Tenuous Future of Les Miles Exposes Sport’s Ugliness

Imagine if a college football message board’s most bitter malcontents had the power to hire and fire head coaches. Your imagination need not be too vivid; just read reports of Les Miles’ possibly impending ouster from LSU.

James Smith of The Times-Picayune reported Sunday, in the wake of LSU’s third consecutive loss, the Tiger Athletic Foundation is “ready to cut ties with Miles and start a new era.”

Tiger Athletic Foundation is the closest we get to anyone attaching a name to some message board-quality tough guy talk, like this: “[The Texas A&M game] will have no bearing on what we do with him.”

What we do with him… Jeez, with language like that, I can’t help but wonder if the anonymous source is Randolph or Mortimer Duke.

LSU went from thinking College Football Playoff, to those seemingly with the money and power to dump a head coach treating the news like a message board.

The key difference: These are people with the clout to back up their words.

Two LSU boosters are presumably going to exchange a one-dollar bill per their bet they couldn’t get a wildly successfully head coach fired.

And make no mistake, Les Miles has been wildly successfully. Under his guidance, the Tigers won two SEC championships, played in two national title games and won one, and amassed a 72.3 winning percentage isn’t sufficient.

But, OK. Regardless the heights Les Miles reaches, he’ll never match Nick Saban. Considering Saban coached LSU before the Mad Hatter, athletic department decision-makers probably presume they can find someone comparable.

Saban’s a once-in-a-generation coach. However, if Smith’s report of LSU brass being hot after Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher bears fruit, the Tigers have a candidate whose shown flashes of being the sport’s next standard-bearer.

But if the school’s bigwigs whiff on Fisher, is LSU’s next coach going to win two SEC championships? A national championship? Better than 72 percent of his games over the course of a decade?

Tigers history says no. Emphatically.

Big-time college football coaching is a tough business, and the metrics by which coaches are measured are indeed arbitrary. But arbitrary often crosses a line into delusional, and the initial rumors surfacing around LSU fit the latter.

Fisher’s a home-run target, but he’s built a self-sustaining machine at Florida State. More impressively, he did so stepping into the shadow cast by a legend, Bobby Bowden.

The successors to legends rarely flourish, and certainly not to the degree Fisher has.

From a purely economic standpoint, Fisher makes $4 million in his current job. Miles’ current contract at LSU is $700,000 more — not chump change by any measure, but hardly a deal-breaking sum.

Just how much above that can LSU afford while also paying off a whopping $15 million in buyout money to Miles and his staff? That we’re even having that particular conversation at a time when Louisiana is slashing higher education budgets at a record pace is off-putting, but I digress.

Fisher is an ambitious target, if not unrealistic. His name being mentioned doesn’t stray into delusional territory — Jon Gruden’s does.

Any time Gruden is suggested as a viable candidate without tongue planted firmly in cheek, there’s a problem. That this comes from sources Smith describes as “highly ranked…involved with the decision-making process” should bother LSU fans.

I won’t shed any tears for Les Miles if his firing does come to pass. When rival Arkansas’ head coaching position came open in 2012, the Hatter was a rumored candidate.

The rumors resulted in a pay raise of almost $600,000 and bumps in support staff salaries.

From the clandestine use of anonymity, rumor-mongering and delusional wish lists, the process plays out no differently than if it went through a message board. Just swap sources with handles like TigerMan68 and raise the stakes.