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The 2007 Diary of Miles to Michigan

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A Michigan blogger takes us in the wayback machine.

NCAA Football: McNeese State at Louisiana State
He almost gave this up
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’ve covered the fallout of Miles’ greatest press conference, it’s probably time we look back on how the whole thing happened, and how close Miles to Michigan actually came in 2007.

Pittman and I were still writing are own independent blog, not yet brought into the cozy embrace of the SBNation family. Which is to say, we don’t have an ATVS archive of those turbulent months. Luckily, we have an unbiased, third party source who reported on the events contemporaneously every step of the way: Michigan’s own MGoBlog.

Thanks to Brian Cook’s diligent reporting, we can relive the Miles to Michigan insanity as it happened.

July 6, 2007

Michigan hadn’t fired Carr yet, but he was clearly on the hot seat. Brian started doing his due diligence on the potential candidates and announced that Les Miles Isn’t a Candidate for Anything.

Miles is the obvious 1A candidate based on his resume. Most places would snap him up without blinking. But Michigan is a unique situation and Miles is, um, unique too.

First of all, the guy has a verbal diarrhea that fits in at Michigan about as well as John L Smith controlled his emotions. This very week Miles said a bunch of intemperate things about the Pac 10 on a radio show that stand in marked contrast to Carr's reticence to do anything that could be construed as campaigning during the Michigan-Florida election window last December.

Yes, because we all know that Michigan would never tolerate a head coach who says intemperate things about another conference.

Honestly, I think it’s great that Jim Harbaugh takes potshots at the SEC. A little cross-regional chest thumping never hurt anybody (in football, at least). But it does show how far Michigan has fallen since 2007 that the first objection to Miles is pretty much the first reason they now love Harbaugh.

Then there’s some boilerplate about Miles being corrupt at Oklahoma State and that some website you’ve never heard of gives Miles low marks on the “Role Model” scale. Anyway, he isn’t a fan of the potential hire, and would later double down on his criticism in a second post in which he re-asserts the corruption charges and adds:

I am disturbed by the widely held opinion amongst SEC fans that Miles is the stupidest coach in the conference. Even LSU fans seem kind of unimpressed.

LSU seems to be a ramshackle train of enormous talent that implodes on a regular basis because it is lax, undisiciplined, and plain dumb. Take Miles away from the ridiculously fertile recruiting grounds of Louisiana and slap his hand when he tries to import guys who can't spell "cat" in three tries and visions of Michigan State dance in front of my eyes.

Huh-yuck. We’re all just a bunch of dumb rednecks down here. I’m sure this perception of LSU as a bunch of barefoot morons won’t bite Michigan in the ass as time moves on.

LSU would win the national title in 2007 and Michigan State would only have one losing season over the next eight years, winning the Big Ten title once, finishing in the top 10 three different times, and winning at least 10 games six times. All marks better than Michigan in the same time frame. Just pointing out that visions of Michigan St would be a step up from the hole that Michigan was about to step in.

September 28, 2007

Carr loses his first two games, including the famed Appalachian St game. He’s clearly a dead man walking, and the coaching search is in full swing, especially the fun speculation part. Brian reverses course on Miles. He realizes that his sources on the whole Loose Morals thing were “based on the rumblings of certain insiders on the premium message boards of Rivals and Scout.” He realizes that maybe these sources aren’t that reliable. Who knew?

But he’s also impressed with the season Miles is having at LSU. Furthermore, Miles is clearly a good coach because he hired highly respected coordinators like Bo Pelini and Gary Crowton. No, seriously. Hiring Gary Crowton is listed as one of Miles’ positives.

October 5, 2007

Les Miles is really a Michigan Man in disguise.

No less a source than The New York Times reports that Miles only talked about Michigan when he was at Oklahoma State. He desperately wanted the job then, and he wants it now. Miles will almost certainly take the Michigan job if offered.

When has Pete Thamel ever been wrong about LSU or Oklahoma State football?

November 19, 2007

Lloyd Carr retires. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

LSU is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. We don’t know it yet, but 2007 is about to push its crazy into overdrive, as the Tigers are about four days away from losing to Arkansas. I still can’t talk about it.

November 20-21, 2007

The best part of a coaching search is when you can throw any name against the wall and see if it sticks. It’s baseless speculation central, and really manna from heaven for a blogger. Those first few days are a blast because it’s wishlist time and you haven’t been cold cocked by reality just yet.

Brian dismisses Harbaugh out of hand as a guy who has only won three games at 1-A (which is a fair criticism) and gleefully posts Michigan AD Bill Martin’s comments to The New York Times that they are concerned with how many DUI’s a coach has, a clear shot at Harbaugh. Relying on Thamel’s reporting on Les Miles is always a good plan. It’s why we’re going to do it again. What better source for college football news is there than The New York Times?

But, really, Miles is such a sure thing that he’s speculating not on whether Miles will take the gig, but the timing of it. Do you sign Miles before or after he wins the national title? He firmly comes down on the side of after, which is a pretty good call, I agree.

Besides, what’s the worst case anyway? Brian outlines the Michigan “Nightmare Scenario” as going 8-4 every year. Over the next seven seasons, Michigan would win 8 or more games just twice. The Wolverines would win 10 games just once. So they missed the mark on the Nightmare Scenario by just a little bit. It happens.

By the 21st of November, Skip Bertman has admitted that even if Michigan signs Les to a contract, LSU would like to keep Miles on the sidelines for the rest of the season. The timing issue neatly resolves itself. Brian reads the tea leaves on this and concludes that LSU already knows Miles has made a decision to go to Michigan, wrapping it up with:

The only thing that might prevent Miles from being Michigan's coach is Michigan pulling the ultimate in dastardly moves and insisting Miles leave, something which would deservedly tar the program in the court of public opinion. And what possible motivation would Michigan have to do that if they've got their man locked up already?

Surely, that is the only thing that could prevent Miles to Michigan. Only Michigan being dastardly could prevent Miles to Michigan from happening. Just not in the way we anticipated. I mean, who could anticipate Michigan being too arrogant?

November 29, 2007

Two fairly innocuous news items actually, now that we have the benefit of hindsight, reveal the cracks in Michigan’s pursuit of Miles. It’s quite possible that LSU kept its coach on this date, but the endgame wouldn’t be played out for a few more days.

First, LSU confirms Michigan has asked to speak to Miles. This is taken as a strong indication this is in the bag, as schools don’t like to leak this kind of information, for obvious reasons. But he also notes that the old guard is “strongly opposed” to Miles while the younger big money donors want him. It just seems like the usual chatter you always hear, it certainly couldn’t fester into an open wound, could it?

Later that day, he reports Skip wants Michigan to wait until after the SEC Championship Game to talk to Miles. Skip sticks by his promise to let Miles coach the bowl game even if he signs with Michigan. Things look rosy, even if the timeline has been pushed back, but Skip admits Michigan’s headhunters could speak to Miles’ agent. This is a fruitless gesture, so why not give it?

Well, it will turn out that this one week reprieve of exclusive negotiations with Miles would pay off handsomely for LSU. This was the masterstroke which would later set up the checkmate. Michigan got outsmarted by a bunch of dumb, southern rednecks. They just didn’t know it yet. Frankly, neither did anyone else.

Skip would hammer out an extension for Les during this week and was ready to pull the trigger on Saturday. When the day came, Michigan wouldn’t be entirely ready.

November 30, 2007

The always reliable Tiger Droppings message board reports that Miles has told the players he has accepted the Michigan job. One poster reports that RJ Jackson’s girlfriend told him, and if that’s not a rock solid source, I don’t know what is. MGoBlog dutifully reports this as a 90-percent done deal. In other news, Simone reports that her best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious.

On the Michigan side of the rumor mill, “someone” relays that email traffic between big money donors says Miles is a done deal and will be announced on Monday or Tuesday. The only thing at dispute now is the timeline, in which anti-Miles forces in the AD are trying to delay and interview other candidates. I’m sure their waning influence will be overrun by the Miles to Michigan train. It’s almost a done deal.

December 1, 2007

ESPN is reporting Miles has signed to be Michigan’s new coach.

...

...

Two and half hours later, the follow up post comes:

Miles has signed a lucrative, multi-year extension with LSU.

"It's done," said a source close to the situation. "He's staying at LSU."

Whatever happened to the dream job stuff? The crawl on glass stuff? Is another 500k or 1m a year that much of a big deal? Jesus.

Just like that. I wonder what hurt more, losing Miles when you thought you had him signed or being outmaneuvered by a bunch of dumb southerners too dumb to spell cat? I guess we got it on the fourth try.

December 4, 2007

Hope never dies. Miles hasn’t officially signed his extension with LSU, so there’s still a chance he could sign with Michigan. Also, my favorite little wrinkle of the whole story comes out for the first time: Michigan AD Bill Martin may have been sailing on Saturday, and couldn’t be contacted. So when Miles couldn’t reach Michigan to confirm his offer, he stuck with the bird in the hand at LSU.

Some further reporting shows that a Michigan player published a letter to AD Bill Martin which confirmed every Michigan fan’s worst feelings. Martin was on a boat. Miles wanted to come but couldn’t get a straight answer. Herbstreit’s public report put Miles in a bad position and forced the issue. Oh, and Michigan was only offering Miles the same salary he made at LSU. It was like a perfect storm of arrogance and incompetence on the part of Michigan.

So the power brokers at Michigan didn’t really want Miles and “got one over on Les.” Thank God they can now take this chance to sign an old school Michigan Man which the old guard will approve of. There’s no way this plan will end badly!

December 5, 2007

Brady Hoke emerges as a candidate for the job. He ridicules Tom Deinhart for such a ridiculous report because there’s no way Michigan is going to hire the Ball State head coach.

And he’s right. Michigan wouldn’t hire Hoke for another three years. And he wasn’t the Ball State coach at that point, he was the San Diego State coach. Michigan has standards, dammit.

This is a real thing that really existed. Really. I swear this is not photoshop. I mean, ok, it is photoshop, but it is really a thing a real Michigan blog put on the internet one day. Really.

December 7, 2007

Michigan offers Greg Schiano the job. He says no.

Now, things are getting desperate. Ferentz has said no. Michigan botched the Miles hiring. Now they offered Schiano the job after just one meeting, and he publicly turned them down so he could keep on cranking out 9-4 and 8-5 seasons at Rutgers. What to do?

Come up with a plan to money whip Miles, of course. The dream STILL hasn’t died.

December 10, 2007

Michigan has a solid offer of $2.5 million a year for Les Miles to be the new coach. The old guard is pushing Brady Hoke instead. MGoBlog no longer pretends that Miles will accept an offer, leaving that as the great unknown. However, the offer is real:

several previously reliable people have told me that Mary Sue Coleman has gotten directly involved with the search and there exists a solid offer out to one Les Miles.

Mary Sue Coleman was the President of the University of Michigan. She appeared to be going over her AD’s head, who may or may not still be on a sailboat. That always goes well.

December 11, 2007

If you only click one of the links in this article, please let it be this one. This is when Michigan discovered that we’re not a bunch of morons. Shockingly, they still hadn’t figured it out at this point, but it is hard to shake Michigan Men out of their inherent sense of superiority.

Skip Bertman tells the media, “You can't get Les Miles -- the guy signed his contract. It's over." He further states that the permission for Miles to speak with Michigan has expired.

Brian thinks this is a highly unreasonable position and accuses Skip of turning into “sort of an ass on these things.” Hey, sorry for trying to keep our championship-winning coach. We know that we just exist to be your peasants, but peasants got to eat, too.

He then points out that Skip signed Miles despite not getting permission from Oklahoma State to negotiate. However, Miles’ OSU contract did not include a clause that required permission, so Skip acted accordingly and got his man. MGoBlog is silent on whether Miles’ LSU contract requires permission to speak with another school. But even if it doesn’t, then it’s up to Michigan to go do it. We’re not going to say it’s okay for you to screw us.

They're like Klingons or Commies: all they understand is strength. To negotiate is weakness. Take everything from them, and take it whenever. No quarter.

First off, remember what it was like to have a bad ass AD? Let’s just take a moment to bask in the waters of 2007 again. Skip Bertman didn’t take no crap.

And here’s the thing, Michigan was in a weaker position than LSU was in when we hired Miles. LSU asked for permission and was denied, but we went ahead anyway because, well, that’s what the contract said we could do. Michigan was asking for permission for a second time, because they screwed up the first time. Skip gave Michigan permission once, but the second time he rightly told Michigan to get bent. How many chances do you think you get, y’all?

That’s right. No quarter. Let’s show those LSU jerks who is boss! Or we’ll just meekly take your denial and do nothing about it.

Later that day, Miles would turn down Michigan for a second time. No is spelled n-o, guys.

December 16, 2007

Michigan hires noted Michigan Man and conservative head coach Rich Rodriguez. So the old guard’s coup to stop Miles really paid dividends.

Rich Rodriguez would immediately post the school’s first losing season since 1967 en route to a 15-22 record over the next three years. Les Miles would win the national title a few weeks later. He would win an SEC title in 2011 and play in another national title game. He would win at least 10 games in four more seasons, and his worst record would be an 8-5 season… which was now LSU’s Nightmare Scenario.

LSU and Michigan have never played on the football field, but their AD’s squared off once over a football coach, and the all-time record is LSU 1, Michigan 0.