The biggest news of the college football season happened because a ball was snapped about a second too late. Had LSU gotten their final play off in time Les Miles is likely still employed this morning. Instead, LSU paid out over $14 million to tell a coach that has gone 114-34 for them with a National Championship, an appearance in a second title game, and two SEC titles to go away.
It must be nice.
Miles never won fewer than 8 games in Baton Rouge. He was 7-4 in bowl games. He had seven seasons of at least 10 wins, but in the cutthroat, “What have you done for me lately” world that is the SEC West it wasn’t good enough. There are even reports that he was fired now instead of later because “he might win more games and not be fireable later”.
Again, it must be nice.
So what now? I recognize that the chances are probably very slim that Miles ends up in West Lafayette, but we can dream, can’t we? Purdue is currently the laughingstock of major college football, even more so than Kansas. Kansas gets to hide in the Big 12 and has really never been much. Purdue has been a founding member of the Big Ten, has had some pretty bright spots about every 15 years, and, well, we’re pretty vocal about them here judging by the SB Nation traffic numbers I see each week. Purdue really can’t get much worse, but what would a theoretical hiring of Miles mean?
· It would give Purdue an instant boost in recruiting – Miles is almost universally loved by his players and is a top notch recruiter. Yeah, he is not going to be pulling in the top 5 national classes that he did in Baton Rouge, but he provides Purdue with a major “name” for recruits. His record of putting guys into the NFL is impressive too. Even if he is 63 years old and only coaches for another 5-7 years he would instantly and drastically improve Purdue’s recruiting just by signing. That alone would go a very long way in helping Purdue improve.
· It would be a sign that Purdue is serious about football – The perception outside Purdue is that we are a welfare case. We live at the largesse of the Big Ten and its fat TV rights checks every year and that is that. Many people don’t think we are seriously trying to compete. By getting Miles it would be a major coup and would show people that yes, Purdue indeed wants to compete in the Big Ten.
· Mike Bobinski would buy an incredible amount of goodwill – We are still very early under the leadership of Mike Bobinski, but a theoretical hire of Miles would show instantly that he is running very differently than his predecessor. We saw what Morgan Burke can still do, as he is hanging on to any thread of success he can get from this pathetic coaching regime. What better way to say, “Go away, we’re doing things differently now” than by making a huge, unexpected splash like this. Morgan would never do this, and we would love Bobinski for that reason alone.
· Purdue would be getting a much better coach – Yes, Miles has his faults, but the man can recruit, won a national championship, and has a career record of 141-55. Hazell can’t really get much worse aside from four straight 0-12 seasons. Even if he hits a ceiling of 8-4 that is still a long, long, LONG way from where we are now.
Okay, so we agree that it is highly unlikely Miles ends up in West Lafayette, but how does it happen? There are a few key steps that actually give Purdue a bit of credence.
· Purdue is still a major conference program – Miles got $14 million and change for his buyout. He might be completely done with coaching at age 63, but maybe he is not. Maybe he wants one more shot. You don’t know until you give him a call and there is no harm in calling him. If he does want to come back it is going to be for a major conference team, and Purdue is in a spot to offer that. I have no idea what sort of financial package it would take, but maybe he doesn’t care about the money anymore (and we would still have to give him at least a Hazell-esque contract). The Midwest would be an attractive destination too, according to this article at the Mothership:
His Midwestern background (he played at Michigan, and in 2007, famously shot down reports that he’d taken the UM job) and stern commitment to thumpy, whole-grain offense would make him a strong candidate for any Big Ten school.
· Purdue is improving facilities – To me, this is a critical operating point on any new hire, and regardless of if it is Miles, P.J. Fleck, or anyone else, Bobinski needs to sell the commitment to the program. Not only does this include the new performance center, it means finalizing a timetable for the improvements to Ross-Ade Stadium itself. The master plan is already there for the new scoreboard, south end zone facility, lights, and ribbon boards, but there is no set date for it. Right now it is a pretty drawing on a computer screen. Bobinksi and Miles would need to work hand in hand, from their very first phone call, at making these renderings a reality. Maybe even get some goodwill of a tit-for-tat. You get a commitment from Miles and an incentive-laden financial package to coach and he raises goodwill by investing back some of that LSU buyout towards the Ross-Ade improvements.
· Purdue needs to have a change – The Hazell regime has been a complete failure. Don’t let Saturday’s win fool you. It is a mere balm for what looks like a likely long Big Ten season. Should Hazell be fired it looks like Purdue would be the lone Big Ten opening. Maryland, Rutgers, Minnesota, and Illinois are in year 1 of a new coach. Kevin Wilson just got an extension at Indiana and has them doing well by Indiana standards. Pat Fitzgerald is in the midst of a bad season, but has built some goodwill in Evanston to weather a bad year. Kirk Ferentz just made himself fireproof. Mike Riley has calmed down Nebraska fans so far. James Franklin is pretty secure at Penn State. Jim Harbaugh, Mark Dantonio, Urban Meyer, and Paul Chryst are not going anywhere. Who does that leave? Purdue! Also, who is on the 2017 schedule? Michigan: the team that spurned Miles in 2008in favor of RichRod. I will be the perfect time for Miles to unleash his decades long scheme of vengeance.
· Miles probably doesn’t want to coach that much longer – Purdue got 12 seasons out of Joe Tiller. At age 63, I recognize that getting 12 more out of Miles is unlikely. He really has no reason to return to coaching unless he wants to come back to lesser program, give it some credence with his name, coach close to his roots, and add to his legacy with an “I turned this thing around and left it in a much better place. I am done.” I don’t know the man or his motivations at all, but selfishly, Miles coming to Purdue, getting us back to respectability and maybe winning like the 2020 Big Ten title is a nice coda on his career before he hands things off.
There is little question that Purdue would be light years better with Miles and a staff of handpicked assistants on board. Shoot, at this point, Purdue might be better off with Miles Davis coaching football at this point. I recognize that we might have a 0.5% chance of actually getting Miles in West Lafayette (and that is probably high), but why not at least give him a call and have a chat?
We do have a grass field and an excellent turf grass program for him.