BATON ROUGE --- “I think my strength and my weakness is loyalty, and I will always see it as a strength.” – Les Miles
The decision didn’t come easy, but loyalty became the underlying them.
There were the 4 a.m. conversations with wife Kathy, and then moments where she shed tears.
There was a bus ride home from Dallas alongside Sam Montgomery, who underwent season-ending knee surgery after the Tennessee game. Two years prior, Miles had spent many a nights telling Montgomery’s mother that sending her son far from the East Coast was the right move.
And there are the fans, the people that make Tiger Stadium unlike any place in America.
“You work for the coaches that you brought here and their families,” Miles said. “You work for the people in your building that are administrators. You work for those six years of recruiting classes; those young men that you asked to do very difficult things over time for their school. You work for the 92,500 that come into a stadium.
“I look at those people when making a decision of where we needed to be.”
Miles said he envisioned a move to Michigan, making the push by the LSU side all the more important.
“I think any time that you vision a decision there is a potential for another outcome,” he said. “You look at it and judge it effectively. I could not have met with Michigan without the potential of a different outcome.”
If more job security was the final piece to make the move fit over the long term, LSU came through.
As part of a seven-year deal Miles will continue at his annual base salary of $3.751 million per year, but he will get additional compensation for championships and post-season accomplishments. The new contract also has no rollover provisions.
“I promise you this; this was not a bidding war in any way,” Miles said. “I guess what I’m saying is I want to be here. We might have a bump here or two, but we are going to get to the top.”
“To have a contract that should get you by a rough year will allow me to help get to the championships and the great times as we go forward. For me, the tenure has always been more important to me than the actual annual salary.”
Miles said that he decided to stick with LSU the night of his meeting with Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon. The next morning he informed LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva.
In the end, family – and loyalty – kept Miles at home.
“We gave an opportunity for our family to weigh in on it,” he said. “Every one of my children is so happy here and enjoys being here with their friends and their things. That is not something that necessarily cannot be replaced, but it did tell me that they are happy here. That was an important factor.
“I think the decision was made more about the people we represent and the commitment to being here.”
While Michigan and Miles remained mum on whether Brandon formally offered Miles the job, he said that others have come and been turned away.
“There are other opportunities that never made the paper,” he said. “There are other jobs that were run by me that I declined.”
The position in Ann Arbor, however, was one that couldn’t be held under wraps.
“This one was too important to me and had to be public,” Miles said. “I really appreciate the patience of the administration. I communicated very openly and honestly just as fast as I could what was going on. I wanted to make sure that everyone was informed.
“When I was going to talk to Michigan, I walked right up to Joe Alleva’s office and told him that a call had been placed and the meeting had been moved up. They handled it extremely well.”
As for his future, expect the Mad Hatter to roam the sidelines – and chomp on the occasional blade of grass – for many years to come.
“When I got here, my eyes are wide, and I didn’t understand what I was about to run into,” he said. “I was told it’s kind of like the first time you ride in a plane. They tell you this is how it’s going to feel like, and your eyes get big and however old I was, it was the first experience. I want you to know that I went through a couple of plane rides here and taking the field at Tiger Stadium, the people that are so passionate, that was a word that was descriptive to me of what I was going to feel. It is now a feeling I have about our fan base, a wild, passionate group of people.
“Six years ago I didn’t know what I was getting into. Now, six years later I really have enjoyed that ride, and I want that to continue.”