2016 Purdue Football Coaching Search: Les Miles
Candidate Tier: Stretch
Who Is He?
The Mad Hatter, Les Miles was the coach at LSU until recently. He began his coaching career at Okie State in 2001 and went 28-21 there in four seasons, before being hired on at LSU to replace Nick Saban. Saban had won a BCS title at LSU in 2003, then gone 9-3 in 2004 before jumping ship for the Miami Dolphins. Saban’s overall record at LSU was 48-16 with one national championship.
Replacing Saban could not have been easy, but Miles made it look so. He went 11-2 in each of his first two seasons and then in his third year went 12-2, winning his own BCS championship. He continued winning games at a ludicrous rate and in 2011 went back to the BCS title game again, this time losing to Saban and Alabama 21-0. What’s often overlooked is that that 2011 LSU team was ridiculously dominant. They attained the #1 ranking in the nation in late September and didn’t relinquish it until January when they lost their only game. None of their games were particularly close, except for one in November where they won 9-6 at Saban’s Alabama.
Miles kept on winning but losing that national title on that stage (in a shutout) against Saban was probably the true beginning of the end for Les Miles at LSU. Their dumb fans have hated him for years, while his players love him and anyone with a brain should, too, since all the guy does is win. He was fired four games into the 2016 season but overall was 114-34 at LSU. Yes, eighty games over .500 in just over eleven seasons. His average season – average – over more than a decade was 10-3. There is absolutely no excuse for a coach like that to ever be run out of town. (Unless you harbored a child rapist like they did at Penn State, which there is no evidence Les Miles would ever do.)
Why would he be successful at Purdue?
He’d be successful at Purdue because he’s Les Miles, the former LSU coach who won a national championship and 114 games at LSU. His name would raise Purdue’s profile immediately and Purdue’s recruiting prowess would catapult to the top third of the Big Ten. You can also assume those who have been on the fence about donating in recent years would jump in and commit since this would be proof Purdue cares about winning and winning big. So with increased donations, perhaps the facilities would be improved even more. All it would really take would be one kickass fun season, much like Joe Tiller’s 1997, and we’d be off to the races.
Why could he flop at Purdue?
There are those who think Miles is “washed up,” but that’s hard to figure. He went 9-3 last year with a 5-3 SEC record. (Incidentally, he would have had a 10-win season but their game vs. McNeese State was cancelled due to lightning.) Miles is 62 so if you’re of the opinion that old men begin to get tired and not as diligent about little things, details, recruiting, etc., then maybe that’s a concern. But 62 isn’t ancient, particularly in college coaching, so that also feels like a stretch. The truth is it’s hard for me to come up with reasons why he wouldn’t succeed because I think he very easily would. And let’s not forget, if he won between 6-9 games a season, every season, he’d never be on the hot seat at Purdue. Perhaps the one way he could go wrong at Purdue is if the lesser facilities and money for assistants hurt how good he really could be.
Would he come to Purdue?
Unlikely, for the obvious reason that he will likely be offered higher-profile jobs. If he’s not, our waiting arms will be here. I also don’t think Purdue can pay him what his could likely command. Though those looking for rays of hope can dream that Miles is looking to “prove” himself, as he was often derided for having inherited Saban’s players and system and simply “keeping it going.” Which is….utter nonsense, since he kept it going for eleven years. But if he wants to rebuild and program and do things his way, maybe he’d listen to Mike Bobinski’s offer.