You guys are missing the obvious. Les and AD Jeff Long have known each other for 20 years. Jeff Long and Les Miles concocted this plan to get Les a pay raise and, at the same time, divert attention away from Arkansas and jeff long on the true target, chris petersen. The plan worked to perfection except that Jeff long wanted it to go on for a few more days.
Yesterday, the website SportsByBrooks.com — a site that floats lots of stories and occasionally nails a whopper — tweeted that they had heard Arkansas was making a run at LSU’s Les Miles. We scoffed. Openly. In this day and age, there’s not a single rumor that we don’t treat with cynicism/skepticism and this one seemed like total hogwash (pun intended). Why in the world would Miles leave a gold mine for a bit tougher job?
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette quickly tracked down Miles’ agent who said “There’s nothing like that going on.”
But then a source told The New Orleans Times-Picayune that an offer of $27.5 million over five years was indeed put before Miles by Arkansas AD Jeff Long:
“They made a serious offer. (LSU AD) Joe (Alleva) is meeting with (Miles’) agent and the discussion is ongoing.”
Les Miles would not provide a comment according to LSU’s sports information department. “We’ve seen the tweet by SportsByBrooks ans we’re not going to comment on rumors or bits of information,” Michael Bonnette said. “It has been brought to Les’ attention and he didn’t have anything to say.” Miles is scheduled to meet with the media today at 3pm ET regarding the Tigers’ 10-2 season.
The Baton Rouge Advocate could not get a comment from Alleva or Miles’ agent George Bass.
Last night, we worked the phones regarding all three ongoing coaching searches in the SEC and here’s what we learned after speaking to two sources close to the Arkansas search and one industry source:
1. Arkansas did make a run at Miles. We could not confirm the numbers being kicked around, but it is believed UA has made LSU’s coach an offer in excess of $5 million per season.
2. Miles has ties to both Arkansas’ AD and Arkansas’ biggest booster — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Long and Miles served at Michigan together from 1987 through 1994. Miles was on Michigan’s coaching staff, long in the athletic department. Miles then served as an assistant coach with the Cowboys from 1998 through 2000.
3. MrSEC.com reported in October that TCU’s Gary Patterson was Long’s first choice to take over in Fayetteville. Discussions between Long and Patterson’s representatives were held. Long liked the fact that Patterson is a defense-first coach, has built a program from scratch at TCU, and has recruiting ties into the Lone Star State… a must for any Razorback head coach.
4. As the season neared it’s conclusion, Patterson mulled Arkansas’ offer and decided to stay put in Fort Worth (at least for now). That’s when things took an interesting turn. Patterson’s agent is none other than Bass who also represents Miles. You can connect the dots from there.
5. We find it very hard to believe that Miles — “a Michigan man” — would turn down more cash from his own alma mater to stay at LSU two years ago only to then leave Baton Rouge for Arkansas. From what we have been told — and it seems pretty obvious — Miles and his agent are simply using the Arkansas vacancy as a means to get a raise from LSU. Remarkably, Alleva did not give his coach a raise following last year’s 13-1 season in which Miles won the SEC title and lost in the BCS Championship Game to Alabama. Now, Miles will get the raise he should’ve received last year.
6. Unless — and this is doubtful — Alleva decides to call his coach’s bluff and say, “Enjoy, Arkansas.” While that was mentioned to us as a possibility, it’s not a serious one. It’s much safer to fork over cash and keep a successful coach than it is for an AD to let a successful coach walk and then have to hunt for someone else.
7. We asked everyone we spoke to whether or not Arkansas’ move toward Miles was a smokescreen or a sign of desperation. The industry source suggested desperation. Patterson was the target and then he backed away from the job. Long then met face-to-face with Jon Gruden and was told “no, thanks.” Then came the rumors regarding Boise State’s Chris Peterson and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. It certainly looks like Arkansas is getting desperate (especially considering that Long had eight months to do the leg work and have much of this set up ahead of time).
8. The two sources close to UA’s search said that there is no desperation. One would not even confirm whether or not Miles had actually received a hard offer from Arkansas. It seemed like spin, but the message was that Long spent the past few months researching and narrowing a list of candidates and he’s only now reaching out to them to gauge interest “and take things to the next step.”
9. We suspect that regardless of the offer put before Miles, he’ll stay in Baton Rouge and get a nice bump from LSU for Arkansas’ trouble. At Arkansas, Miles would have to cross state lines into Louisiana and Texas to recruit. At LSU, Miles can walk out his back door and recruit. After eight seasons on the Bayou, we’d be shocked if he took the Arkansas offer.
10. So where would that leave Arkansas? Potentially telling Bass to go back to Patterson with an even larger offer. Or heading to New York this weekend to interview the same cast of characters all the other schools with openings are going to speak with: Larry Fedora, Mike Gundy, Jim Mora Jr., etc.
11. Gundy is reportedly growing weary of playing the #2 role in the state of Oklahoma to Bob Stoops. But making $3.2 million at his alma mater, would Gundy really leave? Would T. Boone Pickens not pull out his wallet to hang onto the fiery young coach? If he would depart OSU, Arkansas makes sense. He has recruiting ties in the area and in Texas. And Long would make him one of the nation’s five highest-paid coaches.
12. All that said, the longer this drags out the more attractive Arkansas natives Tommy Tuberville and Butch Davis might become for Long, despite all hints and signs to the contrary. And regardless of who UA hires, as the industry source told us last night, the next Razorback coach is “going to get a lot of money.”