For the second time in the past three years, ESPN erroneously reported that LSU head football coach Les Miles and the University of Michigan had either reached an agreement or were on the verge of one that would have made Miles Michigan’s head coach.
LSU announced Tuesday, January 12, that Miles would remain coach at LSU in spite of the erroneous reports to the contrary.
Miles graduated from Michigan, and was an offensive lineman for the Wolverines during his playing days. His first assistant coaching job was also at Michigan under the late Bo Schembechler.
The report aired on Sportscenter on the night of Monday, January 11, 2011. Immediately following lead coverage of Auburn’s 22-19 victory over Oregon in the Championship game, ESPN reported that Les Miles was to meet with Michigan officials about becoming the school’s next head coach, and that Miles was prepared to accept the position at his alma mater. The meeting took place, but Miles met with LSU officials shorly thereafter. On Tuesday, LSU announced that Miles would remain LSU’s coach for the foreseeable future.
The incident was eerily reminiscent of an incident that took place the night before the SEC Championship game in 2007 (in which LSU was competing) in which ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreet erroneously reported that LSU coach Les Miles had reached an agreement with Michigan to become the Wolverine’s new head football coach. Miles was forced to call a hastily assembled press conference the morning of the game to announce that the rumors were false and that he had not spoken with Michigan officials.
I have come up with a handfull theories regarding this. Of the two primary theories, both can be applied independently of each other to explain the December ’07 and January ’11 incidents in which ESPN falsely reported or implied that Les Miles would be leaving LSU to become head coach at Michigan. However, it is entirely plausible that both scenarios could hypothetically be in play simultaneously in either or both incidents.
The first scenario involves someone representing Michigan in an official or unofficial capacity (such as an alum) “leaking” the phony information in hopes of embarrassing Miles and LSU, with the hope that doing so would damage the relationship between the two as the school would become suspicious of the coach’s intentions and vice versa. LSU officials would take offense to the fact that they learned of Miles’ planned departure from ESPN rather than from the coach himself. The tension created by the false report would lead to an environment favorable to Miles jumping ship amidst all the chaos and the souring relationship between himself and university officials.
Ultimately, the goal of this plan (according to the theory) is to lure Miles to Michigan by sabotaging his relationship with his superiors at LSU, not to mention the fans, players and alumni.
The second theory is that someone acting on Miles’ behalf “leaked” that Miles had agreed to become the next head coach at Michigan (in ’07) and/or would likely accept if offered the position (this past week when everyone knew he was the leading candidate) in order to bolster his bargaining position with the university so as to negotiate a raise and perhaps some other perks to go along with it.
It is common knowledge that Miles received a substantial pay raise after the 2007 season when the Tigers took home the BCS Championship Trophy that at the time made him the highest-paid coach in the SEC. Whether or not Kirk Herbstreit’s “source” was put up to the task by Miles is unlikely at best, but a theory nonetheless worth putting out there in light of Miles’ new contract.
Even if such were the case, the story would not have broken the night before the SEC Championship game that ultimately sent LSU to New Orleans for the BCS Championship game.
That said, it is not a stretch to think that Miles might have simply capitalized on the opportunity presented by the faulty reporting by ESPN by using the leverage it created to his advantage but without having any involvement in the phony leaks themselves.
Another theory involving the 2007 incident is that it was someone acting on behalf of the University of Tennessee (whom LSU was playing in the SEC championship the day after the story broke) was responsible for the “leak”. The motive would have been to crate drama for the LSU football players and coaches the night before their biggest game of the season. The hope would be to distract the both the players and coaches and get their minds off of the task at hand.
Personally, while I entertain theories such as these, I recognize that they are pure speculation, and I don’t necessarily believe any of them per se.
Miles is 62-17 in six seasons as LSU’s head coach, including a 5-1 record in bowl games and a national championship. Speculation began to swirl involving Michigan and Les Miles when Michigan fired coach Rich Rodriguez after three unsuccessful seasons. The focus on Miles intensified when Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh accepted the position of head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
Regardless of who is behind the rumors and whatever their motives may be, as an LSU fan, I am just grateful that Coach Miles is still in Baton Rouge and not Ann Arbor. Geaux Tigers!