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When Les Miles Didn’t Go to Michigan

The great what if of LSU’s Golden Age.

NCAA Football: Eastern Michigan at Louisiana State
Picture this, but with different colors.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The 2007 season was a whirlwind of unlikely events. We tend to remember the crazy games and the undefeated in regulation circuitous march to the title game, but it was just as crazy off the field as it was on the field.

LSU hit its peak 2007 zaniness when Les Miles called an impromtu press conference on the morning of the SEC Championship Game, and angrily denied rumors he had already accepted the head coaching job at his alma mater, Michigan. He closed his pregame interview with the now famous, “Have a Great Day!” Then we proceeded to beat Tennessee and somehow make the BCS Championship Game.

It’s ten years later, so it’s about time we settled some old scores and closed the account on this one. Kirk Herbstreit broke the news, relying on anonymous sources. The ESPN ombudsman took him to task for betraying his inexperience, but placed blame on his producers for running the story.

A more detailed account would come out a few days later in The Michigan Daily, which put the timeline together and essentially blamed the ESPN report on costing Michigan their man, in conjunction with Skip Bertman putting a one-day offer on the table while Michigan refused to put forth a committable offer. Left without a secure Michigan offer, Miles took the sure thing from LSU.

To this, we must now stop and give thanks to Herbstreit for everything he did for the LSU program. Without his erroneous report, Les Miles doesn’t feel the need to address reporters before the game, and he can stall the LSU offer behind the scenes until Michigan got its act together. And in all likelihood, Les Miles takes the Michigan job after the SEC title game. And of course, we can thank the Wolverines for their ham-fisted communication skills.

Herbstreit saved us from a coaching search in 2007. Instead, we got to enjoy nearly another decade of the most successful coach in LSU history. We narrowly missed out on the Honey Badger, the rise of DBU, Landry and ODB, and the Fournette eras.

Meanwhile, Les Miles was spared freezing his ass off in Ann Arbor for a bunch of ungrateful fans, with the petty, vindictive Lloyd Carr working to sabotage him behind the scenes. Michigan fans wouldn’t know they had averted the Rich Rod and Hoke eras, a time in which they would go 46-42, never win the Big Ten nor finish in the top 10, and finally, worship the ground on which walks a coach who turned out consecutive 10-3 seasons. Miles would give them the 10-3, only no one would have been happy, and he wouldn’t have been warm or had a decent meal while doing it.

It’s ten years too late, but thank you, Kirk Herbstreit, for keeping the party going.

But the best thing about Les staying, other than all the winning and fun times we had, was the near decade long meltdown of the MGoBlog. Their “Les Miles” tag goes seven pages, and that only gets you back to 2010. It’s a glorious monument to passive aggressiveness, and I highly recommend any LSU fan taking the time to peruse it, as it is a near decade’s worth of articles about how the grapes were probably sour anyway.

Hey look, you’d be sore, too, if you were trying to convince everybody that a guy who has gone 10-3 twice and never even won his own division at the FBS level is the best coach in the country. Again, see the Rich Rod and Hoke years on why 10-3 gets their guy a coronation and 9-3 gets our guy fired. Expectations are a bitch.

All in all, that’s a good thing that our perspectives so radically changed. Michigan fans went to celebrating a guy who goes 10-3 as a genius nonparallel because they spent a decade in the wilderness. LSU fans now feel like 10-3 is beneath their birthright because we’ve spent the last decade flying so close to the sun.

It was Les Miles who raised those expectations around here, that we should be a year-in, year-out contender, not a flash in the pan who has only won one national title since 1950. Damn it, that was Michigan again.

Miles was a victim of his own success. First, it cost him potentially his dream gig at Michigan. He was forced to deny the rumors in a way that ended the search. Then about a decade later, it cost him his job at LSU, as he couldn’t quite keep winning at the same rate as he had previously.

It’s a harsh reality, but in 2007, that was all potential. Michigan saw a coach with ties to the legendary Bo who could restore them to their prior glory of always coming just a little bit short to Ohio State, while LSU saw the potential of the man who could take LSU to the highest points of its Golden Era, which we still enjoy to this day.

Who knows what had happened had Miles left his damn strong football team and moved on back to his alma mater? Michigan probably doesn’t have three losing seasons over the next seven years, but there’s no telling what happens at LSU.

And I wouldn’t trade the Miles era for anything.

The 2007 coaching search ends up being just another crazy thing that happened during the Miles era. But how crazy was it? That, my friends, is a different story…