Les Miles was fired as LSU’s football coach last Sunday, and the natural impulse is to wonder what might be next for him. At 62 years old, taking another head coaching job in college appears relatively unlikely, though his success in Baton Rouge will surely draw interest from schools around the country. And after 15 years as a head coach, easing out of football as an assistant whether in college or the pros seems beneath him.
However, Miles sounded like a guy who wasn’t quite ready to give up coaching when talking to Dan Patrick less than 24 hours after his dismissal. That might have been the feeling of someone who was prepared to coach through this season, if not the duration of his contract, which ran through 2019. Instead of preparing for Missouri, he was talking about the next stage of his career, of his life.
“What I have done for probably 12 to 14 hours a day for the last, I don’t know, number of years is coach football,” he told Patrick. “So I would have a difficult time not being involved in the game and not being a coach.”
Maybe Miles just needs to find the right hobby or hasn’t yet realized that he’ll enjoy traveling the country to visit his children at their respective colleges, preferably on football Saturdays. (His son, Manny, is a quarterback at North Carolina.) Jim Harbaugh also sounded open to the possibility of bringing back the Michigan alumnus as a consultant or honorary captain, though maybe he was being gracious for the benefit of a fellow Michigan man.
But there’s also a way Miles can stay involved in football that doesn’t involve coaching. It could probably involve as much film study or preparation as he prefers, but likely wouldn’t require the grind of 12- to 14-hour days. Well, maybe the days would be longer on Saturdays. What about going into television?
Miles seems like he’d be a natural. He’s genial and well-liked throughout college football (perhaps less so among LSU boosters). His success gives him instant credibility, and the understanding that he was victimized by unfair (and arguably unrealistic) expectations even makes him something of a sympathetic figure.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the coach is telegenic. But more importantly, he has a personality and can express himself in thoughts that aren’t entirely based in coach-speak and leadership manuals. His coaching career has taken him through the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC (in addition to the NFL), so he’s familiar with the top conferences and different parts of the college football landscape.
However, let’s not just stick Miles in a studio if he were to make the jump to television. That might be better suited for the likes of Urban Meyer, Mack Brown and Butch Davis, providing analysis during awkward banter with two or three others at a desk, along with whomever is talking into his ear. Keeping him in a studio could be a waste of Miles’ potential, squandering all that he could offer to a TV viewership and live audience.
Yes, live audience. Put Miles on the road. And there’s really only one TV gig in college football which requires that of its analysts. How would Les Miles fit on ESPN College GameDay?
OK, there’s not currently a seat available on GameDay, so Miles might have to get his reps in the studio if he were to do any work this season or in the next year or two to come. But Lee Corso turned 81 this past August, and even if he stays with the show for the foreseeable future, ESPN might want to groom his eventual successor and begin that transition soon. If the thought is that Miles could eventually take that seat, why not begin that process now that he’s available?
Fortuntately for ESPN, Miles might be the ideal replacement for Corso. He certainly seems capable of filling the role of wacky older coach talking football and trading quips with the younger former players that GameDay has among its staff of analysts. Yes, there could be some times when no one is exactly clear just what Miles is talking about or what sort of joke he’s trying to make. But that would make for fun television, and it would best fit in the GameDay environment, surrounded by the frenzy of being on campus (along with Rece Davis easily able to throw it to another reporter or analyst, if necessary).
But besides the potential of being an entertaining mascot — Miles would likely be willing to don those mascot heads at the end of every show, though it’s really Corso’s thing — and the GameDay equivalent of your crazy old uncle who’s good for some amusing and occasionally unpredictable behavior, Miles could also lend some great insight into gameday preparations for teams and their coaches. Who could explain the SEC landscape better than someone freshly removed from those battles? As a top-notch recruiter during his tenure at LSU, perhaps he could also offer a glimpse into that process as well.
This would be an opportunity for ESPN to add a coach recently at the top of his game and put him in a setting that would best utilize his personality. He could be a fresh addition to what’s become a sports TV institution, one that would also help maintain the chemistry of a show that works so well. (Kirk Herbstreit is a professional, and could deal with another Michigan guy on the crew.)
Actually, Miles could be a rock star on the GameDay set, someone who could easily create a whole new career for himself while bringing a new personality that could engage with colleagues, coaches, players and students alike. It’s too good an idea, too natural a fit, for it not to happen.