Why I Think Scott Rabalais is Wrong

As Les Miles-to-Michigan version 3.0 heats up, TSD's Ben Love responds to a column in this morning's local paper in Baton Rouge.

I never thought I’d be the one to write this piece if I’m being honest, but when the seemingly inevitable Michigan offer comes, Les Miles should put out a polite stiff-arm and stay right where he is.

The topic of course is bouncing around the LSU sports universe for the third time in seven years because of the latest opening in Ann Arbor, after Michigan fired Brady Hoke on Tuesday, and also because of a well-written, thought-provoking column this morning penned by Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate.

Rabalais argued Miles, undervalued and fate already determined by the fans, would be wise to accept an overture from his alma mater, be content with his 10-year run on the bayou and take a running jump off the stage, crowd surfing-style, into a sea of waiting, adoring Michigan fans decked out in maize and blue.

Okay, so I embellished the last part by a power of 100, or a thousand, maybe. But you get the point Rabalais was driving at – that Miles and his wife Kathy could enjoy a homecoming amongst familiar faces that will appreciate him for all he is and be thrilled that he’s there to help revive their proud program.

And to that Hallmark notion, even as we enter the holiday season, I say no way.

What person that you know, in any profession or walk of life, works for decades to master a craft, climb the ladder and, this part’s important, earn unfathomable security in both compensation ($4.3 million/year) and contract length (extended through 2019) only to walk away from that on the wrong side of 60 to take a rebuilding project fraught with uncertainty?

Plenty of people, especially empty-nesters or those staring retirement in the face, will move closer to family and downshift professionally, perhaps as a part-time consultant. There’s nothing about the Michigan job, though, that says “part-time.”

Quite the contrary Miles, 61 and a family man with three children not yet college-bound, would be up to his eyeballs in Ann Arbor, taking on headache after headache to prop up a program mired in mediocrity of late – in the Big Ten. He’d be able to recruit there, sure, but not to the same degree or with the level of ease as he can in Louisiana.

The same applies to getting results on the field. Even when it’s “bad” at LSU in these golden days of the new millennium, the Tigers win eight or nine games. Wolverines have bellied under that bar in each of the last two seasons.

Miles also wouldn’t have the piggy bank there like he does here to afford the nation’s highest paid coaching staff.

Look, this isn’t meant to be a smear campaign against Michigan football – someone very soon will land that gig and be ecstatic to have it, as well he should be – nor is it against Rabalais. I also don’t discount that the U of M holds a special place in the Miles’ hearts.

It’s just about accepting that the LSU job is a superior one at this point and that the program is in certain ways on cruise control, due in no small part to what Miles has cultivated in his role as CEO, which I feel is unquestionably the hat that The Hat wears best.

Some of the other headwear, whichever one it is he dons when navigating the clock late in games most prominently, not so much. And that factor, plus some of his eccentricities and stubbornness with the quarterback/offense, frequently lead to the type of chatter throughout a football-crazy state that informed the sentiment behind Rabalais’ column.

Here’s the rub: The mistake a lot fans, and potentially Rabalais, make is assuming Miles concerns himself with what the collective fan base – or even a very vocal minority portion of it – and the media think of him.

We’re talking about a man who stood in front of reporters less than two weeks ago and reminded us with a smile on his face that he doesn’t read the newspaper, at least the sports section, he later amended.

We’re talking about a man who should seriously look into trademarking the phrases “outside this building” and “on the perimeter” because he uses them so much to describe how little he, his staff and his players give a hoot about what is said by those residing outside the LSU football bubble.

And, lastly, we’re talking about a man who has won 103 of the 131 games he’s coached in Baton Rouge, doing it his way and leading LSU to victory 78.6 percent of the time.

That’s what Miles cares about – winning, trying to mold as he would say “quality men” and how those inside the building feel about what’s going on in the building.

The fans, they’re important to him as they are any coach of any program at any level in that he wants them to show up to games and be loud. But when it comes to their feedback on his job performance or whether he should stay or go, it’s not likely Miles considers them “an interesting piece.”

More accurate would be to say he doesn’t consider them at all.

Les Miles has risen to heights only a handful in his profession have reached. He’s got some of the best job security any human on the planet at his age, or any other, could want, and the program he leads is annually in the conversation of conference and national championships every preseason.

For those reasons and quite a few more, I think Miles should and will stay when Michigan comes knocking.

Not that he’ll read a word of this, what Rabalais wrote or fans’ takes anyway.

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