The Battlefield, November 20, 2015

It might just be that Les Miles’ job is the battlefield this week, even more so than the governor’s election. Miles will be in Oxford, Mississippi trying to coach his team, which at one point was 7-0 and ranked 2nd in the nation, past Ole Miss in an effort at avoiding a third straight loss.

If he can’t, the buzz all over Baton Rouge and elsewhere in the football world could be that Miles might be out. Scott Rabalais  wrote a piece earlier this week at the Baton Rouge Advocate about how Miles might be coaching for his job the next two weeks, and from what we hear Rabalais actually has some legitimacy behind what he wrote. So does the Times-Picayune column by Ron Higgins saying much the same thing. A loss to Ole Miss would make three losses in a row, and it would mean Miles has a losing record over the past three years against Nick Saban, Bret Bielema and Hugh Freeze. And if he then lost to John Chavis and Texas A&M, whom he’s feasted on since the Aggies joined the SEC, it would be an 0-4 finish and a plunge to the bottom of the SEC’s bowl picture.

If he wins both games, he’s 9-2 and going to the Sugar Bowl and, at least for now, the wolves will be off his porch. The 2016 roster LSU will have is good enough to compete for a national championship almost no matter who’s coaching it, and recruiting this year has already gone extremely well, so there is reason to hold off on the coaching change a growing majority of LSU’s most strident (and as it turns out, most well-heeled) fans are outspoken about wanting. But the atrocious effort his team has put out the last two weeks doesn’t exactly suggest 9-2 right now. That Ole Miss game could get ugly. And it alone might be enough to make for a change in the wind.

The thing is, behind the scenes there have been preparations for an eventual change at the top of LSU football. When the whole Chavis contract debacle went public, there was a lot of talk that Joe Alleva was simply not going to give extended contracts to Miles’ assistants when the AD was working on a schedule to move Miles out. Chavis wanted a contract guaranteed through 2017; all Alleva would offer was one through 2016.

The money people, as Rabalais correctly reports, have had it with Miles. He’s a good guy but he’s not good with public relations and he gives that same deliberately goofy and nonresponsive act with the boosters as he does with the media. Win championships and it’s charming. Get pounded in the rear by Nick Saban and Bret Bielema – and Hugh Freeze and John Chavis, should that happen – and it’s not.

And the word is they believe they can get Jimbo Fisher to come from Florida State to replace him. Jimbo coached several years at LSU (he was the offensive coordinator from 2000-06 under both Saban and Miles), has great relations with all the money guys Miles has irritated, brings an offense a lot more fun and that utilizes skill players a lot more completely and just brings more energy and a better face to the program than what it has. And they think he’s gettable, because he loved it in Baton Rouge (his wife didn’t, but she’s not around anymore), they believe they can make the money work, LSU has advantages over Florida State and he’s got some frustrations with that program – read: facilities improvements – which aren’t getting solved anytime soon.

But that’s almost an identical story to the one you heard coming out of the University of Texas a couple of years ago when Mack Brown, another fabulously successful but rapidly stagnating head coach, was forced out. The money people at Texas were going to pony up staggering sums to land Saban away from Alabama and bring their program back into the limelight. Instead they had to take a flyer on Charlie Strong, who hasn’t worked out and will likely get his ticket out of town punched this winter or next.

Strong is a very good coach who’s a very poor fit at Texas. If LSU is going to move Miles out, which will cost somewhere between $12 and $17 million over six years, and they’re not able to reel Fisher in (his buyout would cost $5 million; I’ve no idea if it would have to be paid immediately), then there is an extreme danger of a Charlie Strong situation in the works. If you have much confidence in Joe Alleva making a hire of a football coach you’re a greater optimist than I am.

That said, there are some good-looking young coaches out there well worth a look. Memphis’ head coach Justin Fuente is an offensive mastermind with the look of a Jimbo Fisher about him, and what he’s done in resurrecting that moribund program is nothing short of miraculous. Matt Rhule at Temple is very intriguing; he’s got that team highly competitive with precious little actual talent. Tom Herman at Houston has a stellar resume despite only being a head coach for one year. Matt Campbell at Toledo, the second youngest coach in the FBS, has a 35-14 record and can apparently beat Bielema. Perhaps one of them, if given the chance, could inject some life and passion back into a program which has gotten stale.

Or maybe Miles will rally, right the ship this year and ride an older, stronger, wiser team back to national prominence in 2016.

We’ll find out in Oxford. What isn’t likely is that Miles can survive a poor finish to a season which has gone badly off the tracks in the last two weeks.

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – One thing we’ve noticed in the course of the governor’s race is that despite the occasional smattering of platitudes about John Bel Edwards and what a nice guy he is, he is most definitely not that. In fact, Edwards comes off as a fairly vengeful and vituperative man.

I’m not just saying this because he accused us here at the Hayride of being prostitutes because the Vitter campaign, as did the Angelle campaign, chose to buy advertising space on the site. I’m saying it because Edwards is more than a little vindictive in how he treats people who don’t support him (though certainly his attack on us would add to a pattern first made obvious when he lambasted LABI’s Stephen Waguespack before that organization even moved to endorse in the race).

For example, yesterday when Vitter did his press conference on the state budget and how Jindal’s solutions to fix the short-term problems won’t work, and suggesting that Jindal appoint Lafayette oilfield service company executive Bill Fenstermaker as interim Commissioner of Administration in order to begin moving toward some different solutions that Vitter would outline as governor-elect next week, this was Edwards’ response

On the steps of the Louisiana Capitol, David Vitter made another desperate plea for attention in an attempt to save is failing campaign. Vitter proposed appointing one of his big campaign donors, Bill Fenstermaker, to position of Interim Commissioner of Administration. His opponent, still showing a large lead in recent polls, said “David Vitter is already assembling the Bobby Jindal dream team. As if we needed more evidence that he is planning to expand on Bobby’s broken budget policies.”

“Vitter is taking a play right out of the career politician playbook, giving political favors to his biggest donors,” Edwards said referencing Fenstermaker’s contributions to Jindal’s and Vitter’s political campaigns.

Over the years, Fenstermaker has given at least $20,000 to Bobby Jindal and $22,500 to David Vitter.

Fenstermaker also backed Mary Landrieu in 2008, which Edwards didn’t mention. But the point being that Bill Fenstermaker is not some campaign donor, he’s one of the most respected businessmen in the state. Just because he doesn’t support Edwards is it really necessary to trash him like that? Essentially accusing him of buying his way in? Particularly when Edwards’ supposed Commissioner of Administration is Jay Dardenne, a man an awful lot of people believe sold his soul for the job.

There is another story about this pattern which has made the rounds, and we’re not going to be very specific here – Edwards went to see the head of one of the state’s more influential trade groups recently, and read off a list of that trade group’s members who had donated to Vitter – names and amounts. He then demanded $100,000 by today or else there would be negative consequences once he’s governor.

And then there’s the story fairly widespread in the state’s political circles about the phone call Edwards made to a state legislator who had written an op-ed explaining his endorsement of Vitter admonishing that state legislator for not calling him in advance of publishing that op-ed, and then threatening him with consequences once he’s governor.

This is not how a humble public servant acts. It’s how a budding tyrant acts. It’s a pattern of behavior showing extreme arrogance and aggrandizement. John Bel Edwards has neither the experience, nor talent, nor temperament to be governor of Louisiana, and, Lord willing, we will not have to see proof of that in action.

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – Back to LSU for a second.  This LSU basketball team is a little herky-jerky in sustaining their play, particularly on defense, but at times they look like an NBA team. When they’re playing well they’re really, really good.

I can’t wait to see what they look like when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor are available.

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – United Health Care getting out of the Obamacare exchanges is a very, very big deal, as it signals what could be the impending collapse of Obamacare.

A collapse which many have said was designed to happen. Obamacare was designed to fail, and to take all of private health insurance with it. Thus paving the way for a single-payer socialized medical system. “Medicare for all!” goes the slogan.

Don’t be surprised if the 2016 election turns out to be a referendum on a single-payer system. The way things are going, the Democrats will have their Crisis! to run on, and at least in the short term the unavailability of coverage for millions and millions of Americans will ONLY be solved by having the government step in. And Republican resistance will be demonized as denying insurance coverage to poor people. Just watch.

The minute you start seeing pantywaist Republicans on Capitol Hill playing ball with that idea you’re going to have a real problem. And maybe even a crackup of the GOP altogether. It shouldn’t happen, but it damn sure might.



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