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Could Les Miles Leave for Michigan?

The answer may not be as simple as you think…

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Bovada released odds yesterday on the favorites to land the coaching vacancy for Michigan football.

They’ve since removed the prop bet, though no explanation was given why. It’s unsurprising that the top name listed is Jim Harbaugh. The strained relationship between Harbaugh and 49ers brass is well documented, and he’s long been a dream candidate for a Michigan fanbase craving him to come home. Early reports suggested there’s little chance of that happening. Realistically, even if Harbaugh finds his way out of San Francisco, a bevy of NFL franchises will line up at his doorstep with offers. It would be almost unprecedented for a highly successful NFL head coach to come back into the college game.

The number two man on the list is Miles. We’ve walked this road before, in 2007 and again in 2011. The 2007 instance is well documented: Herbstreit breaking "news," Miles’ fiery press conference and Michigan ultimately going a different direction. How close was Miles to taking that job we will never know. The story varies depending on the person telling it. 2011 came and went much quieter. Miles openly acknowledged he would meet with them, and later stated he simply gave them guidance in their search. Is this third verse same as the first (two)? It may not be as cut and dry as we’d like to believe. Let’s take a look at some of the factors.

Les Miles is 61 Years Old

Miles doesn’t openly set any time tables for when he plans to walk off into the sunset, but he also doesn’t give the impression he’s the type to die on the sidelines, either. He’s vocal about how much he enjoys spending time with his family, even spending the opening few minutes of his SEC Media days press conference giving an update on his children and summer vacation. Steve Spurrier took the South Carolina job at 60 years old, and he we are, nearly a decade later. It’s speculative to assume Miles wouldn’t consider a career move solely because of is his age. Yet, it could be a major factor, as well. Especially considering…

Michigan Needs a Rebuild

Brady Hoke stocked the roster with talent decently well, but it’s clear Michigan’s program isn’t in position for any coach to walk in and hit the ground running, even in a conference that lacks the depth that the Big 10 does. Miles may be able to walk in and guide Michigan, as presently comprised, into the Big 10 Title picture, but they are likely a couple years off from being National Title contenders, which simply isn’t the case at LSU, even in the highly competitive SEC. His age is a factor here, because how long will it take? If it takes Michigan 2-3 years to build up a talent base ready to compete for National Titles, Miles will already be in his mid 60s. If he’s not fairly successful in those first few seasons, an already tired Michigan fanbase could grow even wearier and quickly demand change. Is that a process he wants to endure?

Young Children

Smacker Miles is in college at Texas and Manny is headed off to college next fall, but Ben is just 16/17, and Macy just 12/13. College football coaches are pretty well versed in supplanting their families for newer and better gigs, but this remains an important factor. Does he want to uproot his children at ages old enough to understand leaving behind friends, and in the case of Macy and Ben, the place they understand to be home?

Building a Legacy

Miles is 35 wins away from being the winningest head coach in LSU history. He comfortably owns the highest winning percentage of any coach, having coached 30 games or more, in LSU history. If Miles is able to secure another National Title while becoming the all-time wins leader at LSU, there will be zero debate about his standing as the greatest coach in LSU football history. As of now, if he quit tomorrow, he’d be remembered as one of the greatest coaches in LSU history, but not the singular greatest.

Michigan is his Dream Job

When Miles began to pursue coaching in 1980, as a Graduate Assistant at the University of Michigan, you have to believe he did so with the ultimate goal of one day assuming the head coaching position at Michigan. This is his alma mater, which he still speaks proudly of to this day. Even tweeting support of their current team:

There’s a good possibility this is his very last opportunity to take the job. Can he walk away again?

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Ultimately, what I think Miles needs to answer for himself (and he may already have) is what type of dream does he want to fulfill. He’s been adamant that LSU is his home, even openly now stating he’s from Louisiana. Does becoming the greatest coach in LSU history fulfill his career goals? Or does that job, that one job, the dream one, does he need to go for that brass ring to make himself happy?

Only time will tell, but the decision is likely not as easy as you think.