ENGSTER: Miles Birthday One To Remember

Les Miles was blessed with enough gifts to make his 54th birthday a night to remember.

On the evening of Nov. 10, his Tigers not only blasted Louisiana Tech back to Ruston on the losing side of a 58-10 score, but LSU also clinched the SEC West and returned to the No. 1 slot in the BCS poll.

Miles and crew will be favored heavily in their remaining regular season dates against Ole Miss and Arkansas, and the Tigers will also be the pick in the Dec. 1 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. It appears LSU is destined to play for the national title on Jan. 7 in New Orleans and send another Louisiana governor out of office as an NCAA champ.

First, it was Mike Foster who left the mansion triumphantly in 2004; Kathleen Blanco now stands in line to welcome LSU's warriors back home on the morning of Jan. 8 as conquerors of the college gridiron for the second time in five years.

Making the return to No. 1 much sweeter for Miles was Nick Saban's 17-12 loss at Mississippi State. The defeat removed the Tide from the SEC West race and dropped Saban's post-LSU record to 21-21.

While Saban is struggling to be a .500 coach, Miles is 31-5 as his third season at LSU heads into the final turn. If he doesn't go to Michigan, Miles will easily surpass Saban as LSU's winningest coach since Charles McClendon.

Here are the records of the LSU football coaches since Mac departed at the close of the 1979 season.

Nick Saban 2000-2004 48-16 75 pct.

Gerry DiNardo 1995-1999 32-24-1 57 pct.

Les Miles 2005-2007 31-5 86 pct.

Mike Archer 1987-1990 27-18-1 60 pct.

Bill Arnsparger 1984-1986 26-8-2 75 pct.

Jerry Stovall 1980-1983 22-21-2 51 pct.

Curley Hallman 1991-1994 16-28 36 pct.

Hal Hunter 1999 1-0 100 pct.

Total 1980-2007 203-120-6 63 pct.

With an expected victory at Oxford, Miles will reach the 32 wins accumulated by Gerry DiNardo in five seasons at LSU. DiNardo, who shares the Nov. 10 birthday with Miles and the USMC, has led a varied life since leaving LSU at the close of the 20th century.

DiNardo has dabbled in the pizza business, coached an XFL team, and flirted with a run for Congress. At 55, it appears his coaching days ended with an 8-27 run as head man at Indiana from 2002-2004.

LSU has been a graveyard for coaches who try to continue their careers in other locales.

Paul Dietzel failed at Army and South Carolina, DiNardo lasted just 35 games at Indiana, while Saban failed with the Dolphins and is underperforming in his debut season at Alabama.

Gaynell Tinsley, McClendon, Stovall, Arnsparger, Archer and Hallman were never head coaches in the college game again after leaving LSU. Miles is in select company when it comes to his first 36 games as an SEC mentor.

Modern SEC national championship coaches and their first 36 games at their respective schools:

Gene Stallings: Alabama 1990-92 30-6 83 pct.

Urban Meyer: Florida 2005-07 29-7 81 pct.

Steve Spurrier: Florida 1990-92 28-8 78 pct.

Vince Dooley: Georgia 1964-67 26-9-1 74 pct.

Phillip Fulmer: Tennessee 1992-94 26-9-1 74 pct.

Nick Saban: LSU 2000-02 26-10 72 pct.

Bear Bryant: Kentucky 1946-49 25-9-2 72 pct.

Bear Bryant: Alabama 1958-61 24-7-5 74 pct.

John Vaught: Ole Miss 1947-50 24-11-1 68 pct.

Frank Broyles: Arkansas 1958-61 24-12 67 pct.

Steve Spurrier: South Carolina 2005-07 21-15 58 pct. 

Paul Dietzel: LSU 1955-58 17-17-2 50 pct.

Shug Jordan: Auburn 1951-54 16-19-1 46 pct.

Paul Dietzel: South Carolina 1966-71 15-21 42 pct.

Not one of the legends listed reaches the enviable record compiled by Miles, who has triumphed 31 of 36 times at LSU. Nonetheless, it must be noted that some other coaches have started fast in the SEC and then burned out for various reasons.

A few examples:

First 36 Final Record

Bill Battle: Tennessee 1970-76 31-5 59-22-1

Lou Holtz: Arkansas 1977-83 30-5-1 60-21-2

Terry Bowden: Auburn 1993-98 30-5-1 47-17-1

Miles is on the brink of beating Dietzel and Saban to the NCAA throne. His predecessors were crowned champions in their fourth seasons at LSU. Miles can accomplish the feat in year three – the same year that Lloyd Carr won it all at Michigan by going 12-0 a decade ago.


Jim Engster is the general manager of Louisiana Network and Tiger Rag. Reach him at jim@la-net.net.

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