ARLINGTON, Texas — Les Miles tried to feign ignorance when he heard the question. With Miles wearing the national championship ring he won as LSU’s head coach, an interested reporter at Big 12 Media Days wanted to know whether Miles’ new players at Kansas had asked if they could see the jewelry up close.
“I don’t remember that,” Miles said.
The reporter pressed on, noting senior safety Mike Lee mentioned it had inspired him, insisting upon closer inspection.
“I don’t remember that,” Miles repeated.
But he quickly acquiesced to the request of another reporter, who asked if she could examine it herself. Miles took it off and handed it to her as she admired the ring Miles captured during the 2007 season, when his LSU club topped Ohio State 38-24 in the BCS national championship game. He still isn’t sure how often he’ll wear it during the coming season, his first leading the Jayhawks. As it stands, Miles said he only puts it on “for special occasions.”
During game weeks, it won’t be part of his ensemble.
Saturdays might be a different story.
“I’m likely not wearing it gameday,” he said. “I might have to give some thought to that. But it’ll go in the box when I go home.”
That’s where Chris Klieman left his.
In contrast to his new counterpart in the Sunflower State rivalry, Klieman declined to bring any national championship-related jewelry with him to media days, one day after Miles took the stage.
For Klieman, practicality reigned.
“I’d have seven of them on, and I thought that would be a little bit heavy to have seven of them,” said Klieman, referring to the number of FCS national titles he won at North Dakota State, first as the team’s defensive coordinator and later as head coach. “But they’re displayed in the office. Come by and see them.”
That’s where they usually reside. Klieman said he rarely wears them because he views them as “too gaudy and too big.” Above all, he stressed it’s not about him.
“I don’t care where you win a national championship or how you win a national championship,” he said. “If it’s junior college or whatever, if you have seven national championships, you’re doing something the right way and you’ve been part of something the right way. I was part of a lot of great teams. ... It wasn’t (just) because I was the head coach; the assistants, the players, the culture we had there allowed me (to accomplish those things).”
All the success Klieman had with the Bison is still a bit hard for him to compartmentalize.
“I’m blessed to have seven national championships,” he said. “I pinch myself every morning thinking, ‘Man, seven national championships in eight years.’ But what’s done is done and now I need to move forward.”
Facing Miles this fall is just part of that future at Kansas State. It’s a challenge Klieman embraces.
“(He’s) another guy I’ve looked up to in this profession for an awful long time,” Klieman said. “I think it’s great for the state.”
With both schools entering their first season under new coaches, uncertainty reigns. After 27 seasons at the helm in Manhattan, Bill Snyder is enjoying retirement.
Whether that will help or hurt KU, Miles isn’t sure.
“I don’t know how that all fits,” he said. “But Coach Snyder is a great coach.”
Klieman also felt he couldn’t say with any sense of certainly that KU starting over — getting rid of former coach David Beaty in favor of Miles, one of the most recognizable names in the country — would benefit or hinder the Wildcats. But he went a step further than Miles.
Klieman said he couldn’t care less.
“It doesn’t matter at all,” he said. “I don’t even pay attention to it, to be honest with you. Good, bad or indifferent, I just don’t. I have my own problems and own things I’ve got to work on.”