I have no idea what it’s like to be a father—at least, not yet.
I also have no idea what it’s like to coach a major college football program (at least not yet…).
After today, though, we know Les Miles is a good coach and I would suspect he is a good father as well.
The Ryan Perrilloux saga has been the issue of choice for LSU fans this off season. And it now looks like the end of the saga has arrived. No happy ending here for anyone involved as #11 exits stage left. The talk amongst fans will continue with the general feelings being ones of sadness, relief, shock, and the culmination of the inevitable.
In fact, at this point I hardly see how anyone can be shocked. Perrilloux made more headlines off the field than on it. He’ll probably be off to a Division 1-AA school soon to further pursue his hopes of entering the NFL.
Someone proposed to me this morning, “Maybe getting to the NFL will straighten him out.” I thought back, “Yeah, I’m sure millions of dollars and a life of excess will calm him down.”
But maybe what they meant was if he gets to the NFL in the future, he would have done so by going the road less traveled and the trials associated with it would make him a better man. That’s what I’d like to think will happen.
That’s what I hope will happen.
Just like when I give a few bucks to someone on the street begging for change, I hope my minimal gift will go to good use even though I may know better. I think it’s that same hope Miles had for Ryan.
Miles had the daunting task of playing coach, role model, and surrogate father (practically) to Perrilloux. Les was constantly walking the line between doing what’s best for his team while turning his back on a kid in need of direction and trying to counsel a star player who was by far his best option at quarterback.
I would think most coaches who are also fathers have a tough time with this. Watching a young man making one bad decision after another no matter how much you support him no matter how stringently you try to lay down the law.
No man wants to disown a child or a player. Coaches like to win. Helping a kid turn his life around is a big win. It’s not one you’ll see in the record books but it’s one of the greatest accomplishments a coach can achieve. Miles will view this as his own failure.
But most know that Les could’ve only done so much. He extended every chance he could. He handled the situation with integrity knowing that kicking off Perrilloux means giving up on him but showing the rest of the team that the rules are there for a reason.
I don’t think there’s a better parallel for parenting than coaching. After all, coaches teach, nurture, guide, and direct. But when it comes down to it, it’s the players that take the field. They do so with the knowledge passed on to them by their coaches, but the players have to make the decisions on in the game.
The coaches can’t play the game for the players. It’s the most powerless part of being a coach or a parent. Les should be commended for being tough but fair. For being someone who balances doing what’s best for the team and doing what’s best for someone struggling to do the right things.
In the end, Miles knows the team is bigger than one person. A football team has to be of one mind and one direction. When a player steps out of line, it’s the coaches’ job to redirect them.
When offenses and trespasses are repeated, they become a distraction. Distractions are bad news for a football team trying to achieve goals. Achieving goals, at the end of the day, is the measure of success in college football.
So while this is a sad day for LSU football, (cue up the Saban sound bite) it’s time to move on. And we can move on knowing that LSU is defending its National Championship with a coach whose integrity is only surpassed by his patience and devotion to his players. A man who gave every chance until there was no more left to give.
I’m sure Miles will lose sleep over this, wondering if he did the right thing. That’s what good coaches and good fathers do when making tough decisions.
Les made the hard choice. Les made the right choice.
It’s a privilege, not a right, to wear the purple and gold and take the field in Death Valley on a Saturday night. The Tigers have over a hundred young men who earn that right. If you don’t earn it, you cheapen what it means to represent the LSU Fighting Tigers.
The measure of a man is not how many mistakes he makes but what he learns from them. I hope Perrilloux sees the error of his ways and becomes a better man because of it.
I wish the best for him in the future and wherever he goes, I hope he earns it.