I know I’ve said this 1,000 times in this column over the past seven-plus years, but I’ll say it again in case there are any first-time readers: I’m a proud alum of Louisiana State University.
That school is one of the things that I love most in this world because it accepted me as a boy and helped shape me into a man.
But anyway, enough about me.
Let’s talk some LSU athletics.
I supported the university’s decision to fire Les Miles last fall. I would have supported the decision had they fired him after the 2015 season, as well.
Miles was far more successful as Nick Saban’s successor than anyone ever could have dreamed when he took the job in 2005, winning a handful of SEC titles and a BCS National Championship.
But he’s older now and over the past few years, the game had seemingly passed him by a little bit. The SEC is far too competitive to have any goods on the shelf that are past their expiration date, and I think that time had long passed for Les and it was time to make a change for the better.
When the decision was made, I was sort of bitter, because I blamed Les for making the 2016 season somewhat of a lost year. In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that if Coach Ed Orgeron (or plenty other coaches for that matter) was the coach of the Tigers for the entire 2016 season that LSU would have beaten both Wisconsin and Auburn – the two games that LSU lost under Miles, which led to his firing.
And who knows – winning is contagious. If LSU enters that Alabama game undefeated and as one of the top teams in the country – a squad still with a shot to win the SEC and the National Championship, maybe the outcome might have been different in that fourth quarter.
Miles went his separate ways and LSU fans did, too.
Orgeron finished the 2016 season well, then was hired to be the team’s full-time head coach.
Miles tried unsuccessfully to get a new job this past offseason, while Orgeron had a monstrous ending to LSU’s 2017 recruiting class, then a prosperous beginning to its group in 2018.
But like everything else, that anger fades and time heals all wounds – even the petty wounds of an ego-scarred alum who wants his school to be the best in football.
This past week, something unexpected happened and Miles suddenly returned from his purple and gold exile and became a Tiger again.
It was weird at first. Coaches almost never lose their job, then return back to the university and dote their colors – especially not on national TV.
But in this case, once the shock wore out a little bit, it felt like all was right in the LSU universe once again to have Miles back on board once again.
Now, let me explain before I start getting angry e-mails from LSU fans who want to know what the heck I am talking about.
Miles and his youngest daughter attended the Women’s College World Series this past week in Oklahoma.
It was a game between LSU and UCLA.
Not only did Miles attend the game, but he did so while wearing an LSU shirt.
Throughout the game, Miles was shown on the ESPN telecast and he wasn’t an idle bystander. He was actively rooting for the Lady Tigers – cheering their successes and showing frustration with their failures.
In the “made for TV” moment, a sideline reporter with ESPN handed Miles a few strands of grass from the field in between innings.
I’m sure you all know how the story ended. Miles smiled, ate the grass and drew a huge applause from the LSU faithful around him as he did so.
In his comments, he rated the Oklahoma City turf as solid, but said it’s not nearly as good as the grass in Tiger Stadium.
I don’t know what the future holds and I have no idea what is in Miles’ heart in terms of returning to coaching in the future.
But when he gets to the point in his career that he is officially retired, I genuinely hope he returns to the LSU athletic department in some capacity – as an administrator or even just as an ambassador.
In a college football world where 99 coaches out of 100 are covered in slime, Miles is genuinely a good dude – sort-of the average man.
In fact, I think a lot of the coach’s downfall in his final years at LSU were because of loyalty to friends and an unwillingness to work the 16-18 hour days that other coaches do, because he enjoyed spending time with his family.
Maybe it’s just me.
I am, after all, somewhat of a sap when it comes to feel-good stories and tales that have a happy ending
But when I saw Miles walk into that ballpark last week with an LSU shirt on, I smiled.
When I saw him eat grass, I laughed.
When I saw LSU win and Miles jump out of his seat in support of the team, I got goosebumps.
Les Miles is a class act and an LSU lifer.
And as an alum of the school, I’m proud to call him one of our own.
Welcome back, coach! •
Follow Casey on Twitter for more.