April 2008 Issue
The national title game in college football produced more than one winner.
While Louisiana State University defeated Ohio State 38–24, the other winner was the city of Elyria, the hometown of LSU coach Les Miles, who graduated from Elyria High in 1972.
Steve Sunagel, head baseball coach at Elyria High, has known Miles since junior-high school. The two played football and baseball at Elyria High and are still close.
“He’s brought a lot of attention to us,” Sunagel says. “It’s great to have your hometown being mentioned around the country.”
One can understand where Sunagel’s allegiances were for the big game. “To be honest, I was rooting for my friend,” he admits with a laugh.
Sunagel and Miles talk frequently, but the conversation isn’t usually about football. “He called on Christmas Day,” Sunagel says. “We talked about friends and family. He didn’t seem tense about the game.”
Elyria High School assistant principal Terry Doan was an assistant football coach at Elyria High in the early 1970s. “[The win] is a great thing for the city,” Doan says. “I’m extremely happy for Les.”
Miles’ personality is a trait people remember most about him. While in high school, he was an intense competitor and had a passion for the game, but off the field, “he always had mischief in his eye,“ recalls Doan. “I remember him as being the leader of antics on the bus coming back from away games. “
Maybe the Buckeyes’ best strategy for future title games would be to stop picking on coaches from Ohio. Urban Meyer, who grew up in Ashtabula, coached the University of Florida to a win over Ohio State in last year’s title game.