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The LSU power struggle was bizarre, and bizarre is where Les Miles thrives

The LSU head coach went from sure-to-be-fired to a conquering hero, all in a matter of hours. It's just his latest comeback victory out of nowhere.

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Les Miles is college football's king of contradictions.

He understands when to call risky trick plays, yet sometimes fails to understand the concept of time. He seems calmest when his surroundings are the most absurd. He eats grass, but also convinces America's top football players he's a rational person to whom they should entrust their football futures.

That nonsensical nature was ever-present as rumors swirled about his potential firing.

Miles is by all standards a perfect fit for LSU, yet the inner workings of his perfect place managed to conspire against him. Miles has managed a better winning percentage over a longer period of time than anybody in school history, yet the school was set to fire him. He had a better record than his predecessor Nick Saban, probably the best coach in modern college football history, yet his shortcomings compared to Saban were used as a demerit. In the midst of a decent season, those in power at a cash-strapped school in a borderline-insolvent state were willing to raise $15 million to make him leave.

But Miles doesn't back down when things get weird. Instead, he thrives. Saturday's game was supposed to be his funeral at LSU. But he got carried out on the shoulders of his team, a smile on his face, with thousands screaming his name, and very much alive.

Nov. 18

The first we hear of Les Miles' impending demise at LSU comes shortly after a 7-0 start and a No. 2 ranking in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers lost to Bama -- so does almost everybody -- and Arkansas, which was not as good. Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate reported that there were "strong indications" Miles was coaching for his job in the final two games of the season.

The contradiction: LSU put a coach on the hot seat two weeks after he was virtually on top of the college football world. It took only one bad loss to put a coach's job in jeopardy.

To fire Miles, the school would've needed a $15 million buyout, plus $2 million in buyouts for his assistants, despite the fact that the school was only a few months removed from discussing financial exigency.

The contradiction: LSU's boosters were ready to overlook the school's enormous financial woes to pay for a sports decision that might not make it any better at sports.

Nov. 21

LSU board of supervisors member Ronald Anderson said Miles' fate could already be sealed. He told Gannett Louisiana that even if Miles won his final two games, Miles' job status would still be "something that needs to be looked at."

The contradiction: Some in power were ready to fire a national championship-winning coach with no major scandals for a 9-2 season.

A few hours later, LSU lost to Ole Miss, 38-17. It's the first three-game losing streak for LSU since 1999. If Miles' fate was sealed even with wins in the last two games, surely he was now doomed.

The contradiction: The rumor was Miles wouldn't even be safe if he won two games, but he was still there despite not even winning two.

Nov. 22

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Miles' time at LSU "may be coming to an end," with a highly ranked source saying a "vast majority" of boosters wanted him gone and listing potential replacements the school was targeting. The primary target was Jimbo Fisher, but names like Dabo Swinney and Jon Gruden were in the mix.

LSU was set to fire a massively expensive coach, and its follow-up options were:

  • the 2013 national champion who has an annually easier path to the Playoff,
  • the coach of the No. 1 team, and
  • a man with no college coaching experience who gets paid millions of dollars to talk on TV once a week, loves it, and has repeatedly shot down college interest.

The contradiction: LSU's best options were all seemingly people already in better situations than working for a school that wouldn't guarantee job security for a 9-2 coach.

Nov. 26

Miles' apparent final radio show at LSU featured crying fans, one of whom he consoled on stage.


Nov. 27

A slew of sources report Miles tells boosters Saturday's game is probably his last. ESPN's Joe Schad tweets Miles' dismissal is "very likely."

The contradiction: A few hours later, Miles denies he said anything of that nature. LSU states Miles didn't say he's resigning (even though that wasn't the matter at hand).

Nov. 28

Reports leak that "if LSU wins, there is now a very real chance Les hangs on" as Fisher reportedly indicates he's not set on leaving FSU.

The contradiction: Wait a minute. Only a few days ago, Les was gone, win or lose!

Miles' supposed final game turns into a celebration of him.

Fans cheer his name and chant that AD Joe Alleva is the one who should be fired.

Miles tips his hat to the crowd to a raucous ovation:

LSU wins. Miles' team carries him off the field:

He breaks off a postgame interview to sing the alma mater with his team:

The contradiction: So LSU is about to spend a ton of money to fire a coach who's done a pretty good job, with no clear replacement. All that, and this coach is wildly beloved by seemingly the entire fanbase?

Alleva announces Miles is safe. Miles gives an off-the-rails press conference. Alleva and his cohorts stand with arms folded in the corner, looking like the bad guys in a movie who are thwarted by a precocious child.

(Photo via Jacques Doucet)

The contradiction: LSU tried to fire Miles, but couldn't.


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Only a few days after saying Miles' firing was "highly likely," Schad says his sources tell him they feared the media had swayed the public.

The contradiction: This is a member of the media saying a source is telling him about how LSU's boosters hurt their own case against Miles by leaking info to the media. This could be a booster who didn't realize sharing every piece of info could hurt his position.

Schad says a "high-ranking source" indicates the public sentiment in favor of Miles was the reason he wasn't fired.

The contradiction: That public sentiment the boosters tried to raise against Miles? National media now has Alleva on the hot seat.

Miles seemed to be doing a fine job. He won more games than pretty much anybody else could and was wildly beloved by his fanbase. But a small group of wealthy folks were convinced he was screwing up. For a while, high-ranking sources seemed more important than public sentiment.

Saturday showed that's not the case. One hundred thousand LSU fans made their case for Miles. One hundred LSU players made their case for Miles. And their voices were heard.

Saturday proved that, sometimes, the mob can be the one with reason.

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SB Nation presents: Les Miles and Oklahoma highlight Rivalry Week