Penn State and Notre Dame created quite a stir among SEC head coaches this week. The two northern programs are spreading their recruiting reach into SEC Country, as head coaches James Franklin and Brian Kelly are taking part in satellite football camps. But it’s not Franklin, Kelly or any perturbed SEC coach commanding the spotlight amid this brouhaha.
That honors belongs to Georgia State head coach Trent Miles. Franklin is participating in Miles’ camp, a move that indirectly helps Penn State recruit the talent-rich state of Georgia. But Franklin’s association with the burgeoning Georgia State program also helps establish much-needed credibility for Miles’ Panthers.
SEC complaints could threaten this symbiotic relationship, but Miles unabashedly stood up per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“That’s their problem. It doesn’t really affect me. It’s funny that anybody’s complaining about this. It’s not like this hasn’t been done before – it just hasn’t affected the SEC before. Now all of a sudden a big-name school is coming to a mid-major school like us and they’re like, ‘Oh, wait a minute. We can’t have that.”
The thing those unfamiliar with Miles should know about the second-year Georgia State sideline general doesn’t back down from a challenge.
Before he became just the second head coach in Georgia State’s half-decade existence, Miles was hired at Indiana State in December 2007. Indiana State was in the midst of a 15-game losing streak with no end in sight when Miles accepted the head coaching vacancy.
That losing streak continued through the 2008 season as Miles cleaned house. In an October 2009 interview for a feature that ran on NCAA.com, Miles told me that re-growing the Sycamores entailed uprooting the bad seeds.
“The ones who didn’t have that type of attitude [of committing fully to the program] or desire aren’t here anymore,” he said.
Indiana State’s losing streak was 33 games when it beat Western Illinois, 17-14, on Oct. 24, 2009.
“We’re not building this program to be happy breaking a streak. We’re building this program to be a winning program, and for it to be that way for a long time,” Miles told me.
Truth be told, it seemed like a pie-in-the-sky ideal. Coaches rarely temper expectations–particularly those in the most dire situations. A great example emanating from the same state as Miles’ rebuilding project is the late Terry Hoeppner, who at his introductory press conference upon being named Indiana’s head coach, laid roses on the podium.
The Hoosiers last played in the Rose Bowl in 1968, four decades before Coach Hep’s untimely passing.
Turning a program with no track record for success into a winner is perhaps the single most difficult proposition a college football coach faces.
To that end, Miles didn’t break Indiana State’s cycle immediately. The Sycamores finished the 2009 season with just the lone win.
But in each of the next three seasons, Miles led Indiana State to records above .500. By his last year, the Sycamores were 7-4, ranked in the FCS polls and handed eventual national champion North Dakota its sole defeat.
Taking over at Georgia State for Bill Curry was another challenge all its own. Miles wasn’t just inheriting a program without a track record of success; he was taking over a program with no track record whatsoever.
Panthers football inaugurated in 2010, spending three seasons in the Football Championship Subdivision before making the move to the Sun Belt last year.
Miles’ first season there ended in familiar territory: he was winless.
But as he had at Indiana State, Trent Miles is mapping out a long-term plan at Georgia State.
“The sky’s the limit here if you do it right,” Miles told Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated. “You’re in the heart of Georgia. You border Florida, South Carolina, Alabama. Just in this driving area from a recruiting standpoint, you can go a long way if you do it right.”
Georgia State is a program that perfectly embodies the dream of fledgling programs. The Panthers play in an NFL facility, are located in a major, metropolitan area and are surrounded by a deep recruiting pool.
Working with someone like James Franklin is a potential key to help Miles unlock all that potential, so it’s understandable the Georgia State coach might take offense.
And knowing his track record, it’s even more understandable that Trent Miles wouldn’t back down.