Our Views: SI series rankles fans

Recent news reports about LSU coach Les Miles’ leadership in his former job at Oklahoma State University have generated a number of online comments, and those responses say a lot about the mood among many LSU fans regarding Miles’ alleged transgressions.

Sports Illustrated published a series this week alleging widespread violations of NCAA rules at OSU and serious lapses in basic ethical standards, with many of those practices occurring while Miles was OSU’s football coach. The series has suggested that OSU football program coaches and staff took a lax approach to illegal drug use among athletes, failed to properly stress academic performance, and put athletes in phantom jobs to evade NCAA policies prohibiting the use of cash and other gifts to attract and retain recruits.

A number of local fans posted comments dismissing the series as a vendetta against LSU and Miles, questioning the accuracy of Sports Illustrated’s reporting. Follow-up reporting by some other media outlets has, indeed, revealed some inconsistencies in the charges made by some of the magazine’s named sources.

We understand the apparent desire among many LSU football fans to completely discredit what Sports Illustrated had to say about Miles’ management style at Oklahoma State. We don’t like to think the worst of a coach so widely regarded as among the best.

The passionate response among Miles’ admirers also reminds us that LSU football is more than merely football in south Louisiana. It’s a revered civic ritual that celebrates the old virtues of skill, daring and endurance.

We also want college football to be more than merely a fight on a field. It’s also supposed to operate within a set of rules meant to ensure fair play and honor the basic ideals of university life. We often use the hallowed language of warriors in talking about football because beyond the cynical excesses of college sports, we’d like to think that the game embodies some basic sense of nobility. That’s why the NCAA’s much-maligned and imperfect code of regulations exists in the first place.

The game’s expectations compel us to take credible allegations of wrongdoing seriously. We’re not in a position to judge the quality of the reporting that produced the Sports Illustrated series, but the magazine’s stature means that at the very least, the issues raised by SI’s series about Oklahoma State are worth reviewing by the NCAA.

In general, even if the alleged lapses at OSU under Miles’ watch prove true, too much time has passed for the NCAA to prosecute them. But if the NCAA determines a pattern of misconduct, then the statute of limitations for Miles might not apply.

Miles has said that he operated within the rules while coaching at Oklahoma State and that “at some point I’m going to have my say.” A detailed rebuttal from Miles could lend some much-needed clarity to this controversy.

SI’s investigative series did not suggest that alleged improprieties at OSU are also occurring at LSU. Even so, Miles’ connection with LSU underscores the urgency of addressing the allegations raised by Sports Illustrated’s series quickly.

That’s the best outcome for LSU’s football program, and being the best is what Tigers are supposed to be about.