Les Miles did a fantastic job coaching LSU this past season. He led his team through the nation’s toughest schedule, avoided dozens of potential off-field pitfalls, won the SEC and made it all the way to the BCS Championship Game with a team that’s still awfully darn young.
If Oklahoma State hadn’t fallen at Iowa State — setting up an LSU-Bama rematch for the title — there’s a good chance Miles has another championship ring in the vault today.
So let’s not start with the “you hate Les Miles” bunk. Personally, I think he was the nation’s best coach in 2011 (it not early-January 2012, certainly 2011).
But grown millionaires shouldn’t take potshots at teenagers. Period. End of story. Regardless of setting. Too bad then that Miles did just that with regards to Notre Dame signee Gunner Kiel.
When the five-star quarterback prospect changed his mind last month and enrolled in South Bend rather than in Baton Rouge — most say his mother’s emotional plea to stay close to him led to the switch — Miles tried to be magnanimous.
“There’s a point in time where young people make a variety of decisions for a variety of reasons,” Miles said on January, 17th. “The only thing I can tell you is there’s a guy in the Midwest who felt staying close to home was the right thing, or maybe here’s a guy in any number of places where the decision comes down to staying close to family and representing a stadium or team nearby. I understand that very much. If that’s the cast, then we need to have people that are going to be happy here in Louisiana.”
Well, it doesn’t sound like Miles understands that “very much” now. Speaking at a booster function on Wednesday, Miles questioned Kiel’s heart and talent:
“There was a gentleman from Indiana that thought about coming to the Bayou State. He did not necessarily have the chest and the ability to lead a program, so you know.”
Naturally, LSU fans roared with approval. Their coach had just fired a pretty big insult at a teen who dared to stay close to home to be with his family. Hoorah! The hometown Baton Rouge Advocate even cited Miles’ “wit.”
Sorry, folks, but that’s weak.
Miles knew what he was doing and who he was speaking to. How better to sell fans on the idea that three-star QB prospect Jeremy Liggins is a better acquisition than the five-star Kiel than to just go ahead and rip Kiel?
Liggins — who may turn out to be a better quarterback than Kiel in the long run, who knows? — was praised by Miles for having the grit and gumption to leave his home state for the Tigers.
“Liggins stood up in the middle of Mississippi and said, ‘I’m going to a place where we can win a national championship,’ and I like that man’s style,” Miles said.
Some are sure to defend the coach by stating that his rip of Kiel came in a talk with fans. He was just giving them some red meat. True enough. And if he’d said, “We’re gonna win a national title,” I’d have no problem with it.
But when you take a personal shot at someone else — in front of the media — it’s bush league. Lane Kiffin didn’t get a pass in 2009 when he claimed in front of a Tennessee booster club that Florida’s Urban Meyer had cheated while recruiting a UT signee (nor did he deserve one). For Miles to publicly question the heart and leadership qualities of a young man he’d just tried to bring into his program is hugely disappointing and he deserves the backlash he’s going to feel for it.
And there will be some.
Perhaps people will realize that Miles worked hard to land Kiel, someone he now says didn’t have “the chest” to lead LSU. Doesn’t that mean Miles failed to properly evaluate the kid?
Perhaps Kiel himself changed his mind about LSU after watching Miles go with his run-firt quarterback for all four quarters of the BCS Championship Game, rather than turn the ball over to his pass-first quarterback. We’ll never know because Kiel didn’t rip Miles or LSU when he landed at Notre Dame. (Though most everyone else in America ripped LSU’s offensive showing in that game.)
And forget the perhaps on this one, it’s guaranteed: Rival SEC coaches who recruit against Miles are sure to remind parents that LSU’s coach will say anything to land their son… but he’ll turn on him quicker than a bell clapper in a goose’s rear if he inks elsewhere.
This one was bad form from a good coach.