LSU coach Les Miles, left, and Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer pose with the Southeastern Conference football trophy. Their teams will meet this afternoon in the Georgia Dome.
John Bazemore / AP Enlarge
ATLANTA - Les Miles tried once, twice, three times to deflect talk about Michigan. The more he dodged, the more he was quizzed.
The LSU coach was asked six times in all about a possible move, then time ran out on his interview session setting up the Southeastern Conference championship game.
"There will be no distractions," Miles said yesterday.
Before leaving the podium, Miles took care of a final piece of business: He reached into his pocket, pulled out his cell phone and checked for text messages.
No matter how Miles sees it, there sure seems to be a lot swirling around the No. 5 Tigers as they prepare for No. 14 Tennessee.
Miles might skip to his alma mater. Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini could bolt to Nebraska. No word yet, either, on whether banged-up Matt Flynn or Ryan Perrilloux will start at quarterback today.
Miles said he has "no firsthand knowledge in any way" that Michigan wants to talk to him about its vacant coaching job.
"Certainly, they have not contacted me, and I have not contacted them," he said. "The reports are that they have asked for permission to speak to me. I'll allow that after this game."
As for his LSU players, he said, "I'm their coach."
"This is about this team," he said. "I promise you, if you think that it's a conversation that I can have with my wife, I can't, OK? It's not something I talk about. It would be certainly be a distraction to me and be cheating my team. I wouldn't do it. So we'll get beyond this game, and we'll see what happens."
Along with playing and coaching at Michigan, Miles also met his wife on the Wolverines' campus.
While Miles tried to focus on the Volunteers (9-3) and an outside shot at getting a chance to play for the national championship, his situation remained the main topic.
A few hours before LSU (10-2) practiced, a black pickup decked out in Tennessee orange pulled into the Georgia Dome parking lot. A sign was painted on the back: "840 Miles to Knoxville. 630 Miles to Atlanta. 1 Miles to Ann Arbor."
At that exact moment, Miles and Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer were attending a big SEC luncheon for fans and officials. Miles drew a standing ovation from the LSU faithful when he was announced and didn't have to field any questions about Michigan.
Fulmer acknowledged that on a team with 100 or so players and a raft of coaches and support staff, there were bound to be off-the-field issues.
"That's absolutely the case. I mean, they have all got personal lives going on. I had a young man come in and see me yesterday that this godfather is deathly ill and he is trying to make a decision," he said. "We had a long personal and I guess somewhat spiritual talk about all that.
"The distractions are what you make of them. I'm sure coach Miles has handled it the very best he can. Sometimes when you get upset or disappointed at the end of the season, that's hard to bounce back from."
LSU twice stumbled when it was ranked No. 1 this year, both times in triple overtime. The Tigers' 50-48 loss last week to Arkansas left them needing a lot of help to reach the BCS title game. LSU needs No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia to lose. Plus, the Tigers must post a convincing win over Tennessee that would enable them to jump over No. 4 Georgia in the BCS standings.
Otherwise, a win will mean a visit to the Superdome for the Sugar Bowl.
Still uncertain is whether Flynn or Perrilloux will be at quarterback. Flynn has started every game except one, but he hurt his right shoulder diving for a two-point conversion last week.