Les Miles leaving LSU for Arkansas would be the biggest step back, from a coaching job standpoint, that we've seen in recent history—and that's not up for debate.
Sure there were folks who viewed the Lane Kiffin move to USC as a step back because he was leaving the SEC. Others saw it as a lateral move between two top jobs.
In the case of Les Miles to Arkansas, that move could only be construed as a step back in terms of job prestige. However, the possibility is very real. Jim Kleinpeter from The Times-Picayune reported that the rumors about Arkansas' interest in Miles are true and LSU's head coach is going to have quite the decision to make.
On the surface there is plenty to make the Hogs job on par with the one Miles already has in Baton Rouge. Arkansas' facilities are in the process of becoming some of the best in the business. The project under way in Fayetteville is a massive commitment to athletic excellence.
Another key note to include is the money. Big money. Arkansas is, as Kleinpeter reported, offering $27.5 million over five years to the Mad Hatter. That's a whopping $5.5 million a year. A hefty sum for the head coach who has been to two BCS championships, winning one. The cash is there at Arkansas to play with the big boys and, just like how the school is spending it on its facilities, the Razorbacks appear to be committed enough to spend it on their coach as well.
Oh, and here is where we throw in the connections. Miles and athletic director Jeff Long worked together at Michigan way back in the day. Miles worked for one of Arkansas' biggest boosters, Jerry Jones, several years ago as well. Perhaps Long and Jones are double-teaming their old pal in an effort to pull him away from their division rival and reap the benefits of his services.
It all sounds nice and there are some strong selling points to the Hogs fans as to why they should buy into this. As for me? I'll believe it when I see Miles calling the Hogs and not a second before.
For all of Miles' shortcomings, the man is a great recruiter. He may, in fact, be the perfect coach for LSU because of his ability to sell young men on playing football close to their Louisiana homes and getting them to buy into him. Sprinkle in some highly touted out-of-state kids and what you have is a recruiting machine.
At Arkansas, the very pipeline that makes the LSU job one of the top gigs in the nation gets removed. Sure, he can still sell his BCS championship and being a players' coach, but he'd be doing it without a geographical advantage.
Recruiting as an underdog is a different animal.
Especially when you are competing against schools with increased recruiting assets from a geographical standpoint, like LSU, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
That Arkansas job is not an easy one, even as the school possess the facilities, the money and the commitment to maximize its position in the SEC West. Is Miles crazy enough to take this step back and accept a monumental challenge? I don't think so, but we'll see just how this plays out.