Matt Tait: Forget the rest, Les Miles hire is KU’s biggest victory in years

photo by: Associated Press

LSU head coach Les Miles is carried off the field after an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. LSU won 19-7. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

Les Miles is the new head football coach at Kansas, and all anyone wants to talk about is if the partnership between the national champion known as “The Mad Hatter” and one of the longest suffering college programs in NCAA history is going to work.

There’s plenty of time to get to that. And we will in the coming hours, weeks, months and years.

But jumping to that question and talking today about bowl games and Big 12 contention that are, at best, a few years down the road, is skipping over the Jayhawks’ most recent football victory.

No, Kansas didn’t upset No. 6 Oklahoma on Saturday night; though the team did cover the spread and, in the process, provided Miles with a nice glimpse of what he’s inheriting. And, no, I’m not talking about the TCU win on Oct. 27.

I’m talking about landing Miles in the first place.

When it comes to the biggest wins in program history, there are a few against Missouri, the Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech in 2008, a couple of Sunflower Showdown wins and, then, hiring Miles.

This really is that big.

Twice this decade, Kansas football fans have both heard and uttered the phrase, “It can’t get any worse.”

And, then, it did.

Turner Gill was fired at 5-19 and Charlie Weis went 6-22 in the two-plus years that followed. After Weis was sent packing, David Beaty came in and sits at 6-41 heading into his final game as KU’s coach.

And that’s just the record issue. Fan apathy, recruiting woes and national irrelevance reached new heights with each hire.

Miles is here to put an end to that.

Forget breaking the cycle. How about breaking the excitement meter?

First-year Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long did just that during the past couple of weeks, when he sought out and landed one of the biggest and most accomplished coaching candidates available in years.

But Miles is not just a big hire for the Kansas football program today. Miles is the biggest hire in the 100-plus-year history of the program. And it’s not particularly close.

The overwhelming national take is that this is a good move for Kansas, a no-brainer of sorts, given Miles’ reputation as a winner (114-34 at LSU) and the existence of that national championship ring he owns.

It’s the polar opposite to the national response that came following news of the Weis hire in 2011, which drew laughter and a ‘Wait, you’re serious?’ response from most who cover college football.

Some are grumbling, of course — Kansas fans and a few national pundits. But they clearly don’t get it. Kansas football needed something like this. And Long delivered.

Now, the heavy lifting begins.

Landing a big name with a sparkling resume from one of the best programs in college football does not fix anything overnight. And it certainly does not guarantee any number of victories.

The Kansas job is hard. There’s still a sizable hole to climb out of.

No one knows if this marriage is going to work. Not Miles. Not Long. Not anyone wearing a KU uniform. And, especially, not anyone who says they know.

And say all you want about how Kansas fans really only want to watch their team compete for bowl eligibility and see some fun and excitement return to Memorial Stadium on Saturdays. Maybe a few more fans, too.

But that’s bologna.

Long didn’t make this hire for a six-win season every couple of years. And Miles certainly didn’t take the job to go 6-6 every year.

Both of them believe Kansas can do better than that. If they didn’t, neither one would be here.

They might not be expecting Miles to add to his ring collection, but they’re not expecting to be average either.

Kansas is going for it. And who cares about whether the future shows that hiring Miles worked?

It works today. Big time. And KU football is relevant again. Just like that.


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