LSU Victory Provided More Than Drama And Emotion

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Miles Survives While Richt Is Fired

By John Ventola

In what will go down as the most tumultuous month in LSU athletics history, Tigers football Coach Les Miles was criticized, scrutinized, and given a supposed last game victory ride off the field on the shoulders of his players. The win, and the vocal support of the Tiger Stadium home crowd Saturday, forced a locker room job reprieve from LSU president King Alexander and athletic director Joe Alleva.

Those facts alone would be noteworthy after four straight (yes, even the A & M win was

LSU

Tiger Stadium Site of Emotional Game

sloppy and disorganized) poor performances forced Miles future job security to bubble to the surface, but the manner in which the mini-sports media frenzy was handled by Alleva was appalling.

No coach, particularly one that has won 111 games in his 11 years on campus, should have to go through what Miles experienced in the past month. Lesser men, those with bigger egos than him, would have probably not handled it with as much class.

During that four-week period, I blogged that Miles was again out strategized and out coached by Nick Saban after Alabama’s fifth straight victory over LSU, how Miles needed to go back to the drawing board after being embarrassed by Arkansas, and how it was time to take a hard look at Miles after a third straight loss in a sloppy manner at Ole Miss. Those blogs were not knee jerk reactions to losing, they were thought out suggestions for a program in trouble. Losing is one thing, how you lose is something else. The Alabama, Arkansas, and Ole Miss loses were downright ugly.

Never a fan of Miles strictly from a football acumen standpoint, I do like the man, and the human values he stands for. I cannot count the times I have stated that Miles wins because he can recruit, that he wins because of talent, and that he loses whenever the talent level is even, or close to even. He is, no doubt, a marginal football strategist and tactician. (Note: Nick Saban, probably the game’s best, had a second put back on the clock in order to attempt a long range final play field goal that was returned for the winning touchdown by Auburn in 2013).

LSU has sent the largest number of players to the NFL during his tenure. That shows he has had football talent at his disposal. Players love him, and while his media blurbs

LSU

Miles Quirkiness Can Be Endearing Or Misleading

often seem odd with business like verbiage interspersed with quirky words, recruits and their parents fall in love with the guy. He preaches LSU family, and it comes across loud and clear.

All that being said, Miles can be a liability in close, competitive football games. He tends to overthink at times, the last two times he had Alabama in Tiger Stadium he had them beaten until he took his foot off the pedal. He played to not lose (with leads) instead of playing to win in the 2012 and 2014 Crimson Tide games. He apparently failed to attend coaching’s “clock management’” class, and his in-game brain freezes have caused the program as much embarrassment as his fake field goal calls (South Carolina, and twice against Florida) have given it credit.

When one adds in the fact that Miles is often hardheaded and unwilling to make in game adjustments when a set game plan does not work (Alabama BCS title match in 2012, and against Alabama this year), one realizes there are many legitimate reasons to take a long, hard look at the coach who makes $4,385,000 a year, the ninth highest salary in the country, and the third highest in the SEC (behind No. 1 Saban, $7,087,000, and No. 7, Texas A & M’s Kevin Sumlin at $5,000,000 ), particularly when game performances are filled with disorganized play, and players constantly looking to the sidelines for direction.

Collegiate football is big business. Every school wants the best facilities, the best

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College Football Big Business That Can Be Ruthless

coaches, and, consequently, the best players. Winning solves a lot of problems. Winning fills stadium seats, and keeps fan bases happy.

Coaching great Vince Lombardi once said “winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all-the-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing”.

While that philosophical statement by one of the best to pace a sideline may be an oversimplification, it was the fabric of athletic competition fifty years ago during his coaching days, and is even truer today. Sadly, it has reached the level that athletic directors like Alleva, and Georgia’s Greg McGarity have lost the human touch in their quest of “W’s” and titles. They seem to be concentrating on satisfying patrons in the booster suites, with little consideration for the loyal fans who have occupied the cheaper seats (nothing really cheap these days) for years.

Apparently signs such as “So you know, Les Miles is LSU”, “Les Can Deaux Ett!!!” and others changed Alleva’s concentration just in time Saturday night. Maybe university president Alexander should take a long, hard look at Alleva, the man who left his head football coach hanging in the wind alone over the past few weeks. Whether it was a

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Joe Alleva’s Lack Of Support Was Appalling

miscalculation on Alleva’s part (Fisher possibly coming to LSU), or outside pressure, the whole situation was handled poorly. Much like Alleva’s abandonment of Duke lacrosse athletes nine years ago. (Three players were falsely accused of rape, and Alleva cancelled a complete season of competition. Result, Duke was hit with multiple lawsuits by student-athletes).

Miles smartly used his early success at LSU (he won the national title in his third season), and a couple of perceived flirtations from his Michigan alma mater to garner a nice contract from LSU. I, for one, think the University of Michigan was never interested in the former UM lineman, and Miles’ business acumen is far better than his football reasoning. In fact, I spoke with Oklahomans who said he worked the same ploy on his Oklahoma State bosses before replacing Nick Saban at LSU.

Looking at Miles closely yesterday, from his walk down Victory Hill, to his pre-game presentation of seniors, to his conversations with various university personnel around the tunnel, to his almost refusal to let his team go as he led them out of the northern Tiger Stadium tunnel, he had the look of a man who had decided to enjoy his last game as a coach by taking it all in. (My binoculars got a workout.)

His class move of talking to referees in order to stop the game and honor Leonard

Lenord F

Fournette Sets New Single Season Rushing Record

Fournette for breaking Charles Alexander’s 37-year-old single season rushing total, his post-game salute of LSU students, and his emotional singing of the school’s alma mater (not American Idol caliber) with his athletes all showed what LSU has come to love and respect over the last eleven years.

The Mad Hatter, Mr. Quirkiness, A 79% winning percentage, highest at LSU in the SEC era; 86-8 record when leading at halftime; 89-6 record when leading at the start of the fourth quarter; 21 consecutive wins when leading at the start of the fourth quarter. The 2011 National Coach of the Year. Coached LSU to SEC championships in 2007 and 2011, and the BCS National Championship in 2007.

Alleva either changed his mind (speaking with Tiger Athletic Foundation members Saturday, Miles’ firing and the naming of his successor were to be announced Sunday), the successor pulled out at the last minute, or the outpouring of support shown for Miles swayed him. Whatever the reason, it put the end to what amounted to an embarrassment for LSU.

While play on the field has been sloppy this year, Alleva’s official stance announcement that “he would not comment on Miles’ status until the end of the season” was messier. It was unsupportive, and basically led to the resultant media frenzy, and daily rumor mill editions.

What lies ahead? No doubt, staff firings. Cam Cameron, a long-time friend of Miles, will

SEC Banner

Staff Firings Will Have To Be Made

probably go because the offense has underachieved against SEC foes. In fairness to Cameron, he has specialized in pro-set offenses, and was forced to try to work with weak dual-threat quarterbacks the past two seasons. Kevin Steele, a defensive coordinator addition after last season, was a bad hire. His defensive teams at Baylor and Clemson were less than impressive. Special teams coach Bradly Peveto will be fired, ending his second tenure with LSU.

Staff changes and some personal game management improvements should keep Miles at LSU until his retirement. That means the Ventola family will have LSU season tickets for a 63rd year in 2016.

I was not sure if that would have been the case if Alleva stepped to a microphone this morning and announced the hiring of Jimbo Fisher, or some other coach. The X and O ability of Miles may be questionable at times, but the character of the coach of my alma mater’s football team makes him fine with me. “Winning” is a bonus, not a necessity!

McGarity one-upped Alleva today. He called in Coach Mark Richt, Georgia’s highly successful coach for the past 15 season and fired him after a 9-3 season. Richt was 145-51 as Bulldogs mentor, won at least ten games in nine seasons, and led UGA to seven Top Ten finishes, and two SEC championships.

Les Miles and Mark Richt both deserved better! The speculation, the drama, and the results—Miles’ last second reprieve, and Richt’s firing, were not warranted.

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ByJohn


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