Les Miles is exiting Kansas on the very precipice of a wholly disgraced and tarnished career, but still poised to collect nearly $2 million from the Jayhawks' coffers the remainder of this year for what Kansas athletics director Jeff Long termed Tuesday a “tough decision” to “mutually part ways” with Miles, saying it was in Kansas' “best interest.”
The Jayhawks, who like virtually all collegiate athletics programs hemorrhaged revenue across the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and also has seen its powerhouse men's basketball program in the throes of an NCAA probe, would have appeared to have reason to fire Miles with cause.
The former Oklahoma State and national title-winning coach at LSU, Miles has been pinpointed in the Husch Blackwell Firm's report detailing allegations of Miles' sexual misconduct less than a decade ago while Miles served atop the LSU football program.
As part of Miles' hiring process at Kansas three years ago, he was asked to disclose if there was any “embarrassing” incidents in his past, particularly regarding his exit from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, of which Kansas should be made aware.
Miles, per Long, said, “No.”
Long defended Kansas' decision to send-off Miles with an seven-figure parachute and called Miles' answer of potential embarrassment “debatable” during his first full public appearance since the scandal blew wide open last Friday.
“That's really a legal question as to how he could or couldn't respond at that time,” Long told reporters. “That was his response. That is debatable whether that's a lie, and I will leave that to our legal people to dice that out.
“We felt to move our program forward we needed to mutually part and pay Les through the remainder of '21, is what it basically comes down to.”
Long, who called Miles a longtime friend but was adamant that friendship had neither factored nor blinded him in the process of hiring Miles three years ago, defended Kansas' decision to formally separate from Miles, as well as disburse a $1.991 million settlement. Kansas also inked a non-disparagement clause that shields Miles from negative statements from Long, as well as other KU employees.
“There come times when institutions and athletic programs and universities have to make tough decisions,” Long said. “As I sought council from our university and chancellor (Doug Girod), we arrived at what we felt was in the best interest of the program and that was for us to mutually part ways with Les.
“To do that we had to get to a certain amount of (agreed-upon) compensation (for Miles). Obviously any amount is something that is a challenge for us, especially in COVID-19. We honestly and truly feel this is in the best interest of the program.”
Pinned down on where Kansas will procure the funding to buy out Miles, Long said the Jayhawks would tap into athletics revenues and that “it will not come from university dollars in any way, shape or form.”
Likewise, Long defended his merits to handle Kansas' sudden search for the football program's sixth different head coach since 2010. The Jayhawks won a combined 20 games in 2007-08 under Mark Mangino; they've won 26 games in the dozen years since that time.
Long's football hires at his past two stops as athletics director have been, overwhelmingly, failures – an issue Long contested during his press conference.
“In what regard were they not successful?,” Long asked.
Prior to Kansas, Long hired both Bobby Petrino and Bret Bielema at Arkansas. Petrino was fired due to off-the-field issues while Bielema was ousted for not enough wins and with a hefty buyout.
Per Miles' original contract terms at Kansas, he will have collected more than $8 million
$6.25 million plus the $1.991 so more than $8 million – $8.24 million -- for winning three games atop the Jayhawks' program. Miles' original pact with Kansas paid him $2.775 million per year on average; he also was scheduled to receive a $750,000 retention bonus last November.
Long did not use a search firm when he hired Miles almost three years ago at Kansas but has said the school has retained a firm for this search. Still, he touted his own qualifications to find Kansas' next coach and said many coaches had expressed interest in the vacancy.
“I don't think it's in the best interest of the University of Kansas or any university for an outside entity to totally control the search process,” said Long, when asked if it could be perceived as better for him not to be involved in this search. “I'm very confident and comfortable of my years [in athletics administration]. I'm confident I can conduct this search and confident I can find the next leader for the University of Kansas.
“There were people I kept in contact the last search, but certainly I will continue to involve our chancellor and leadership team, as I do in any search. Whether they are more involved or not, I would say they will be involved. I do want to bring in some former Kansas football players who know our program that can help as well.”
New offensive coordinator Mike DeBord is the Jayhawks' acting head football coach at this time. Sources confirmed to FootballScoop on Thursday that both Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold and Army head coach Jeff Monken, among other candidates, are those expected to be viable candidates for the position, per industry sources with direct knowledge.