Please Stop Talking About An LSU Future With Les Miles In It

Our site traffic has exploded to a large extent since yesterday’s post indicting LSU athletic director Joe Alleva as a failure and giving five reasons for his dismissal, and in less than 36 hours the little Fire Joe Alleva. Immediately. Facebook group we started has grown to over 1,500 members – a number we expect will begin growing exponentially now that the weekend is over – which we’re taking as evidence we’re tapping into a widespread sentiment that could be molded into an effective movement with a specific, achievable goal.

Conversations with our sources yesterday indicated that the atmosphere in the suites in Tiger Stadium Saturday night, and the LSU President’s Suite in particular, was one of anger, blame and recrimination and that there is a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction among the university’s athletic boosters and even members of the Board of Supervisors over the terrible play of the football team – which came to a head in a disturbing 24-21 loss to Troy Saturday night. LSU is now out of the Top 25 and received not a single vote in either poll for the first time since 2008, and the apparent implosion of the team under first-year head coach, who was promoted from interim head coach last year despite a three-year 10-25 record at Ole Miss, including just three conference victories, in his last stint running a program, is beginning to attract some national attention.

That attention is not just on Orgeron. It’s on the people who hired him. For example, Clay Travis pulled out the long knives on the LSU leadership yesterday…

And here’s the real kicker, Ed Orgeron has a $12 million buyout.

F**king $12 million!

This is the worst contract negotiation down on the bayou since Napoleon sold the Louisiana Purchase to Jefferson in 1803 for $15 million. Even the native Americans who sold Manhattan for $24 in trinkets think this was an awful deal.

Everyone at LSU who gave Ed Orgeron a $12 million dollar buyout should be fired when he gets fired too.

So there is a real possibility that the right amount of pressure – growing that Facebook group, for example, or contacting Board of Supervisors members and TAF higher-ups – could make something happen.

Therefore, it would be a really good idea at this point if we could get Les Miles’ name out of the discussion.

There are two different lines of conversation percolating on message boards and social media where Miles is concerned, and with either one it’s unproductive to bring him up.

The first of these is the “Miss Me Yet?” advocacy in which Miles is now being venerated as a coach who should never have been sent packing. While it’s unquestionable that LSU is a lot less competitive on the football field now than it was through the first four games last year after which Miles was let go, it’s not going to do anybody any good to relitigate whether Miles’ ouster should have happened.

The fact is, while Miles’ tenure at LSU will almost assuredly be more successful than Orgeron’s, most LSU fans saw him as stale and that it was time to make a change. It isn’t that Miles was let go – that part Alleva probably did get right. It was that he was given a contract with such a prohibitive buyout in the first place, and also that the process by which his replacement was selected was so thoroughly unprofessional and poorly executed.

Let’s remember that, and keep it at the forefront. It wasn’t the firing of Miles that has, at least apparently, sunk the program. It was botching the hire to replace him.

LSU fans have a bad habit of engaging in such nostalgic fallacies. For a couple of decades there were people lamenting the firing of Charlie McClendon and pegging that as the sin which led to so much suffering for Tiger football fans in the 1980’s and 1990’s – as though Cholly Mac was going to be LSU’s coach for very much longer in the best of circumstances. The fact is, LSU hired Bo Rein, the Tom Herman of his day, as McClendon’s replacement, and by all indications Rein was poised to take the program to another level. He tragically perished in a plane crash in January of 1980, before he could coach his first game. Rein’s death had more to do with the topsy-turvy fortunes of LSU Football in the 1980’s than McClendon’s firing did; when LSU hired a top-flight coach in Bill Arnsparger, the team had more sustained success than McClendon had throughout the 1970’s. A poor hire in Mike Archer following Arnsparger’s departure sunk the program again.

That history is important, because it’s repeating itself with Orgeron and that massive buyout Alleva gave him means it’s either going to be an exceptionally heavy financial lift to extricate the program from its obligations to him, or else the school is stuck with what could be some major damage on the field if he doesn’t right his ship (the rumor is that Orgeron and offensive coordinator Matt Canada nearly came to blows last week and had to be separated by the players, so the prognosis doesn’t look so good at present).

So let’s not make Miles into Cholly Mac. That won’t get us anywhere, and it’s beside the point anyway – if Orgeron will need to be replaced you’re going to have to have somebody other than Joe Alleva hiring a new coach, and that’s what we’re here for right now.

The other angle by which Miles’ name is being offered is this business of making him the athletic director.

Please don’t do that.

Not to insult anyone or belittle their opinion, but the folks floating the idea of making Miles LSU’s athletic director are doing so out of ignorance. By which we mean, they don’t know who’s a good AD and who’s available in the marketplace, and they’re latching on to Miles as a name they do know.

That’s not how you hire someone of quality, and everybody who’s in a position to influence the process at LSU at least has an inkling of it. Meaning that if you spend a lot of energy touting Miles as Alleva’s replacement in the athletic director’s chair you’re going to make your advocacy of Alleva’s ouster less convincing.

What we want, what LSU needs, is an athletic director of a quality commensurate with the fact this program is one of the five richest in all of college sports. LSU deserves an AD who is nationally respected, who coaches in all sports want to work for, who can successfully run a $150 million business without screwing over its customers, and who can successfully position LSU in the facilities arms race while at the same time maintaining the $10-20 million per year the athletic department kicks in to the university’s academic budget. It’s a big job, for certain, but there are potential candidates out there who are capable.

Rather than Miles, if you’re dead-set on latching on to a specific replacement for Alleva – and we should note that it isn’t necessary to do so, because the job at hand is to remove the bad AD before settling on a good AD – here are a few names of potential candidates who would be considered very strong hires.

Scott Woodward, AD, Texas A&M – the LSU job would be a lateral move for Woodward, who has been at A&M since January of 2016, but Baton Rouge is his home. He’s a 1985 LSU graduate who spent several years in the business and political world before joining Mark Emmert’s staff in the LSU administration in 2000, and then he went with Emmert to the University of Washington, where he ended up as the athletic director from 2008-15. Woodward is one of the best athletic directors in the business; if he could be had it would be a major coup and many of the problems in the athletic department would go away very, very quickly.

Chris Del Conte, AD, TCU – Unlike Woodward Del Conte doesn’t have any LSU connections. But like Woodward, he’s recognized as one of the best AD’s in all of college sports. Del Conte, who graduated from UC-Santa Barbara, has worked in college administration at Cal Poly, Washington State and Arizona and has been the AD both at Rice and, since 2009, at TCU, has won national awards as the nation’s top AD on numerous occasions, and he’s become known as a facilities wizard – having supervised a beautiful $162 million renovation of Amon G. Carter Stadium for TCU football and a $72 million renovation of the basketball arena there. And when you consider that he’s been able to hire or keep Gary Patterson as the football coach, Jamie Dixon as the men’s basketball coach and Jim Schlossnagle as the baseball coach, at TCU no less, there’s no doubt bringing Del Conte in would be worth every penny it would cost LSU.

Jim Phillips, AD, Northwestern – Phillips might be hard to pry out of the Chicago area, where he was born and raised, but if you’re looking for one of the best in the business he should be on the list. He was honored as the nation’s top AD in 2012 and 2016, largely as a result of transforming or upgrading every single one of Northwestern’s athletic facilities while doubling the season ticket bases of all their major sports. Phillips has managed to hold on to football coach Pat Fitzgerald, who has been on tons of coaching search lists for larger programs for having punched beyond his weight with a traditional have-not program, and his hire of Chris Collins for men’s basketball has paid off in a major way as Northwestern is relevant in hoops for really the first time ever.

Whit Babcock, AD, Virginia Tech – Babcock, like Phillips, would have to be lured away from home. He’s a Virginia native who attended James Madison, where his father was a coach, but he’s been at two other SEC schools in his career – Missouri and Auburn, as well as JMU and West Virginia. Babcock was the AD at Cincinnati, where he hired Tommy Tuberville away from Texas Tech, before getting the job in Blacksburg four years ago. And at Virginia Tech he’s made three impressive hires in major sports – John Szefc in baseball, who had taken Maryland to the NCAA tournament three times in five years, Buzz Williams in men’s basketball, who he stole away from Marquette with a big contract, and Justin Fuente in football, who he hired away from Memphis. Wiliams and Fuente have generated immediate results, with Fuente winning a division championship in his first season last year and Williams putting the Hokies into the NCAA Tournament.

Herb Vincent, Associate Commissioner/Communications, Southeastern Conference – If LSU wants to go with someone who’s more of an “internal” hire, it shouldn’t go any further past Vincent, who left LSU in 2013 for the SEC office and has earned rave reviews for his professionalism and decision-making skills while there. Vincent spent a long time as a mainstay in the LSU athletic department – he started working as a student worker in the school’s sports information department in 1979, later assuming the role of SID in 1988. Vincent left LSU in 2000 to become Vice President for Communications for the College Sports Southeast fledgling cable network, returning to LSU in 2002 in a dual role as the Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs and Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations, and since he left there has been a gaping hole where he’s been. One could argue that Herb hasn’t been an AD; the rebuttal to that is that’s LSU’s fault seeing as though he was up for the job when Alleva got it. He’d be a major improvement over Alleva and it’s hard to imagine he couldn’t be had if none the big stars listed above could be lured.

So let’s not focus on Les Miles. Let’s focus on getting Alleva out of that job and giving LSU an opportunity to rebuild its athletic program with some integrity, intelligence and competence. With Tiger sports holding such a prominent place in Louisiana’s culture we really can’t afford to continue bleeding like this; it’s going to take some disciplined, determined advocacy on the part of the fans to get this done.

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