MULE': Let the ripple effect begin

Les Miles could yet coach a team to the Rose Bowl.

Remember the 2006 season when Pasadena, when Southern Cal seemed headed to the national championship game, was enamored with the thought of newcomer LSU filling the traditional Pac-10 berth? That thought, of course, dissipated with the Trojans' regular-season ending loss to UCLA.


This is strictly conjecture for the time being, just something to think about, reading tea leaves.


But it is conceivable that another upset, Appalachian State's shocker over Michigan in the "Big House'' Saturday, could be a program-changer.


For LSU as well as the Wolverines.


Think about it this way: Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was theorized to be near the end of his regime in any case, but if anyone was trying to talk him into staying, the humiliating 34-32 defeat probably ended the conversation.


At the same time, should LSU contend – or even win – the BCS championship, as expected, how good would Miles look to the Wolverine Nation in January?


Outstanding is the unequivocal answer. 


Consider that at the moment Miles has a 51-25 record in his seven years as a head coach, including a gaudy 23-4 over his two-plus seasons at LSU. That record could reach a ridiculous victory total of 36 in 40 games at LSU should his Tigers run the table, a realistic possibility, according to almost all observers.


Not only would those figures entice interest on their own, but remember Miles is a proud Michigan grad.


There are other intangibles to ponder. Miles has been a very good recruiter, and, while sometimes an awkward communicator with the media, there is no doubt he communicates well with his athletes. And, a major plus as head of a high-achieving program, Miles has no fear of hiring assertive and creative assistants like Bo Pelini and Gary Crowton. He has many positive attributes as a head coach.


All this would make him highly attractive at his alma mater.


Michigan, of course, would be a magnate to any prospective coach. It is one of college football's golden programs, a perennial national contender, and only one of the top jobs in the country, but especially so for a native Midwesterner.


In addition there is a sense that, despite his accomplishments, Miles may feel a little unloved in Louisiana. For all his success (and his performance in 2005, the Season of Katrina, was especially extraordinary) there is a tendency to chalk it up to Nick Saban's recruits, although coaches will often say it is often harder to win with some else's players no matter how talented.


Fans, it seems, spend as much time criticizing how tightly Miles wears his cap as critiquing his two 11-victory seasons.


So, it appears Sept. 1, 2007, the day Appalachian State defeated Michigan, could be a date that may alter the course of  LSU football as much as Dec. 1, 1961. That was the afternoon Navy defeated Army 13-7. Dale Hall didn't have a losing season in his three years at Army, but he never beat Navy, and the U.S. Military Academy decided it had to replace Hall with another coach, who turned out to be LSU's Paul Dietzel, who also had problems (1-2-1) with the Middies and a quarterback named Roger Staubach.


Things may not have worked out especially great for Army, but there was no question the transition from one head coach to another was traumatic for Tiger football. And it could have been worse.


Just say Miles is as attractive to Michigan as it seems he would be, and concede that every program change can disrupt what is already in place. Then, remember, everything could be exacerbated at LSU. With Skip Bertman ready to step down, either a lame duck athletic director or a brand new one, with brand new ideas and no ties to what already is in place here, would make the decision of a new Tiger coach.


When Dietzel left, then-AD Jim Corbett knew Charlie McClendon, serving as what is now known as defensive coordinator for the Tigers, was the man for the job. McClendon went on to coach the Tigers to 137 victories, most of any LSU coach.


There's no guarantee that in the situation LSU will be in January that anyone will be in place to recognize a budding head coach on the current staff, or a hot-shot up-and-comer from points unknown.


The closest thing to a sure thing in this scenario is that Les Miles would eventually coach a team in the Rose Bowl.


Think about those possibilities for a while.        




Marty Mule' can be reached at

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