Miles' future at LSU unknown as Tigers tussle with Texas A&M
BATON ROUGE - What is supposed to be Senior Day at Tiger Stadium is bound to take on an air of "Les Miles Day," no matter how much the embattled coach would rather the focus be on his players when LSU hosts Texas A&M on Saturday night.
Speculation that the regular-season finale will also be Miles' final game as LSU's coach has dominated Louisiana sports talk shows, internet chat rooms and newspaper columns lately. Athletic director Joe Alleva has declined to address the matter publicly, allowing speculation about Miles' status to fester on the heels of his first three-game skid in 11 years at LSU.
One could argue it would be rash to fire Miles now, given his overall LSU record of 110-32. But when asked if the clash with A&M should not mark his final day on the home sideline at Death Valley, Miles responded that he was "not going to look to defend or make a case."
"I love the place. I'm going to work hard. I'm not going to get into what is my view," Miles added. "I'm fortunate to be the head coach here. I've always felt that way. I love the players that I've recruited. ... I want to finish strong in Tiger Stadium. I want the seniors to go out great."
If Miles' situation wasn't enough to enliven a clash of unranked teams, there is also the return to Tiger Stadium of Aggies defensive coordinator John Chavis, who spent the previous six seasons in the same post at LSU.
From a personal standpoint, Chavis said he would not consider his return to Baton Rouge to be difficult, "Because when the time comes to compete, that's what you go do."
"Lot of good kids there I really care for and wish them the best," Chavis continued, "but not on this Saturday."
Some things to know about Texas A&M vs. LSU:
Some current and former LSU players have expressed support for Miles or warned that firing him could be a mistake.
"Our best and easiest way to defend the coach is with our play," receiver Malachi Dupre said, adding that Miles "is looked at as one of the greatest coaches in college football."
Former LSU quarterback Matt Flynn, who won a national title with Miles in the 2007 season and is now with the New Orleans Saints, said those who want Miles out should "be careful what you're asking for."
LSU defensive players say Chavis' abrupt departure last season didn't allow for many proper goodbyes.
"He was gone after the bowl game and we had a lot of questions and there were guys making decisions whether to go to the (NFL) ... so it was a shocker," senior linebacker Lamar Louis said. "You feel a little sad and disappointed, but at the end of the day, college football has turned into a business. It's the mini NFL and sometimes people have to make the right decisions for themselves and sometimes as players we've got to understand that."
Despite three straight below-average outings, LSU running back Leonard Fournette still leads the Southeastern Conference with 158.2 yards rushing per game and has scored 17 TDs, two short of LSU's single-season record. His last chance to make an impression on Heisman Trophy voters comes against an A&M defense allowing 202.5 yards rushing per game.
LSU's Senior Day ceremonies will celebrate only 15 players, which begs questions about leadership, but also speaks to Miles' record of recruiting NFL talent.
"When people come to school here, they realize there's a huge possibility of leaving early," said Dupre, a sophomore who could leave after his junior season for the NFL. "So you can praise it, and at the same time I don't want to feel like that's an excuse for us in any games that we've lost."
HEAD TO HEAD:
Texas A&M seeks its first victory over LSU since joining the SEC in 2012. Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin refers to his seniors as "pioneers" for being part of A&M's first SEC team, but also noted that LSU "is the one program they haven't beaten in the West (Division) in their time here. ... It's something they want to accomplish."