ENGSTER: Coaching parallels

Miles off to good start, but Brown on top in college football

Les Miles is off to the fastest start as an LSU football leader since Mike Archer guided the Tigers to a 10-1-1 record in 1987. The Archer debut was so long ago that Ronald Reagan was president and Edwin Edwards was governor of Louisiana. Miles logged an impressive 11-2 rookie season despite an array of nay-sayers who are upset that he is no Nick Saban.

Miles can laugh off his critics, who predicted another disastrous trip to Atlanta last month at the Peach Bowl. Instead, the Tigers pounded Miami of Florida 40-3 in the most dominating bowl performance involving an LSU team since Baylor embarrassed Bill Arnsparger's Bengal crew by outgaining LSU 489 yards to 192 yards in the 1985 Liberty Bowl.

After his outstanding start, Archer won a share of the SEC title in his second year at LSU, then presided over a 9-13 demise in 1989 and 1990 and was out of East Stadium after four years. Miles' future success or failure is uncertain, but he might be the first LSU coach to last more than five years at Death Valley since Charles McClendon accomplished the feat in his sixth season of 1967.

Miles' first order of business will be to resolve his quarterbacking situation. Being blessed with a trio of quality signal callers is somewhat like a married man blessed with two other quality girlfriends. Miles must settle on of his three quarterbacks until defeat do they part. Otherwise, chaos will rule when the Tigers take the field this fall.

Twenty-three years removed from his service as quarterbacks coach under Jerry Stovall at LSU, Mack Brown is king of the college football world after Texas unseated USC as NCAA champion for 2005. Brown is a study in tenacity and perseverance in his topsy-turvy occupation.

Brown survived three 1-10 seasons without being fired. His Tulane Greenies were 1-10 in 1985, and his North Carolina Tar Heel posted the same woeful mark in 1988 and 1989. In six years as a college boss in the ‘80s, Brown lost 48 of 67 games. Two decades later, Brown has been the best coach in the game since 2000. His Longhorns are 65-11 in the new millennium. In 22 years as an NCAA head man, Brown has had double digit winning or losing seasons eleven times. Fortunately for him, eight times his troops have won ten or more games, including the last five campaigns.

Brown owes a debt of gratitude to longtime LSU employee Larry Jones, who served twice as the Tigers' interim athletic director. He gave Brown his first coaching assignment as a student at Florida State in 1973. Jones, who was an undergraduate running back with the Seminoles sidelined with a knee injury, was put to work by Jones.

FSU suffered through an 0-11 season with the young pupil on the sidelines, but Brown and another Jones' assistant, Bill Parcells, advanced to bigger and better things in their chosen profession.

In his final game in the Superdome as Tulane coach in 1987, Brown wept as he led his Greenies through their fight song following a gut-wrenching 41-36 defeat to Mike Archer's LSU unit. Brown was off to Chapel Hill after three years in New Orleans. His eight years in Austin were preceded by a twenty-five year odyssey that included stops in Boone, North Carolina; Norman, Oklahoma; Ames, Iowa; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Memphis, Tallahassee and Baton Rouge.

Brown's loyalty is a trademark. Notably, his offensive coordinator at Texas is Greg Davis, the same fellow who was in charge of the offense at Tulane in 1987 and succeeded Brown as head coach on Willow Street. Even though Vince Young is taking his powerful arm and nimble feet to the NFL, Texas should be in the upper echelon of the NCAA as long as Brown is coaching.

The last time Texas captured a national title in football was in 1969. With Darrell Royal as coach, the Longhorns beat No. 2 Arkansas 15-14 at Fayetteville to capture the crown as Richard Nixon congratulated the all-white Texas team on its victory. Thirty-six years later, Mack Brown received an early morning call in Pasadena from President George Bush. The culture, politics and the game are as different as the Texas championship quarterbacks of 2005 and 1969, Vince Young and James Street, but the Longhorns are No.1 once again.

For those who continue to argue the supremacy of LSU vs. USC on the gridiron, the records of the Tigers and Trojans are remarkably similar from 2000-2005. USC is 59-17 and LSU is 59-18 over the past six seasons. Perhaps athletic director Skip Bertman will contact his Southern Cal counterpart, Mike Garrett, about regular games between the schools. It certainly would be good for business for the people who printed the FUSC bumper stickers.


Jim Engster is the station manager for WRKF-FM in Baton Rouge and the host of "The Jim Engster Show." Contact him by e-mail at jim@wrkf.org.

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