ATLANTA -- Les Miles liked everything about Michigan -- the winning tradition, the maize and blue, the memories of Bo Schembechler.
In the end, he liked LSU a little more.
"The decision to stay is based on how great the school is," Miles said Saturday after No. 5 LSU beat No. 14 Tennessee 21-14 in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
"There's not many places in America as good as this one. I'm home."
Miles turned down a chance to return to the school where he played and coached, telling his team earlier in the day that he would remain.
Shortly after talking to his team, Miles charged up to a podium at the Georgia Dome for a hastily called news conference. Wearing a purple tie, standing and gesturing, Miles angrily made his announcement.
"I am the head coach at LSU. I will be the head coach at LSU," Miles said. "I have no interest in talking to anybody else."
LSU athletic director Skip Bertman said Miles and LSU chancellor Sean O'Keefe already have worked out a contract "they're happy with," but it has not yet been signed.
"I've got a championship game to play, and I'm excited about the opportunity of my damn strong football team to play," he said. "It's unfortunate that I had to address my team with that information this morning."
Miles said an erroneous ESPN report that he was going to Michigan prompted him to speak to his players and the media.
"I represent me in this issue, please ask me after. I'm busy," he said.
As he walked away, O'Keefe chuckled.
"What he said!" the chancellor said.
|Les Miles tries to put to rest talk of him leaving LSU for Michigan. (Getty Images)|
All week, speculation swirled that Miles would leave LSU and return to Michigan. The Wolverines' job became vacant when Lloyd Carr announced his retirement.
Miles was questioned about Michigan during his news conference Friday at the Georgia Dome. He had said he planned to talk to Wolverines officials after the SEC game.
After the victory, Miles said he never spoke to Michigan and didn't plan to.
"I will always root for the next head coach there," Miles said. "I will wear those colors when it comes down to the Ohio-Michigan game. I'm going to root and pull for the Blue, and they will eventually win that game."
"There's a proud tradition, and they have to do the things they have to do. I'm for them, and if there's any way I can help them, I'd love to help them. But I'm not going there. It saddens me at times. I can't be at two places. I've got a great place. I'm home."
Many had expected Miles to return to Michigan, where he played and coached for the late-great Schembechler.
Miles also met his wife at Michigan. She attended his postgame news conference with their children, flipping through a stat sheet as he spoke.
LSU saw the possibility that Miles might leave, too.
The school put a specific clause in his contract on July 1, 2006, that made it expensive for Miles to go back to Ann Arbor.
In the "termination by coach" section of his deal, Michigan is the only school mentioned. It stated that Miles will not seek or accept employment as Michigan's coach and that he would pay LSU $1.25 million if he left to lead the Wolverines.
Michigan athletic director Bill Martin has said he is looking for the next Carr, who led the Wolverines to the 1997 national championship and five Big Ten titles while keeping the school above even suspicions about NCAA violations.
Martin has said he had 20 candidates in mind, and now he'll need them. Possible choices might include Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, California coach Jeff Tedford, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly.
LSU hired Miles away from Oklahoma State after Nick Saban departed in 2005 to coach the Miami Dolphins.
Miles was in a position to land the coveted job after turning around Oklahoma State's program, earning three straight bowl bids after the school went 12 years without a postseason appearance. He was 28-21 in four years with the Cowboys and was the Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2002.
Saban set a new standard for the Tigers when he led them to a national championship, putting Miles under instant pressure to win big.
Fortunately for Miles, Saban also left behind a roster loaded with talent, including four players that were taken in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
Miles went 11-2 during each of his first two seasons, finishing his first campaign with a lopsided Peach Bowl victory over Miami and his second with a blowout against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.