DEVILLE: One Wild Weekend To Remember

ATLANTA – I can honestly say it is one of those days that I will remember for a lifetime.

I can one day look back and tell my children and grandchildren about one wacky day in Atlanta when the sports world wouldn't stop spinning.

The rumor mill had been churning aplenty throughout the week about the future of LSU coach Les Miles. Most Everyone was under the impression he was likely headed to Ann Arbor as the next coach of the Wolverines.

Internet message boards were smoking hot with speculation as to who was going to be LSU's next head coach.

Upon arrival in Atlanta, I saw flashing across the bottom of a television screen that ESPN was reporting Bo Pelini was expected to be named the next coach at Nebraska.

That was one of the few things the Worldwide Leader in Sports would get right throughout the weekend. Pelini was named head coach of the Cornhuskers Sunday afternoon, exactly 24 hours after he helped coach the LSU Tigers to the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

But Saturday morning was when things got screwy.

I awoke to reports during ESPN's Gameday telecast that Les Miles was expected to be named head coach at Michigan sometime early in the week. Gameday analyst Kirk Herbstreit reported that Miles was ready to make the move to Ann Arbor and that he had even locked up former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta to join him with Maize and Blue.

While it was no huge shock, it was rather strange that the story would break just hours before the Tigers were to tee it up against Tennessee for the SEC Title. Anyway, I had figured it would Miles' last game at LSU.

But I begin chatting with fellow sports writers on the phone around midday and there were rumors of a 1:50 p.m. EST press conference in which Miles would announce he was… STAYING?

Apparently, Miles had had a change of heart, sat down with LSU officials and decided Baton Rouge was the place to be. However, Herbstreit was reporting sources at Michigan said Miles was about to bolt.

Later it was learned Miles was confronted by his players at their Saturday morning chapel service with questions about his future. Miles felt he needed to clear the air.

As the media scrambled to the basement of the GeorgiaDome, Miles, along with LSU chancellor Sean O'Keefe, athletic director Skip Bertman and sports information director Michael Bonnette, took the stage at approximately 2 p.m. EST on Saturday, two hours prior to kickoff.

It was called a press conference, but the format was much different. An obviously upset Miles took the stage, refused to sit and delivered the message that "he was the coach at LSU, that he would be the coach at LSU" and that he "wasn't interested in any other job."

The "press conference" lasted all of 85 seconds and ended with Miles refusing to answer any questions before telling the media "I'm busy... Have a nice day."

Miles then turned and walked from the stage leaving the rest of the LSU contingency behind. O'Keefe slowly rose from his chair and chuckled, "yeah, what he said!"


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The footage of Miles' comments spread like wildfire across national network television and the GeorgiaDome was abuzz two hours later when the Tigers took the field.

While the events that had already transpired were already enough to fill next day's newspapers, the day was still young.

LSU rallied from one-point down, twice, and Jonathan Zenon return a fourth quarter interception 18 yards as the Tigers knocked off Tennessee to claim the program's 10th SEC title.

For the coach and his team, the victory gave LSU the title it needed to solidify the championship level of the Miles era. The team exchanged postgame hugs, danced around with SEC signs; Miles tearfully hugged running back Jacob Hester and beleaguered quarterback Ryan Perrilloux and finally, under a shower of confetti, accepted the conference championship trophy.

That was that, LSU had kept its coach and finally, again was a champion headed for the Sugar Bowl. Elation filled the building.

But as the Tigers boarded their charter plane headed back to Baton Rouge, Miles nor his team had any inkling what was happening across the country.

ESPN's BCS guru Brad Edwards had said earlier in the week that there was still a slim chance LSU could reach the BCS National Championship Game. However, hell would basically have to freeze over for it to happen.

Well, the devil broke out his mittens Saturday.

Both No. 1 Missouri and second-ranked West Virginia lost leaving the door wide open for major shuffling at the top of the polls. Mizzou was expected to experience a possible letdown against Oklahoma in the Big XII Championship Game, but 27-point underdog Pittsburgh was supposed to have no chance of stopping the Mountaineers offensive juggernaut.

But by game's end, WVU quarterback Pat White had left the game with an injury, star running back Steve Slaton had rushed for 11 yards on nine carries and the Panthers had registered a shocking 13-9 upset of Rich Rodriguez's Mountaineers.

Many of the national writers who remained in the GeorgiaDome press box began talking about the possibility of LSU leaping past two-loss teams like Georgia and Virginia Tech and could possibly land in the national title game against Ohio State.

Well, to cut to the chase, it happened. Sunday night, the Tigers danced and cheered when their name was called on the BCS Selection Show to face the Buckeyes in New Orleans for all the marbles.

I mean seriously, could anyone have written a script more exciting – or bizarre – than the events of a 24-hour period last weekend?


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

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