Money talks, Miles the silent partner

This week, Oklahoma State's Les Miles received the biggest deal in the history of head coaches at the school. However, special ordering a new Land Rover and indoor pool isn't in the forefront of his mind. Winning a bowl game is.

After practice Thursday, Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles looked as if he were about to burst with excitement.

He was giggling with reporters, and goofing with players.

Why shouldn't he be? He has helped the OSU football program back into the postseason limelight.

And, wouldn't you be a little giddy if there were signed papers documenting how your bank account might grow more than 10 million dollars over the next few years?

But, even a 10 million-dollar man has a few things on his mind.

Worries come and go like normal, just as they did in the unemployed days as a student athlete at the University of Michigan.

The riches are nice – but Miles isn't one to throw his bank statement around as a credible reference.

"It is nice to be appreciated," Miles said. "But we set very high goals when I took over this program. We didn't do anything that we didn't expect of ourselves. Getting the nice contract is great, though."

Great isn't quite the word most would choose.

Miles, a humble man, shies away from talk about money, because in his mind, that isn't why he wants to involve himself in the game of college football.

"I love this," he said. "Stillwater is a beautiful city, there are wonderful people here, good schools for my kids, good support for the university – and people are really buying into what we are doing. That is what makes this worthwhile – seeing this program perk up a little so to speak."

Buying is right. The price tag on the "Beating Nebraska and Oklahoma in the same year" clearance rack is pretty steep.

A few million steep, that is.

And while many still think Miles (11-12 in his career at OSU) has much to prove, others think a move in the area of appreciation was necessary.

Money is always a nice incentive. It lures even the innocent and unsuspecting. So, was there a better way to retain OSU's new crown prince of football? Tossing a few Ben Franklin's in Miles general direction didn't hurt.

"Just very fortunate to represent a group of guys – players and coaches – that continued to work hard, had some early setbacks and persevered, and kept playing with the belief that they were a good football team," Miles said.

With his unselfish nature, Miles sends the message that he wants the OSU program to not only excel, but to be among the best. During his first week on campus in 2000, Miles spent his time reconfiguring his own contracted salary, so that his assistant coaches would be able to put more in their pockets.

In the end, Miles was only making $50,000 more than his offensive coordinator. A testament that his modesty wasn't and isn't just an acting job.

Money isn't what drives him to compete. It is a nice thing to have, but according to Miles, "This was fun when I was broke."

The faith of the orange-clad masses is what he is inspired by, not the attraction of filthy lucre. 

The new contract, which will keep Miles in the Cowboys' driver's seat until at least 2009, sat on his desk unsigned for a number of days. However, Miles is adamant the only reason for the delay was because he had to have his lawyer look over it – just as people do with every other legal document.

"It was never a matter of, ‘Are they going to pay me enough?'" Miles said. "I had to have my guy look at it – you know how that goes."

The new deal, which puts him in the middle of the pack when it comes to Big 12 coaching salaries, wasn't a movement to ensure his family can build a bigger home or buy another car.

"It feels really good to know that the work we are doing here as a staff is appreciated and admired by the fans and the administration," Miles said. "But I am a little more excited about takin' a trip down to Houston and winning a championship.

"You win against Southern Mississippi and you are Houston Bowl champions. Now that is what I like talking about." 

The Cowboys leave for the Lone Star state Saturday morning.

They will play in professional football's most illustrious confines on Dec. 27. Pulling out a win against Southern Mississippi in the Houston Bowl at Reliant Stadium is first and foremost on the mind of Miles. Not the dollar signs – not the hype the green stuff brings.

"We're so excited to go to the Houston Bowl – I can't tell you," Miles said. "It is nice that people would recognize the accomplishments of this team. The pride is self-driven by the members of the team in the fact that they want to be the best that they can be."

And, as Miles has stressed all season long – the team – not Les Miles,  makes the program run.

"When I say team, you all should know by now what I mean by that," he said. "I have the greatest staff in all of football. That is what makes this program special. They care about these kids, and they want to turn this thing around – and we have started down that path.

"I am looking forward to continuing that journey. It is going to be a great time, and we are going to win some football games."

The money is nice; the reassurance of faith and loyalty to the program is welcomed.

Having a lot on your mind is the consequence a man faces when he enters the "Millionaire-a-few-times-over-club."

One of those things is winning a bowl game.The other may be a plan of how to spend all that money Miles has coming his way.

Ten million dollars may not be able to buy wins in college football, it can buy a lot of other things.

Looks like the Miles' tykes may get a lot more than a lump of coal from Santa this year.

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