MULE': 'LES'sons Learned

So, all's well that ends well. LSU is keeping its head coach.

Even for all the self-righteous anger about the erroneous report (could ESPN, the total sports network, be so totally wrong?) of his leaving, Les Miles had to be smiling on the inside Saturday.

Things worked out so perfectly for him. He didn't get his dream job at Michigan, true, in part because his agent informed him the Wolverines wanted Miles to interview instead of hiring him on his considerable credentials, in part because Michigan doesn't pay the king's ransoms handed out by SEC programs.

In return, his team, relieved of all the distractions of the last week, put together a semblance of the game it was capable of earlier in the season and won an SEC title, paving the way for Miles to coach in a national championship – an opportunity that may never come again.

Plus, his family is fixed for life.

So everything is hunky-dory in Tigertown – at least until LSU's defeat.

The whole scenario puts Louisianans of a certain age in mind of Paul Dietzel, whose last four years at LSU, 1958-61, produced a 36-7-1 record, a national championship and two SEC titles. Then his dream job, at Army, opened up and he had to contend with the pressing media as Dietzel tried to prepare his team for an Orange Bowl game.

Dietzel denied everything almost to the end of a 25-7 victory over Colorado, then announced he was leaving for West Point.

For the rest of his career, 16 seasons with the Cadets and then as head coach of South Carolina, Dietzel's record was 74-88.

It's always been a lesson: Be careful what you wish for.

* * *

This is when you know someone on the East Coast – probably an intern from an Ivy League school – is being asked to plan an insightful commemorative magazine about something or some place with which they're not overly familiar, a story or series of stories that completely miss the mark.

Such was the Sports Illustrated issue saluting the 75 seasons of SEC football, in which some startling – or misleading – features were presented.

First, in the section headlined "The Greatest Coaches," there is a piece on Frank Broyles, who coached at Arkansas from 1958 to 1976 then cemented his legacy as an innovative athletic director that made the Razorbacks a real force in the SEC. But Broyles never coached in the SEC. Arkansas was in the Southwest Conference when he coached. He was the AD, though, that steered the Razorbacks to the SEC in 1992.

Pardon me if this seems to be pouring propane on the accomplishments of a wonderful man and noteworthy coach, but it seems sort of important. Particularly so when true SEC legends like Ole Miss' Johnny Vaught and Tennessee's Bob Neyland were ignored.

Also, under the heading of "The Greatest Players" is a piece on George Rogers, who won the Heisman Trophy at South Carolina in 1980.

Like Broyles, Rogers never competed in the SEC; the Gamecocks entered the league at the same time as Arkansas, in 1992.

Of course, the SEC wanted to have representation of all 12 of its members, meaning somebody had to come up with Arkansas and South Carolina connections. But they could have had people who actually left a mark on the SEC instead of force-feeding the readers, most of which know better.

Several LSU Tigers make the all-time All-SEC team. Receiver Josh Reed (1999-2001), cornerback Tommy Casanova (1969-71), and halfback Billy Cannon (1957-59) were cited, along with a profile of Cannon, written during his college playing days, which was republished.

Most interesting was a blurb on Tiger All-American end Ken Kavanaugh as the SEC's Player of the Decade in the 1930s. Kavanaugh, a large man for the time at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds, caught 30 passes for 470 yards as a senior in 1939 – to lead the nation.

* * *

Les Miles' Tigers have bigger fish to fry now, but it is interesting to note that the Sugar Bowl hasn't always been sweet for LSU, despite the Tigers making a record 13 appearances under seven different coaches. Without the stupefying events of Saturday, LSU would have been in the Sugar at 14th time.

These are the results of LSU's Sugar Bowl appearances, the men who coached the Tigers, and their Sugar Bowl records:

Bernie Moore (0-3)

1936: Texas Christian 3, LSU 2

1937: Santa Clara 21, LSU 14

1938: Santa Clara 6, LSU 0

Gaynell Tinsley (0-1)

1950: Oklahoma 35, LSU 0

Paul Dietzel (1-1)

1959: LSU 7, Clemson 0

1960: Ole Miss 21, LSU 0

Charlie McClendon (2-0)

1965: LSU 13, Syracuse 10

1968: LSU 20, Wyoming 13

Bill Arnsparger (0-2)

1985: Nebraska 28, LSU 10

1987: Nebraska 30, LSU 15

Nick Saban (2-0)

2002: LSU 47, Illinois 34

2004: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14

Les Miles (1-0)

2007: LSU 41, Notre Dame 14


Marty Mule' can be reached at

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