I’m a little jaded after the academic shenanigans that came to light at North Carolina, so what Sports Illustrated turned up at Oklahoma State seems tame by comparison, but I did get a chuckle out of this:
Shortly after Les Miles took over as Oklahoma State’s football coach in December 2000, he introduced an exhortation that he would use often at the end of team meetings during his four years in Stillwater. “Academics first,” Miles would say. “Football second.”
Miles’s words encapsulated one of the central pillars in the mythos of major-college football: that nothing, not even wins and losses, takes precedence over educating young athletes. The reality is that when jobs and money are at stake, priorities quickly skew.
As Miles said, “Academics first,” he would hold up two fingers. And as he said, “Football second,” he would hold up one.
“You heard his words but you saw what he was doing,” says Doug Bond, a Cowboys offensive lineman from 2002 to ’04. “So the thought process was that you’re going to school just so you can play football.”
It was supposed to be funny.
Miles, the coach at LSU since 2005, denies that he deemphasized academics while at Oklahoma State: “I always said, and I always meant, that academics was the most important thing.” Of the one-finger, two-finger gesture, Miles says it happened just once in “a moment of humor.”
Although, considering the source, there’s another possible explanation.