BATON ROUGE, La. -- When Vadal Alexander helped carry Les Miles off the field Saturday, he wasn't sure whether he was giving LSU's veteran coach one final victory lap at Tiger Stadium. The senior offensive lineman aimed for it to be clear that if it were the case, Miles knew how his players felt.
"I just wanted to make sure if it was [Miles' last game], we sent him out the right way," Alexander said. "And we wanted to show how much support we had for him. Whether he stayed or left, we wanted to show to everybody how much we love him, how much we wanted him to stay."
Contrary to popular expectation over the past week, Miles will have that opportunity. Shortly after LSU ended its three-game losing streak with Saturday's 19-7 victory against Texas A&M, athletic director Joe Alleva told reporters he wants Miles to return for a 12th season as head coach.
"I want to make it very clear and positive that Les Miles is our football coach and he will continue to be our football coach," Alleva said. "I'm looking forward to working with Coach Miles as he leads this team to a bowl game and another great recruiting class."
Although he was deliberately vague about the timing of when he knew he had the option to return, Miles said LSU president F. King Alexander and Alleva both told him they wanted him to stay at the school.
"I am proud to be associated with a great institution, my colleagues, my coaches, my players and the president and athletic director," Miles said. "It's a joy. It's nice for them to come say to me, 'Hey, the job you've been doing, you can still do it.' I like that."
So ended one of the most hectic weeks in Miles' tenure. Throughout it, Miles maintained he had "no idea" whether he would be retained, as Alleva followed his traditional policy of not commenting on a coach's status until the season was complete.
Just as Alexander and defensive tackle Christian LaCouture did in carrying Miles off the field, the faction of Miles supporters within LSU's fan base made their opinions clear all week.
There was the emotional Miles lovefest on his Wednesday call-in show, with children and adults alike shedding tears over the possibility this would be it for their popular coach. They showed up in full force as the team marched into Tiger Stadium before the game, with Miles remarking on LSU's pregame radio show that it "was as deep a crowd as I've ever seen on Victory Hill." And fans held up signs with messages like "Les is More" and "Les is LSU" throughout the game.
LSU honored seniors about to play their final home game in a pregame ceremony, and fans loudly chanted Miles' name as he took the field to greet each player and his family. Miles removed his cap and turned in a circle to acknowledge the cheering.
"The 'Les Miles' thing kind of reminded me of me. And I said, 'It must be for me,' so I took my hat off," Miles joked after the game.
Although Miles and his coaches train their players to ignore outside distractions, some were willing to admit the previous week had been difficult.
"It's hard to block out stuff like that regardless because all you hear is people asking, 'What is this?' and 'What's going on with this?' That's the hard part about it," defensive end Lewis Neal said. "As much as you try to block it out, it's still hard because people keep confronting you about it."
What made it particularly difficult, Alexander said, was that players were blindsided by the speculation. How could the coach with the highest winning percentage in the modern era of LSU football -- now 77.6 after the A&M victory improved Miles' record at LSU to 111-32 -- be in jeopardy of losing his job?
"I never thought it was valid to be questioning him as a head coach," Alexander said. "I thought it was ridiculous. But we put our heads down, we fought to get better this week and we fought for victory and we showed our support."
And yet, the players were totally in the dark about their coach's future.
Alexander said he found out Miles could return next season via a text message from his parents informing him of Alleva's postgame announcement. Senior linebacker Deion Jones learned of the decision as he entered the interview room after the game.
"We had no indications that he was leaving. It's just how it was," Jones said of his knowledge of the situation during the week. "He didn't give us no hints, he said he was our coach. That's pretty much it."
As it turns out, he's still their coach. After a week full of uncertainty, the man who was in charge when all of them chose to become Tigers knows he is welcome to stay in power.
"It's a blessing," Jones said. "He's one of the reasons why I came to LSU. Great guy, sat at my house and ate dinner with my family. I fell in love with his charisma and it's been a blessing playing for him."
Added Alexander, his fellow senior: "I love the man. The four years here have been very good because of him. The things he does for this team, y'all would never know. That's a great man. So I'm happy to hear that he has the support from the administration because he's always had the support from us."