 season. A few – Luke Fickell, Major Applewhite, Geoff Collins – became head coaches for the first time. Others – Tom Herman, Matt Rhule, Willie Taggart – took a major step up from their previous positions.
Some men are getting a second (or third) chance, with Lane Kiffin accepting the FAU job and Ed Orgeron becoming the full-time coach at LSU after serving as interim during most of the regular season.
When glossing over the names of the seventeen men, there is one person who surprisingly doesn’t appear: Les Miles.
Miles’ name was out there for several opportunities. That isn’t a shock considering the success he had at both Oklahoma State and LSU, winning a national title and two SEC titles at the latter before being unceremoniously fired in September. What is stunning is the fact all of those jobs came and went without the affable Miles charming his way through an introductory press conference.
The arguments are straightforward as to why a program would be lucky to have Miles. He does, after all, boast an all-time record of 141-55 in 15-plus seasons as a head coach. The reasons for turning him away and opting with someone else of lesser pedigree, however, are not as clear.
Age could be one explanation. Miles is 63, so rebuilding a program at, say, Purdue or remaining a long-time presence at a program like Houston is working against him. Schools, and more importantly, the leaders of the athletic department and boosters, want someone that will commit to a program for the foreseeable future. After one full recruiting cycle, Miles would be in his late-60s and an easy target for negative recruiting harpies floating retirement rumors.
Miles is also known as someone reticent to deviate from his ways, which is one of the main reasons for his ouster in Baton Rouge. The college game is ever-changing, and Miles was stubborn to a fault, even keeping offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after the Tigers continued to struggle on offense and develop. His team’s inability to put points on the board may have scared some programs – Baylor and Oregon, for example – that love the up-tempo, high speed systems to which Miles seemed averse.
As for Texas, it’s difficult to envision the Longhorns’ powers-to-be accepting a coach that had just been fired the previous season.
It’s also not like Miles was willing accept any job thrown his way either. Some schools that were hiring are stepping stones. There is little chance that Miles would go from Tiger Stadium to the Georgia Dome as the head man of the Georgia State Panthers. Winning championships is important to him, and he has openly stated his desire to lead a program willing to invest in the resources necessary for a title. As much, schools like Purdue and Indiana, that are middle of the pack on a good season, were out of the question.
Certainly, Miles could just be content with spending more time with his family, appearing on television every now and then, and living a life that he has never known due to always being deep into the game. It is not like he is struggling financially, not with the $4.3 million he was making annually at LSU along with the buyout the school is due to pay him.
Whatever the reason, Miles will not be strolling a college sideline, clapping manically after a big play, chomping on blades of grass for good luck and responding to questions with answers that you aren’t sure totally makes sense for the first time since 2000.
The game will be a little less entertaining without him.