Miles, HBC entertain on and off field

Steve Spurrier and Les Miles both coach football in the SEC, both have won a national championship and both regularly make headlines for something they've said.

Both are free spirits, refreshingly so, and they walk (and coach) to their own beat.

Both are unpredictable and never shy about pulling out a few trick plays. They both have catchy nicknames, too.

Spurrier is the "Head Ball Coach." Miles is "The Hat," or as ESPN's Rece Davis dubbed him, the "Mad Hatter."

Spurrier has been known to hang with Ric Flair. The Nature Boy used to roam the Florida sideline back in the Fun 'n' Gun days and still styles and profiles on occasion on the South Carolina sideline.

Miles has been known to hang with Snoop Dogg. OK, maybe they don't really hang, as in they're boys. But the rapper did show up at one of Miles' speaking engagements in Baton Rouge in 2008, and they professed to be fans of each other.

Anybody taking bets on which of the two coaches can recite more of Snoop Dogg's lyrics?

My money's on Miles. After all, they do share a fondness for grass. Miles eats it, and Snoop Dogg smokes it, albeit a much different breed.

Spurrier and Miles, two of the most eccentric personalities in college football, meet up Saturday at Tiger Stadium in a game that will go a long way toward shaping the SEC race this season.

Spurrier's South Carolina team is unbeaten and ranked No. 3 nationally, the Gamecocks' highest ranking in more than 25 years. Miles' LSU team is trying to stay within striking distance of Alabama in the West Division after falling to Florida last week.

While there are some obvious similarities between Spurrier and Miles, they're also polar opposites in a lot of ways.

Spurrier blurts out whatever's on his mind and really doesn't care what anybody thinks.

Hey, Coach Spurrier, what do you think about playing Georgia the sixth week of the season as opposed to the second week?

Spurrier's response: "I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended."

Miles blurts out things that make you think -- period. Even then, you're often scratching your head and wondering what in the name of Billy Cannon he just said. There's a website, www.thequotablelesmiles.com, devoted to some of his more memorable musings.

Hey, Coach Miles, is there a chance the situation with Tyrann Mathieu may have a happy ending at LSU?

Miles' response: "There is a very legitimate chance this will have a happy ending. I think the point of degree, and the point of handling your business and making sure everything is right and correct and getting your feet on the ground … I think that that is a tremendously happy ending."

Either way, it's rare that both coaches aren't pure, unadulterated entertainment when they're holding court.

They just have different styles.

Spurrier wears his trademark visor. Miles wears his ever-present white cap squarely on his head, as only he can.

Your best chance of finding Spurrier when he's not on the football field is at the golf course. He keeps his clubs about a yard from his desk in his office, and his television is usually tuned to the Golf Channel.

Your best chance of finding Miles when he's not on the football field is one of his kids' sporting events, or maybe at the Waffle House eating dinner with the entire family.

Both guys are devoted fathers and husbands, and family means a lot to them.

Spurrier probably has a sharper edge to him. Just ask Ron Morris, a columnist for The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. Spurrier has taken offense to several things Morris has written and draws a very rigid line when he feels his integrity has been questioned.

Just recently, Spurrier vented on his weekly radio show that he didn't have to put up with such criticism and said, "If that's part of the job, I can head to the beach. That's not part of the job, and we're going to get it straightened out."

Morris remains The State's columnist, but lost his job as a weekly contributor for the local ABC affiliate in Columbia soon after Spurrier issued his ultimatum.

For the most part, Spurrier's feud with Morris has been the exception when it comes to the media. He's developed many long-lasting relationships with media members, to the point that he's attended some of their weddings, and used to throw parties for the media at his house in the 1990s.

Miles -- for a guy who's won 11 or more games in five of his seven seasons at LSU -- has received a startling amount of criticism. He's been called goofy, flaky and lucky, among other things, and has fueled the fire with some of his clock-management snafus.

Still, other than his infamous "my damn strong football" rant just before the 2007 SEC championship game, he's rarely lashed back. He just sort of takes it all in and goes about his business.

His players swear by him, which has been obvious over the years by how hard his teams have played at LSU.

Former star LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson once told me there was a side of Miles that he shows to his players that he doesn't show to just anybody.

"Coach Miles knows the right buttons to press with guys, and we know that he's not afraid to take chances," Peterson said. "We feed off that. There's always something up with 'The Hat.'"

The same goes for Spurrier.

They may go about it in different ways, but it's hard to argue with the results.

There's also something to be said for making it fun.

And with Spurrier and Miles, it's never dull.