BATON ROUGE, La. -- Les Miles can't leave his Michigan roots behind, even when dealing with the media.
Try wearing red to a news conference, and he might glare at you and make a reference to "the school down south."
Considering that Miles coaches at LSU, which has just one Division I school to its south (Nicholls State, which, coincidentally, does wear red) before hitting the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, that may seem odd. But only if one does not know the context of Miles' allegiance to his alma mater and his lifelong rivalry with Ohio State, a school he still avoids mentioning by name.
That's Miles, a Michigan man to the bone. But he's also LSU's coach which, in the context of the Tigers' hiring history, isn't shocking.
If many SEC schools used to show a regional bias when it came to hiring coaches, LSU's hiring history shows that the Tigers are the exception to that rule. The Tigers haven't had a head coach who graduated from an SEC school since Jerry Stovall, the former LSU All-American who led the Tigers from 1980-83.
Since Stovall, LSU has hired six straight coaches who have graduated from schools outside the SEC. Most only had loose SEC ties as head coaches. Gerry DiNardo (1995-99) had the strongest conference tie as head coach at Vanderbilt, but he was a native New Yorker and Notre Dame grad. Similarly, Curley Hallman was an Alabama native and assistant coach for Bear Bryant, but he played for, and graduated from, Texas A&M and came to LSU after coaching Brett Favre's Southern Miss teams. Most of his coaching career prior to LSU was outside the SEC.
It's not just a recent trend, either. Paul Dietzel, who coached LSU's 1958 national championship team, was part of the Miami (Ohio) coaching tree and came to LSU from Army.
Here's a list of LSU's head coaches since Dietzel, their alma mater and their previous SEC ties, if any (listed by coach, years, alma mater and brief synopsis of career before coming to LSU)
Charles McClendon: 1962-79; Kentucky; promoted from Paul Dietzel's LSU staff and previously was an assistant at Vanderbilt
Bo Rein: 1979; Ohio State; Never played or coached in the SEC
Jerry Stovall: 1980-83; LSU; Member of McClendon's staff who had been an all-American halfback at LSU in 1962
Bill Arnsparger: 1984-86; Miami (Ohio); Kentucky native who coached as an assistant at Kentucky from 1954-61, but came to LSU from the Miami Dolphins
Mike Archer: 1987-90; Miami (Fla.); Joined Arnsparger's LSU staff from Miami and was promoted; had no LSU or SEC tie before joining Arnsparger's staff
Curley Hallman: 1991-94; Texas A&M; Came to LSU after serving as Southern Mississippi's head coach for three seasons. He was on Bear Bryant's Alabama staff from 1973-76.
Gerry DiNardo: 1995-99; Notre Dame; Head coach at Vanderbilt from 1991-94 before taking the LSU job
Nick Saban: 2000-04; Kent State; Head coach at Michigan State had no SEC tie before taking the LSU job
Les Miles: 2005-present; Michigan; Head coach at Oklahoma State had no SEC tie before taking the LSU job