More like Ole Mess, amiriteyall?
Okay, so that’s out of the way. Between this Hugh Freeze situation and the looming NCAA sanctions, this is a program that’s going to be down for a while. A lot of dramatic language is getting thrown around, like “nuked back to the stone age” and such ilk. I don’t know about all that, but this is certainly a program that is facing a very long road back, even if the NCAA does accept the school’s self-imposed penalties.
(This really isn’t the point here, but as an aside — Ole Miss’ only chance is to pin this whole deal on Freeze and throw themselves upon the mercy of the Committee on Infractions. Ross Bjork’s presser on Thursday indicates that won’t be happening, but time will tell.)
Their next coach will have to deal with the reduced scholarships and any other penalties, which means that he’ll likely want a contract with a pronounced buyout clause to create patience, and have very little room for error in trying to restock the roster. And let’s face it, aside from quarterback and wide receiver, this isn’t exactly a roster that inspires much envy right now.
Les Miles’ name was immediately floated as a potential replacement for Freeze, and Sunday evening there’s been a lot more talk about the potential fit. I don’t doubt that Miles’ representation has leaked word out to reporters, if not sent word directly to Oxford.
But let me be crystal clear here — this would be a terrible idea for all parties involved.
Les Miles is a football coach, and he just doesn’t want to do much else right now. He’ll almost certainly do some television work this season, but he’s passed on any sort of full-time job in that field thus far. He made it very clear that he wants to coach, and I can understand why — when you’re fired from a job you love, the urge to prove yourself in that profession is pretty strong. And that’s before you factor in the maniacal level of competitive juices flowing through a big-time football coach.
But the biggest factor that likely kept Les out of major consideration for the jobs he has spoken with, and the one that will all but certainly keep Ole Miss away is simply his age. Miles will turn 64 this fall. If he were to return to the SEC now, he and Nick Saban would be the conference’s two oldest coaches by nearly 10 years. The average age in the conference is currently 49, and the second-oldest coach behind Saban is Jim McElwain at 55.
College coaching has, increasingly, become a young man’s game at the higher levels. Recruiting has become such a day-in, day-out focus. That isn’t to say that an older coach can’t be successful in that environment — Miles was and Saban continues to be — but I think that’s a harder sell for administrators than it was even 10 years ago.
And Ole Miss will be the ultimate recruiting job. Not only do you have to make sure that the limited scholarships you have go to players that can help you, but you’ll have to do it without the top blue-chip prospects, who will be more likely to avoid a school that isn’t traditionally powerful and is under sanctions. That doesn’t just require more time on the road building relationships, it requires an increased focus on scouting to find lower-ranked, developmental type prospects. And that’s before we even discuss Ole Miss’ football budget up against the rest of the SEC. The odds may be against whomever gets this job, and Miles would surely be set up to fail.
Maybe there’s some value in landing a “big name” for a program like Ole Miss, but the odds are long that it will ever show up on the field. Whether you think the game passed Miles by or not, whether you think he can change or not, the simple reality is he’s much closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning of it. And that doesn’t time particularly well for a long-term rebuild.
Soon, LSU will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Miles’ 2007 national championship. It’s my earnest hope that he will take part in those festivities, and maintain some ties to the university in the future, much like his parallel, Charles McClendon did through the 1980s and 90s.
But beyond that and my personal feelings, this is a bad idea. For both sides.