DEVILLE: Ironies Abound

Well, that is that. It seemed easy to reason heading into Thanksgiving week that when LSU won its last two games and reached the BCS National Championship Game, surely there would be no way Les Miles could take the Michigan job.

The only thing many people recklessly overlooked was the fact that the Tigers could lose one of the last two games.

It was already determined that LSU would play for the SEC championship having locked up the SEC Western Division title a week earlier with a win over Ole Miss. A Jekyll and Hyde Arkansas team with a seemingly lame-duck coach would provide the perfect springboard to Atlanta and beyond.

Fans marched outside Tiger Stadium the night before Thanksgiving in support of Miles remaining in Baton Rouge and signs in the LSU student section on Friday read "It's too cold in Michigan, Les."

But the one thing most everyone forgot to consider, though, LSU still had to play Arkansas in the "Battle for the Boot" on Friday. The Razorbacks had endured a topsy-turvy season compiling a 7-4 record, but the Hawgs still possessed one of college football greatest backfields in possible Heisman winner Darren McFadden and his counterpart Felix Jones.

It was senior day and all the focus was one the likes of Glenn Dorsey, Matt Flynn, Early Doucet and the other seniors as they played their final game in Tiger Stadium, as well as the aforementioned spotlight on Miles.

But four and a half hours and three overtime periods later, LSU fans sat in shock as the Tigers trudged off the field, 50-48 losers to Arkansas. As linebacker Ali Highsmith walked between the north end zone goal posts, head down covered with a white towel, the look on the face of this senior said it all.

Afterwards, a stern-faced Miles summed up his feelings by saying his team was "sick."

"This team is not happy," Miles said. "We understand that this cost us and what was at stake. We know one of our goals will come down off that board."

Yes, it's true the Tigers are most likely out of the race for the national championship. Sure LSU could backdoor itself into the big game, crazier things have happened. But it would take something just this side of a miracle to get the Tigers to New Orleans, that and Missouri and West Virginia losses, a blowout of the Volunteers in Atlanta along with some overly generous BCS computers.

Basically, LSU's title chances are done. Well, national title that is. The Tigers are still in good shape to win the SEC Championship and be headed to New Orleans, albeit for the Sugar Bowl, not the BCS Title game.

But now the question remains, if LSU does reach the AllState Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day, will Miles be along for the ride?

With the Tigers out of the national championship picture, Miles will surely be contacted about the vacancy in Ann Arbor. And with Miles being a Michigan alum and at the forefront of the coaching search, one would think he'd be all ears.

Talking with Tom Beaver of the Network's late Friday night, the Arkansas loss does little to change Miles' situation in terms of him being Michigan's first option. It actually opens things up considerably since the Tigers won't be in the thick of the national title chase.

In pondering Miles' future at LSU, there are several ironies that factor in if he was to bolt to Michigan from Baton Rouge.

Miles is currently the most successful coach on the field in the modern era. Through 38 games, he is 32-6 with a .842 winning percentage. You'd have to go all the way back to 1908 and coach Edgar Wingard, who went 17-3 in two seasons (1907-08), to find a coach with a better winning percentage.

Ironically, he is tied for the shortest tenure as LSU's head coach (with Bill Arnsparger) having coached the Tigers for just three seasons.

At this point, should Miles leave, his first and last games in Tiger Stadium would be overtime losses to teams LSU were heavily favored to beat. In 2005, the Tigers blew a 21-0 lead in a 30-27 loss to Tennessee. Last Friday, LSU dropped a triple-overtime thriller to unranked Arkansas.

Both times the Tigers were ranked No.1 this season, LSU was popped off its perch in triple overtime losses.

In the end, though, the irony of all ironies could come back to haunt Miles, LSU and everyone involved. Should the Tigers come up short in Atlanta, the Tigers might get sent to one of the New Year's Day bowl games in Florida, either the CapitalOne of Outback Bowls. These bowl games usually pit an SEC team against a Big Ten opponent.

How uncomfortably bizarre might it be if LSU found itself facing Michigan?


On Sunday morning, two days after the Tigers devastating loss to Arkansas, I was attended my church – First United Methodist – in downtown Baton Rouge.

As one of the largest churches in the state of Louisiana, FUMC has several prominent members including former LSU athletic director Joe Dean and Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer.

Former LSU head coach Paul Dietzel also worships at the historic downtown church and I approached him at the conclusion of early services on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 25.

I have interviewed coach Dietzel a number of times and talked with the legendary coach on several occasions. On this day, we chatted briefly about last Friday's game, the Heisman race and Darren McFadden, among other things.

When I asked him about different instances during the game, Dietzel was the consummate professional.

"I can't second guess anything," Dietzel said. "He is the coach."

When I asked Dietzel if he thought Miles would leave Baton Rouge for Michigan, I have to admit I was a bit surprised to hear the old coach say he didn't think so. Dietzel talked candidly about how he uprooted his family twice leaving for Army and later South Carolina. Although he never really said it, it was pretty obvious Dietzel has serious regrets about leaving his departure from LSU at age 37.

I joked with the 83-year-old Dietzel saying if Miles were to leave, I was going to begin speculating that LSU should re-hire its first national championship coach.

Dietzel roared with laughter.

The former LSU athletic director admitted he knows more about coaching now than he did at age 34, the age at which he led the Tigers to the 1958 national title. At the time, Dietzel was making roughly $12,000 a year as LSU's head coach.

Considering Miles makes roughly $1.7 million a year to coach LSU and stands to gain a substantial raise following this season, Dietzel missed the boat on the big bucks that college football has to offer these days.

"My wife (Ann) says I was born too early," Dietzel said.


Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at

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