LSU has fired head football coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoted defensive line coach Ed Orgeron to interim head coach.
Miles’ firing, reported first by the Baton Rouge Advocate and confirmed by ESPN, comes one day after LSU lost 18-13 at Auburn when referees overruled what had appeared to be a game-winning touchdown. Replay showed that LSU did not start the final play before the game clock hit zero.
LSU out of Top 25 as Wisconsin rises to No. 8
Wisconsin moved up to No. 8 in The Associated Press college football poll and LSU became the second preseason top-10 team to drop out of the rankings in the first month of the season.
“Decisions like this are never easy ones to make,” vice chancellor and director of athletics Joe Alleva said in a statement Sunday night. “Coach Miles has done a tremendous job here and he’s been a great ambassador for our University, which makes this even more difficult.
“However, it’s apparent in evaluating the program through the first month of the season that a change has to be made. Our commitment to excellence and competing at the highest level is unwavering, and our goals for the remainder of this season haven’t changed. We have an obligation to our student-athletes to put them in the best position to have success on the football field each week and we have great confidence that coach Orgeron will do just that.”
Sources told ESPN’s Chris Low that the decision was made late Saturday night after the Auburn game.
Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss nearly led to his dismissal. Many Tigers fans arrived at the emotional season-ending contest against Texas AM expecting to see “The Mad Hatter” coach his final game in LSU purple-and-gold, only to learn after the Tigers’ 19-7 victory that LSU’s administration had decided to keep Miles in charge.
Then circumstances quickly seemed to turn in Miles’ favor.
The Tigers wrapped up the 2015 season with a resounding bowl win over Texas Tech, then lost just one underclassman — far fewer than the norm in recent years — to the NFL draft, allowing LSU to return a whopping 18 starters for the 2016 season. Miles also made a well-received hire, nabbing defensive coordinator Dave Aranda away from Wisconsin, and signed ESPN’s No. 3 recruiting class in February, with LSU’s 19 ESPN 300 signees matching the best total for any program since ESPN began compiling recruiting rankings a decade ago.
However, the fire under Miles’ seat reignited as soon as the 2016 season started, with an impotent offensive performance against Wisconsin producing a 16-14 upset, the Tigers’ first season-opening defeat in Miles’ 12 seasons in Baton Rouge. The offense had looked a bit better since Danny Etling supplanted Brandon Harris at quarterback early in Week 2, but fell flat again versus Auburn. The Tigers scored just one touchdown on the Plains, and Etling’s last-second touchdown pass to D.J. Chark was waved off once replay officials determined LSU did not start the play in time.
Blame Miles’ issues on insufficient quarterback recruiting and development or on a general lack of offensive innovation; the bottom line was simply that Miles won less frequently in recent years than he did in the early portion of his Tigers tenure.
Miles posted a 75-18 record (41-15 in SEC play) in his first seven seasons at LSU — a stretch that included three SEC West titles, two SEC titles, a BCS championship and another title game appearance.
It was that second BCS championship game appearance, when then-undefeated LSU suffered a 21-0 loss against Alabama in a rematch from earlier in the season, that many Tigers fans circle as the turning point in Miles’ tenure. Alabama won 21-0, but the score hardly describes the level of humiliation that accompanied the Tigers’ loss. LSU finished the game with 92 yards of total offense — far and away the worst offensive performance in BCS title game history.
Since the Tigers fell face-first on that enormous stage, LSU has lost more than three games in each full season along with zero division or conference titles. The Tigers’ winning percentage in that five-year stretch — 70.9 percent overall and 61.8 percent in conference play — was well short of the consistency Miles displayed in his first seven seasons (80.6 percent overall, 73.2 percent SEC).
The biggest problem in recent years came in division play, though, especially when it came time to face Alabama. The Tigers went 2-7 against Ole Miss, Arkansas and Alabama over the previous three seasons and haven’t beaten Alabama since the 2011 regular season, a stretch of five straight defeats against the Tide.
Those losses to Nick Saban’s SEC powerhouse sometimes came in heartbreaking fashion — on a last-minute AJ McCarron touchdown pass to T.J. Yeldon in 2012 or a blown late lead in an overtime loss in 2014 — but the result was always the same. Once again, the Tigers had suffered a loss to their most-hated rival and occupied second-tier status in college football’s toughest division.
That was supposed to change this season with Heisman Trophy contender Leonard Fournette leading a roster loaded with future NFL players like cornerback Tre’Davious White, safety Jamal Adams, linebacker Kendell Beckwith, edge rushers Lewis Neal and Arden Key and receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural. However, the Tigers dropped the opener against Wisconsin and sputtered along in September before the offense bottomed out again in Auburn on Saturday.
That was apparently enough for Alleva and LSU’s power brokers to pull the trigger on this long-debated move. They dispatched a coach whose 114-34 record at LSU and 77.0 winning percentage are best among modern-day LSU coaches and match up with the most successful coaches in SEC history.
Miles is 16th all time with 114 wins as an SEC coach, one shy of Johnny Majors (Tennessee) and Frank Thomas (Alabama). His overall winning percentage ranks seventh among SEC coaches who spent at least five years in the conference, and his 64 career SEC wins are tied for 10th all time with Tommy Tuberville (Ole Miss/Auburn).
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.