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Les Miles bet his LSU buyout on himself, but what’s next?

More like Le$ Mile$.

LSU v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Update: He’s reportedly finalizing a deal to be Kansas’ next head coach.

Les Miles and LSU are officially divorced after settling the terms of his buyout. Miles took a lump sum of $1.5 million out of the $6.5 million he was still owed from the folks in Baton Rouge. His buyout would have been paid through 2023 if he had stayed under the agreement.

It’s no secret that there has been flirtation between Miles and Kansas AD Jeff Long about the open KU coaching job.

This ostensibly clears the way for Miles to take that job, or perhaps another elsewhere in the Power 5. But there’s one part of the logic here that makes this an interesting decision.

LSU was on the hook for, roughly, $1.6 million a year for the next four years. That would have been offset with any new salary. If Miles took a job for a $1 million salary, LSU would pay $500,000. If a new job paid him $2 million a year, LSU would owe him nothing.

In a way, the buyout prevented Miles from pursuing jobs that would pay him less than $1.6 million. He’s making that amount while sitting on the couch anyhow. And if he did take a job that paid him more than $1.6 million, well, the university that canned him would get off scot-free the rest of the way.

What LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said does sort of explain things, but one thing that he said is curious (emphasis mine).

“It’s time for both parties to move forward,” Alleva said. “One of the challenges of the buyout that was in place was there just wasn’t a lot of incentive to move on to other things. We were looking to provide that and Coach Miles and his representatives also were ready. It was a mutually agreed upon goal and a very positive process from beginning to end.”

That doesn’t quite square with the fact that Miles tried quite hard to move onto other jobs during the 2016 coaching cycle, but just failed in interviews.

Miles is trying to maximize his take from LSU while getting back in the game.

He got the most of LSU that he could, and he believes he’ll be paid again pretty soon by some other school.

KU was paying David Beaty on the lowest end of the Power 5 spectrum, and he still made $1.7 million. Group of 5 schools might be relatively cash-strapped, but even if Miles is angling for a Conference-USA, MAC, or Sun Belt job, he’d certainly be able to make more than $1.6 million per year, given his credentials.

A former national champion head coach could perhaps hope to make at least $3 million a year with a new deal, even at Kansas, which agreed in 2011 to pay Charlie Weis $2.5 million per year. And if Miles were to stick around in such a gig for four years, he’d have nearly doubled his dollars over what the buyout would’ve paid him.

There’s another theory here as well:

The other thought is that Les Miles is really taking his future in films and TV seriously as his next career move. Part of the buyout stipulated that Miles had to be “actively searching” for a new coaching job to continue to receive his buyout.

Miles’ agent has certainly earned his keep, with Miles’ name showing up on just about every job search list the last 2 years, however briefly, giving him the appearance of at least looking for new jobs. But Les has also been working in films, his podcast empire with his daughter, and multiple one-off appearances on college football media shows on ESPN and FOX networks.

If Les is heading for a permanent role on TV, such as the long rumored/fan dream of him replacing a retiring Lee Corso on College Gameday, it’s tough for him to then turn around and convince LSU that he’s still “actively looking” for a new coaching job.

Either way, one could argue LSU probably got a bargain here too, and not just financially.

It saves them some headlines over the next five years about how they’re still paying him, Weis-style. The $1.5 million is a pretty easy check to just get Miles off the books forever.

But Miles’ side of the plan is all contingent on him actually getting that payday from another school. That’s still an if.

Miles was largely quiet during the 2017 cycle, leaning into some opportunities to market his personal brand, but he’s clearly ready to get back in the game. At 65 years old, he doesn’t have a ton of time left to cash in on coaching.