Eleven seasons is a long time to last at one job, and it appears there's a chance it could be too long for Les Miles at LSU. The joy of a 7-0 start, Leonard Fournette's Heisman Trophy campaign and a No. 2 spot in the initial College Football Playoff rankings has deteriorated after ugly losses in back-to-back games with Alabama and Arkansas.
On Sunday, And the Valley Shook had this to say following a second consecutive demoralizing loss, as Arkansas blew out LSU at home, 31-14:
This felt like the end of something. Of what, I'm not sure. Of the Les Miles Era? Maybe, maybe not. There are still three games left, counting the bowl, and those matter. Win out and a two-loss season with a 6-2 conference mark is more or less in line with what most expected for this team.
But does anybody really feel like this team is about to do that?
This loss was historic, for a number of reasons. LSU is now 27-3 following a loss under Les Miles. All three losses have come against Arkansas. It marked just the third time in the last 11 years that the Tigers have lost back-to-back games. It marked the most yards LSU has allowed in back-to-back games since 1994. The first back-to-back rushing games of 113 yards or less since 1999.
And if LSU loses to Ole Miss on Saturday, it will be the first three-game losing streak since that final season of Gerry DiNardo. If it goes beyond that well ... that's just not acceptable.
LSU's now in danger of seeing its full-season win percentage fall or stagnate every year since the 2011 BCS Championship loss.
Tuesday evening, Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate had this to report:
LSU supporters have grown tired of what looks most of the time like a conservative offensive approach. Pair that with habitual problems with penalties, delay of game issues and this year's special teams breakdowns and it's a recipe for dissatisfaction, on the verge of changing over to apathy.
Off the field, one would be hard pressed to find major boosters, big financial supporters of the program, who are in Miles' corner. His cultivation of those relationships has been wonting, especially for someone who has won as much as Miles has. Word is the big-money folks will mass to help pay his buyout before rushing to Miles' defense, though talk traditionally is cheaper than actually writing a check.
That check is where things get dicey. If LSU were to let Miles go before Jan. 1, it'd owe him $15 million. And while LSU's athletic department is independent of the university at large, that is a pretty big check to cut for an institution that was talking about financial exigency plans just six months ago. To say nothing of the contract numbers for a coach when LSU will be competing with a very crowded job market for coaches this winter.
Even if Miles stays, staff shakeup seems all but certain, but Football Scoop's Scott Roussel reports tension on that front, as well:
The relationship between athletic director Joe Alleva and Miles has seen better days. Alleva staunchly refused to provide the program with the requested contractual support for [former defensive coordinator] John Chavis ... and Chavis walked, defiantly, in the face of Alleva. Word in the profession is that Alleva already feels LSU's assistants are more than generously compensated. How's it going to work out if you need to bring in a whole new staff?
Still, the Tigers have two more games to go against Ole Miss and Texas A&M. If they can win out, they'll finish 9-2, in position for a strong bowl slot and a potential second place in the toughest division in college football. That's still ahead of most predictions this summer had the Tigers.
But if they drop one or both games, they could be in some rarefied air for the program that hasn't had to deal with many hard times on the field since the turn of the century.
This would hardly be the first time Miles has come under fire by at least some portion of the LSU fan base, and some of the man's greatest moments at LSU have come when his back was up against the wall. But after more than a decade, it appears the Hat is wearing thin for Tiger fans.