Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
LSU ups pay; Miles stays put
LSU head coach Les Miles speaks during a news conferemce for the BCS National Championship college football game Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012, in New Orleans. LSU faces Alabama on Monday, Jan 9, 2012. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
FAYETTEVILLE LSU Coach Les Miles, who said he had received “preliminary” interest from Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long for the Razorbacks’ vacant football head coaching position, agreed to a raise and contract extension at LSU on Wednesday as the Razorbacks’ search carried on.
Miles said interest from Long, a longtime friend from their days together at Michigan, was “sincere” but that any discussions with him were only in the initial stages. Miles, 59, declined to say who initiated contact between the parties and added that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, an influential Arkansas booster, was not involved.
He also dismissed reports that Arkansas had put a blockbuster deal worth more than $5 million a year on the table.
“The view of five years for $27 million is not true,” he said.
Long declined a request for comment through UA associate athletic director for public relations Kevin Trainor, who said Long was following his policy of not commenting during coaching searches.
The website Sportsby-Brooks.com reported Tuesday that Arkansas had extended a five-year offer of $27.5 million, or $5.5 million per year, which would have surpassed Alabama Coach Nick Saban for the highest salary in college football. A source familiar with the Arkansas search said no offer was extended to Miles.
LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva announced Miles’ new deal, which includes an extension that would keep Miles in Baton Rouge through 2019, with financial figures still being negotiated. Alleva insisted he was already working on the package before rumors of Arkansas’ interest in Miles surfaced Tuesday.
“There’s been a lot of speculation out there about other schools and all that, and I want to assure you — I know you’re not going to believe me — but I want to assure you that it really had nothing to do with that,” Alleva said prior to Miles’ news conference Wednesday afternoon. “It’s been my plan all along to give Coach a raise and an extension, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Miles has a record of 85-20 in eight seasons and moved to second on LSU’s all-time victories list with last Friday’s 20-13 victory at Arkansas.
Miles indicated he had spoken with Long and had discussed other candidates for the Arkansas opening with him.
“The Arkansas issue was a sincere one,” Miles said. “A colleague and friend of mine over the years [is] the athletic director there, so I have a great respect for how he conducts business. Our conversations were very preliminary and fell short of any major, major interest.
“I kind of recommended candidates and spoke to him. I did not speak to Jerry Jones.”
Asked if he had gotten into discussions about salary or other contract details with Long, Miles said, “I’m not going to get into real specifics. I can just tell you there was no ‘yes’ or ‘no’ needed.”
Long reassigned interim coach John L. Smith on Saturday, meaning Wednesday marked the fifth day of his official search, but he has been able to survey the market since appointing Smith on a 10-month basis for $850,000 on April 23.
Long is believed to have gauged the interest of Boise State Coach Chris Petersen and TCU Coach Gary Patterson, as well as Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin during his search. Other candidates on Arkansas’ list might include Baylor’s Art Briles, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and others.
The Web site Coachingsearch.com, citing unnamed sources, recently reported Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian is “in the mix” at Arkansas. However, Sarkisian, 38, has a $2.5 million buyout, according to the Seattle Times, and he lacks recruiting experience in the South. Sarkisian, who has a career record of 26-24, has spent his entire working career in his native California and Washington.
Sports, Pages 19 on 11/29/2012