Senior Writer

LSU would be wise to think twice about 'Crazy Les'


HOOVER, Ala. -- Michigan, here's a look at your new coach -- if you'll have him:

  He can be a sideline nut job who manages games like his hair is on fire.

  Ask him a question, he'll give you three different answers -- at once.

  And the hat? Make that The Hat. Let's just say truckers all over the country are proud.

Les Miles has enjoyed success during his LSU tenure but he finds himself on the hot seat. (AP)  
Les Miles has enjoyed success during his LSU tenure but he finds himself on the hot seat. (AP)  
No matter what you think of that profile, Michigan, there's one small problem: Les Miles coaches LSU right now. You know he's a Michigan man who played under Bo and we've been through this before.

The timing probably wasn't right for Miles to leave 2½ years ago when Lloyd Carr stepped down -- Miles was chasing a national championship. Now, he's under pressure to win at a place where he has -- in addition to that championship in 2007 -- won more games in five years (51) than any coach in LSU history including Nick Saban.

Miles has beaten Alabama, Auburn and Florida all in the same season. Twice. The man has won almost 70 percent of his career games. But that championship was three years ago. Since then he is 17-9, which hardly qualifies dropping off the face of the earth.

Here's the dichotomy: LSU may not want him after this season, but Michigan can't have him. Not yet. Peruse this open letter to fans from LSU AD Joe Alleva sent in January. It basically put his coach on notice and seems a bit bold considering Miles' accomplishments. Alleva termed last year's 9-4 season a "nice: season. "On the other hand, being "nice" is not our annual goal," Alleva wrote.

That was five days after Alabama beat Texas for the SEC's fourth consecutive national championship. Alleva hardly let LSU fans exhale. This from the former AD at noted football power Duke who played at noted power Lehigh.

Check yourself, Joe, and quit pandering to the populace. Then check Les' contract. It has a guaranteed rollover for 100 percent of the remaining salary. If Miles is axed at the end of this season, LSU would owe him between $14-$15 million. Alleva still has a ways to go to make that number manageable. That rollover, which wasn't renewed the past two seasons, would still have four years to run after this season.

Alleva didn't negotiate it (the former chancellor did) and Miles didn't seek it, but what is done is done. LSU is strapped. It basically can't afford to fire Miles meaning Michigan may be shut out of a candidate before it starts looking.

"The hot seat is a wonderful thing for the people in this room," Miles said Friday at SEC media days. "It's a defining couple of words, right? It's the hot seat."

It also puts Michigan and LSU in a confining box. If you believe Michigan is going to make a move with Rodriguez and if you believe that LSU is going to finish fourth in the SEC West -- as predicted by in the preseason media poll released Friday -- then things could get interesting.

Alleva seemingly is stuck with a coach he may not want and a contract he definitely doesn't want. Meanwhile, it's looking like Michigan will have to go through the dancing-with-the-stars routine it went through a couple of years ago.

You should be understanding why coaches seek those multi-million dollar deals and rollover guarantees. It hasn't been that long since LSU fans exhaled for a different reason. Miles had to interrupt his game day preparations for the SEC title game in 2007 to emphatically state he was staying at LSU .

Some Tigers, Alleva apparently among them, believe that Miles has lost his mojo since then. Be careful what you wish for, Tigers. We're talking about a school that was led out of the wilderness by Saban. In 2003, The Sabanator wiped away four decades of frustration by delivering a national championship. Miles came from Oklahoma State and did the same thing in 2007.

What are the odds: Same school, two championships, two different coaches, five years apart?

Answer: Somewhere between rare and astronomical.

"Without tooting your own horn, when you're the winningest coach in your first five years at the school you're currently coaching, you enjoy that," Miles told The Sporting News in June. "You get a certain understanding of the accomplishments that have been made. The whole [hot seat] notion is crazy. But that's today, that's America. We want it now."

This must be an SEC thing, or maybe it's a nationwide thing. Mark Richt is feeling pressure at Georgia despite similar success and a superior winning percentage to Miles. LSU, you're lucky, you just don't know how lucky. Miles can recruit with the best of them. His players love to play for him. There have been minimal NCAA dust ups.

In four of his five seasons, he has won at least nine games. He shepherded LSU through the Rita and Katrina disasters. He delivered that championship.

He's quirky, but who isn't among major college coaches? He wears his hat like it is five sizes too small. His mind tends to wander when answering questions. There have been odd coaching decisions near the end of games, but they always seemed to go Miles' way until lately.

There was the botched ending to the Ole Miss game last season that may or may not have been the coaching staff's fault.

"That did not go beyond my scrutiny," Miles said. "I can promise you some of those situations I'd never run into in coaching. We've added that to our game week preparation. Maybe [we'll be] a little more ready to play in those situations."

Worst of all, LSU, you're assuming things will get better with a new coach. You better get one who averages more than 10 wins a season. He better produce loads of All-Americans and ravenous defense. Before you do all that, ask Tennessee how it feels to change coaches.

Bo Schembechler may not have preferred Miles at Michigan but Bo passed before Miles won his title. Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh's name also has popped up. But Harbaugh disparaged his alma mater's (Michigan) academics a couple of years ago. He also had Stanford spend more than $50,000 to install a toilet in his bathroom.

That quirky enough for ya?

Crazy Les -- that's what they call him. The Tigers coach with the used car salesman nickname isn't going to sit back and be roasted on the hot seat. Miles may be fired after this season but he's not going to take it quietly -- or cheaply.

"Let me tell you about the hot seat," Miles said. "The second game that we played, we were on the hot seat that day. We've been on the hot seat since we got here."

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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