Kansas has gone 18-89 in football this decade, a winning percentage of 0.16822429907, so if new Coach Les Miles spends his first three years going 9-27, which is the way to bet even though no one should be sitting around betting on Kansas, that will prove the adage that .250 is more fun than .168.
Kansas does not appear in the current Rivals 100 team recruiting rankings, after hopping from No. 95 to No. 55 to No. 48 in the past three seasons, so if Miles could coax Kansas back onto the list even in the 90s or 80s, that will uphold the principle that it’s better to be on the list than absent from it.
A quick check of the next three Kansas football schedules shows nonconference opponents Indiana State, Coastal Carolina, Wagner, Boston College, South Dakota and Duke, and it also reveals that at no point up ahead does the Big 12 Conference plan to enroll Alabama, so there will be no apparent meeting with Alabama.
Man, this move must feel so refreshing for Miles.
He resumes his career in the land college football forgot, 112 Sundays after leaving it in a land college football can’t ever forget.
His previous job, at LSU, for 11 seasons plus four games, dealt in the unforgiving increments among that familiar level of fandom that can view a 9-3 season and say, “Why not 11-1?” Or view 11-1 and, well, you know. Now he takes on a land so rich in available increments that they might qualify as countless, after losing his last job for going 19-10 in his last 29 games and committing the ghastly sin of conducting a humdrum offensive approach.
It’s not much of a promising hire, and it’s a hire indicative of a country forever hooked on brief doses of bedazzlement, but it does have its football curiosities.
One is that Miles, that native Ohioan who played for Bo Schembechler at Michigan and coached Oklahoma State before coaching LSU, turned 65 on Nov. 10. In a business that often overlooks its allegedly aged in search of youthful energy that might or might not matter, this counts as refreshing.
Another is that on Sept. 25, 2016, Miles became one of four coaches this century who had experienced both a national championship at one place and a firing from that same place based only on losses found to be too frequent. The others have been Phillip Fulmer, the 1998 national champion who had to step down at Tennessee in 2008; Larry Coker, the 2001 national champion at Miami seen off in 2006; and Gene Chizik, the modern free-fall record-holder, who got the heave from Auburn just shy of 23 months after winning the 2010 national championship at a school that appeared to be that same Auburn.
Now comes Miles, whose span of title-to-firing did last almost a decade, from the title clinched in January 2008 to the exit in September 2016. He will become the second of the four to wring a new head-coaching job from his flashy piece of championship jewelry, with Coker having helmed Texas San Antonio for five seasons from 2011 to 2015, going 26-32.
Finally, Miles’s resumption will stoke some fun questions of scheming, now that he will occupy the wacko Big 12. There’s the question of whether he’ll change his X-and-O ways seen as both predictable and primordial. There’s the amusing question of whether he could keep his offensive approach as stagecoach as ever and somehow turn up as a Big 12 anomaly. There’s the memory of the emblematic night of Nov. 7, 2015.
That night, Miles and LSU brought to Tuscaloosa both an unbeaten record and one of the best football players of this or any era, running back Leonard Fournette, averaging 193 rushing yards per game. Yet because Miles and crew had not developed anything in its offense to distract Alabama from Fournette, which ought to count as an unfairness to Fournette, the star got hemmed in for 31 rushing yards on 19 carries. No. 4 Alabama dominated No. 2 LSU by more than the 30-16 score hinted.
LSU did pass for a whopping 128 yards.
That’s pretty much where Miles left off, as a strategic dinosaur. Now, to see whether an old Wolverine can learn new tricks, one could take a peek at Kansas now and then, for reasons that extend beyond the exhausted quirks for which Miles somehow remains known, such as those famed occasions of eating grass.
He’ll figure to lure some attention, with a reminder that back in the mid-to-late last decade, he coached the only two-loss national champion, which lost zero games in regulation, and then he said: “The day before the game, I came in here, had a nice little press conference, and somebody asked me what it must be like: Did you give any thought to raising the crystal ball? And I thought for the first time about doing that. And it was hard on me. And I did not handle it well. And then I tried to think it through: In fact, if I did have the opportunity to hold that crystal ball, what it might mean. And I couldn’t really embrace the thought.
“I went back to my team and I told them in an impassioned plea to focus on the next 48 hours. Because I had lost focus for about 60 seconds about holding up this trophy. And I didn’t want them to have that same experience. And they looked at me like I had lost my mind, because I came back there hot. And I was barking. And that team never lost focus. They just had a coach yank on them a little bit, that’s all.”
Reminded that he would participate in title reunions, as he did in 2017, Miles then said, “I just only hope I can live 25 years from now.” He has lived for almost 11 already, and now he lives again.