LSU athletic director Joe Alleva stepped up to a lectern after the Tigers beat Texas A&M on Saturday and announced that the school will retain football coach Les Miles.

The announcement, which came minutes after Miles’ players carried him off the field on their shoulders, surprised a number of well-connected media members.

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All week, we heard:

  • Raising the money — up to $15 million, by some accounts — to buy out Miles’ remaining contract wouldn’t be an issue.
  • The team was “leaning toward” moving away from Miles due to the team’s offensive ineptitude and the recent dip in winning percentage.
  • LSU’s Plan A, after dismissing Miles, was to go after Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, a former offensive coordinator for the Tigers.
  • Fox Sports even reported that Miles “will be fired” by Sunday or Monday, a report that ESPN (and Saturday Down South) eventually parroted.

Entering Saturday, in many ways, the firing of Miles seemed like a foregone conclusion. The tearful “final” radio show appearance, the standing ovation before the game, the myriad of fan signs supporting him — all of it felt like a football version of a jazz funeral.

Then Miles and LSU thumped Texas A&M. Never mind that the Aggies haven’t beaten the Tigers since joining the SEC. Or that coach Kevin Sumlin’s team has struggled mightily with physical, hard-nosed top 25 type teams.

LSU’s offense mustered just 19 points against a defense that, despite being led by former Tigers defensive coordinator John Chavis, hasn’t sent anyone into late-night shivers. (Disregard Texas A&M’s shutout last week against a historically bad Vanderbilt offense.)

So, what changed behind the scenes? For starters, reports out of Tallahassee on Saturday indicated that Fisher had no interest in relocating from his comfy spot at the top of the ACC pecking order for the cannibalistic SEC West.

But it seems like the show of emotion from the players and the general public made a genuine difference.

Essentially, the public mob gathered enough strength that Alleva and company realized firing Miles would:

  • Make them look heartless.
  • Set unreasonable expectations for the next head coach.
  • Put the athletic department in a difficult spot should a need for large sums of booster money arise any time in the next few years.

It also appears that Miles backed off from his “my way or the highway” offensive approach once the reality of his potential firing reached him.

ESPN writer Joe Schad’s reports indicate that he’s been very close to this situation.

Although he may look wishy-washy, along with many other media types, remember that they are just relaying information from the sources. We have to make a leap of faith that their sources are credible — Alleva himself, perhaps, or the biggest power brokers among the boosters — but it’s easy to conceive of a situation where the decision-makers legitimately changed their minds.

That’s what seems to have happened this weekend.

We’re all better for it. Let’s face it, the SEC won’t be the same without former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. Do you want to live in a world where neither Spurrier or Les Miles are there to spice up the press conferences and add color to every interview?

LSU fan or not, Miles is Tigers football — the goofy, earnest, likable and fiercely-competitive coach that reflects the values of the Baton Rouge culture and the state of Louisiana at large.

Now that we’re here, Miles can focus on correcting the offense. More specifically, the team must develop a passing game, or it never again will seriously contend for a national championship.

Les Miles, your rendition of LSU’s alma mater may be the worst singing I’ve heard in my life. But you handled yourself with class throughout this process. You deserve to continue to be, as you’d say, “a leader of men.”