Contract extended by 7 years; coach turns down Arkansas
LSU and football coach Les Miles agreed Wednesday to a new seven-year contract that will include a pay raise for the second-winningest coach in school history.
The details of the contract haven’t been finalized and will be subject to approval by the LSU Board of Supervisors, but those issues appear to be mere formalities.
The announcement of the new deal came 24 hours after Internet reports that fellow Southeastern Conference member Arkansas had offered Miles a five-year, $27.5 million deal to become its new coach, an offer Miles disputed Wednesday.
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva said he had planned to give Miles, whose current salary averages about $3.75 million per year, a raise and extension before Arkansas entered the picture.
The Razorbacks announced Monday that interim coach John L. Smith would not return in the wake of a disappointing 4-8 season that concluded with a 20-13 loss Friday to the Tigers in Fayetteville, Ark.
“There has been a lot of speculation out there about other schools,” Alleva said at an afternoon news conference at the Football Operations Center on campus. “I want to assure you — I know that you’re not going to believe me — but I want to assure you that it really had nothing to do with that. It has been my plan all along to give coach a raise and an extension, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The Tigers finished the regular season 10-2 and 6-2 in the SEC. They are ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings as they await a bowl invitation Sunday.
LSU has had three consecutive 10-win seasons and six of them during Miles’ eight seasons.
The Tigers have the best record in the SEC during the past three seasons. They were a school-record 13-0 in the regular season in 2011 before losing to Alabama (21-0) in the BCS Championship game in January.
Miles guided LSU to the SEC and BCS titles in the 2007 season. In his first season in 2005, the Tigers reached the SEC title game, where they lost to Georgia (34-14).
“People talk about winning championships, and it’s really not always about winning championships,” Alleva said. “It’s about being in the hunt to win championships, and coach (Miles) has shown that he’s consistently in the hunt to win championships and educate our young men and make them good citizens, and that’s really what this is all about.”
LSU has had the SEC’s second-highest graduation rate among football players each of the past two years.
On Tuesday, the news conference was originally scheduled as an opportunity for Miles to wrap up the regular season and address the Tigers’ bowl prospects.
Then the Arkansas story broke.
LSU officials postponed the news conference from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. as Miles’ agent, George Bass, and Alleva were finalizing the parameters of the new contract.
Miles called his talks with Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, with whom Miles worked at the University of Michigan, “sincere,” referring to Long as “a colleague of mine over years, a friend of mine over years.”
“I have great respect for how he conducts business,” Miles said of Long. “Our conversations were very preliminary and fell short of any major, major interest. I kind of recommended other candidates and spoke to him.”
Miles said he did not speak with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a former Razorback football player, Arkansas supporter and former employer of Miles.
“I can tell you that I very much respect those Razorbacks and how they played in that last game,” Miles said, “but I am an LSU head coach and will be an LSU head coach for as long as I can be.”
This is the third time a major university has pursued Miles since he came to LSU in 2005. Miles’ alma mater, Michigan flirted with him twice, in 2007 and 2011.
“We’ve done some special things here,” said Miles, whose 85-20 record at LSU is second only to Charles McClendon’s (137-59-7 in 1962-79). “It’s nice that the administration, Joe Alleva and Chancellor (William) Jenkins recognize that and say, ‘Coach, we want you to be here.’
“Seven years is a long tenure. I’m fortunate to have that commitment from a great institution and great school as LSU.”
Miles was vague when asked if raises and extensions for his coaching staff were part of his new deal.
“This had to do with a number of issues,” he replied, “but not necessarily those but not excluding those as well.”
Miles repeatedly declined to answer questions about the specifics of his talks with Arkansas.
“Some of those details I don’t think it benefits anybody to go into,” Miles said. “It’s embarrassing to me to have to talk about money, so I don’t. I can just tell you that I’m thankful that I’m fortunate to have an occupation that pays tremendous market value.”
Miles, who grew up in Elyria, Ohio, said he and his family are “awful comfortable in southern Louisiana.”
He and his wife, Kathy, have a 19-year-old daughter, Smacker, two teenage sons, Manny and Ben, and their youngest daughter, Macy Grace. They all have attended or are attending Baton Rouge schools.
“I’ve got teenage sons that love going off to school,” Miles said. “I’ve got a 9-year-old daughter who’s just as happy as she can be. I’ve got a 19-year-old daughter that there’s one college team and there’s a bunch of other teams. I think home is what we call this place.”
Miles said he’s looking forward to the college football playoffs that begins in 2014, believing LSU can remain a perennial championship contender.
“I think the school first and foremost is a tremendous academic institution that affords its students a quality education and gives them the opportunity to have a career not necessarily reflective of an athletic background,” Miles said. “Then the opportunity to play and to participate in Tiger Stadium, represent this state, to be a part of this team.
“This team has the opportunity year in and year out to play for the (SEC) Western division (title), the conference championship and therefore the national championship as well. I would compare it with any school in the country and compare it favorably. ... What I want to do is win championships here and do it again and then do it again.”
Miles, 59, said “it just doesn’t seem likely” that any school will be able to lure him away from LSU, adding that he wasn’t ready to say this was his last contract negotiation either.
“Hopefully,” he said, “we’ll look up seven years from now and I’ll be trying to get another one of these extensions.”